Been Caught Stealing – Part 2

I totally fucked up the Jane’s Addiction title when I stole it for my last post. It’s Been Caught Stealing not Got Caught Stealing.  

That’s what I get for stealing.

I figured it out, but not until I had posted the story. So, the headline just stayed wrong.

Now, here I am. Fixing it.

Randy and I were talking about the comments from the last shoplifting post. How people said that I was mostly sweet and trying to do something nice.

So, yeah, the rest of the story isn’t as nice.

I mentioned I was good at shoplifting. Well, I was better than most of the kids I hung around with. They were poor kids too, and they wanted a few nice things.

I was willing to get them these things.

Not for free. I provided a service. People get paid for work they do, especially when risk is involved.

I was in the 8th grade and had moved on from Ockerman Elementary to Ockerman Junior High. I spent my 7th grade year in a different school district. I tried out for cheer leading at that new school, but didn’t make it. I made money through honest work in the 7th grade. Babysitting. Although, I didn’t always get paid in money. Sometimes I got paid in weed. Tomato, tomahto.

We moved back to my old school district before the 8th grade school year started and I lost my babysitting gigs. We moved into another apartment complex directly across the street from Rink’s department store, my original shoplifting training ground. Very convenient.

It didn’t take long to pick up where I left off.

I didn’t even think about charging people to steal for them until a girl offered me fifty cents to get her a pair of flip flops. She had a pair, but the toe thingy was broken on one shoe. She wanted a fancy pair, not the normal rubber ones. I shuffled in with her broke ass shoes and walked back out with a new pair of fancy flip flops.

Fifty cents wasn’t a lot of money but the money would feed my addiction for the afternoon.

I spent hours playing pinball in the lobby at Rink’s. I didn’t need more than 2 quarters. I always racked up free games.

The light bulb went off. I could make some serious jack with my five finger discount. I would be like Scrooge McDuck swimming in quarters.

Shoes were easy. I would wear an old pair in and wear a new pair out. My fee was negotiable, except for designer jeans. I had a set price of five dollars for designer jeans.

There was a shopping area a mile or so from my apartment called 21 Fine Shoppes. There was a boutique that sold whatever designer jeans were popular in 1977. I think that was before the Jordache craze. Gloria Vanderbilt, perhaps?

Anyway, I only did this three times. I didn’t want to push my luck.

I was still tiny in the 8th grade. I don’t remember what size I wore, but I’m going to guess it was a size 2. I borrowed a pair of jeans from a friend who was a few sizes bigger than me and cinched them on with a belt.

There was a three item limit in the dressing room, but it was easy enough to get 4 items in the room.

I would put on a pair of jeans smaller than the ones I wore in. Put the bigger jeans on over top and waddle out like the Michelin Man.

Okay, it probably wasn’t that bad, but it felt like it. Also, I did not consider how uncomfortable it would be to walk the mile or so back from the boutique in the dead of summer wearing two pairs of jeans. I’m lucky I didn’t end up with heat stroke.

My client list was limited to girls who were my size or one size bigger. And girls who had an extra 5 bucks. That was a large sum back then. Most days, I counted myself lucky to have pinball money for a day. Five bucks went a long way. Plus, there was the novelty of actually paying for shit I wanted.

The most I ever made for a single item was $10. A girl named Donna bought a pair of my stolen jeans and she told her older brother, Steve, about my mad skills. Steve wanted something from the electrical department at Rinks. A converter of some sort. I don’t remember. I just remember it was small enough to fit down the front of my pants.

Sooner or later, people have to leave their life of crime. Either on their own, or because they are rotting away in the stripey hole. I got out before I ever got caught.

I only almost got caught stealing.

I was friends with a girl named Robin who had an even more fucked up home life than I did. Her mother was a waitress in a truck stop and her dad was a drunk. She had a little brother named Scotty. I remember Scotty’s favorite form of entertainment was to prank call Taco Bell. He was a weird little shit. However, I can say that “Bite my bell beefer” is a phrase that has stuck with me because of Scotty.

Anyway, Robin and I took a bus to Covington, KY, which is where I lived when I went to Catholic school, back before I was a junior criminal.

I needed shorts. I had money for bus fare home and that was it. But still, I needed shorts.

I will never forget these shorts. I found them at a Goodwill.

They were denim and had big blue buttons down the sides like sailor shorts. I didn’t want to take the time to try them on and lift them that way. Besides, it was Goodwill. I certainly didn’t have to worry about getting busted at a Goodwill.

When I told Randy this story, he interrupted me.

Randy: Michelle Ruth. You shoplifted from a Goodwill?

Me: Well, I needed shorts and they were really cute.

Randy: Yeah, but a Goodwill?

Me: I don’t think I cared where I shoplifted from.

So, I’m walking around with a pair of shorts shoved under my t-shirt and down the front of my pants, when I see this old blue hair talking excitedly to the woman working the register and pointing. At me.

I was so busted.

I didn’t hesitate, I grabbed Robin by the arm and we ran from the store. We ran down the block and we didn’t stop until we were both winded.

I think I expected to see the entire police force, perhaps headed up by the blue hair carrying a torch following close behind us.

Robin was happy. We almost got caught and then we didn’t. I was not happy. I did not want to get caught stealing. I didn’t realize how very much I didn’t want to get caught stealing until I nearly got caught stealing.

We ducked into a library and I ditched the shorts in a garbage can in the bathroom. Robin was beside herself. Why? Why would I throw away a perfectly good pair of shorts that I had successfully stolen?

I couldn’t keep the shorts. I was too shaken.

I didn’t think I’d ever get caught and I nearly got caught at Goodwill. Robin was pissy the whole bus ride home. In fact, after that, she seemed to find a lot of fault with me and we drifted apart. Not that it mattered, my family was moving again anyway. New school. New friends. In the country.

There were no stores to walk to when we moved to Dry Ridge, KY.

I like to think I changed my ways because I nearly got busted, but honestly, it may have just been due to lack of opportunity. By the time I escaped Dry Ridge, KY, I was an adult, working full time and entering adulthood, where I would be perpetually in debt. Probably, because I actually started paying for things I wanted.

So, how do I feel looking back? Not guilty. Well, I was guilty, but I don’t feel guilty about it. I learned a lot about how to be a good person through trial and error. I certainly didn’t get through my childhood unscathed. I’m glad I never got caught stealing. I had enough trauma as a kid.

Randy was concerned that I would be opening myself up for ridicule by talking openly about being a delinquent, but I am not concerned. Pretty sure if anyone gave me shit, my response would be “Bite my bell beefer”.


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    • Yeah, we’ve all done some dumb things. Hell, I’ll probably do 3 dumb things before noon today. Not stealing, though. I gave that up.

  • Childhood (of the crazy variety and is there another kind? I wouldn’t personally know), it’s amazing any of us make it to the other side as decent humans, sanity in plac-ish.

  • I caught a woman wearing 3 pairs of jeans when I worked at Sears. Maybe you know her?
    The secret is to ensure you tuck in the cuffs from the stolen pairs. That is a PSA I thought I would never share.

  • I was caught stealing makeup (my mom wouldn’t allow it, so) at a large five-n-dime in the mall. The people were cool in that they just took the stuff back and banned me from the store forever. I took that shit serious, and would find excuses to hang out elsewhere when my mom and I were headed there. Don’t think I ever did darken their glass door again.

    The only other time was when my Dad found the stash of trashy cocktail rings I’d purloined from Macys. He took them back to the manager and refused to give up my name.

    Those were both blessings buried in youthful fear. I moved up to switching price stickers before aging out of my life of crime. I got no guilt either – ha!

  • When I was about 5 I used to eat tiny rhinestones off of birthday cards in the store. Is that stealing or just really nuts? I only stole once more when I was in my teens, and that was a shirt for someone else. I thought about it later on and realized that if I was ever caught, it was NOT going to be for anyone but myself, and there ended my life of crime, as I was a pussy and just plain didn’t want to get caught. I suspect it’s much harder to steal now, what with the tags that set off alarms, but I’ve seen in the movies how there’s a device that removes them without damaging the item it’s attached to. I don’t know how hard it would be for a kid to figure it out. The fact that I still remember this crap from 50 years ago is enough to make me realize that it apparently had a great deal of impact on me at the time. How’s Dude?

    • Hahah..eating rhinestones off birthday cards..that is awesome! Dude is good. He hangs out with Randy in his office all day. Randy is cat wrangling (we got another kitten. haha)

      • Two cats huh. Well, it’s a start to becoming a ‘crazy cat lady’, so enjoy the prospects of herding cats!
        Boy, I’ve never read anyone trash anyone on a blog before – at least one that wasn’t political in nature. The steel rod up her spine must make it impossible to bend over in order to kiss her own ass.
        What’s the new kitten’s name?

        • Haha! I can be crazy cat lady! I am good with that. Her name is Gertie. Gertie and Alfie. Apparently, they were able to spend a little time this afternoon in peace. Alfie has been terribly unhappy since we brought her home.

          And, it’s honestly not the first time someone has taken me to task for being vulgar. Here’s the thing…I am not a child and I don’t need to be told I’m vulgar. I know I am. I am also very happy with being vulgar. I get that it’s not for everyone…their fucking loss.

  • I got caught every time I tried to take something whether from a store to the bright red lipstick belonging to my dad’s mother. I mean, I saw it and I wanted it. The stuff looked great on my grandmother but ratted me out when Mother asked why my lips were red. Oops. I just love reading your tales. I don’t know if it’s your style, your honesty, or the place you’re coming from though it’s probably a combo of all.

  • You showed an entrepreneurial spirit , a bit mis directed, but could have been channeled if you stayed in one location long enough to be noticed by a teacher or scout leader. Moving frequently also I think saved you from being caught. That said I have a blog next week about my recent inadvertent shop lifting experience so I am not judging!

  • The fact that you were so freaked out by almost getting caught shows that you don’t have a criminal temperament, that you’re not one of those people who really does it for the thrill. That makes it kind of impressive that you kept doing it for so long.
    Also I’m really impressed that you spent the money on pinball. I know how addictive that shit is. There used to be a bar a block from where I work that had a pinball machine and I’d go play on my lunch break. If I didn’t limit myself to one quarter I’d never go back to work.
    And I’m reminded of the time in high school a guy paid me $5 to write a poem for him for English class. That was a lot of money for me and it was a big thrill to be paid for something I’d written. Been chasin’ that dragon ever since.

    • OMG there is ALWAYS a dragon to chase, isn’t there? No, I didn’t do it for the thrill and I certainly have never gone back to my life of crime. Unless you count speeding.

  • You had some serious guts and such a cool writing style. I feel like part 2 is like one of those awesome tv episodes of a really good show. I could hear adult Kevin Arnold from the Wonder Years narrating now (I know it’s a different time period but it doesn’t really fit That 70s Show).
    I’m glad you stopped before you got caught! Thanks for the interesting read as always

  • We are all capable of making stupid decisions, especially when young, but I can’t see the purpose in your boasting about unimaginative and selfish thievery. Some of the responses were truly ugly, especially the one who stole (steals?) from friends and relatives. I don’t even want to be on the same page with a person like that. This is just my last gasp at trying to read your blogs and all the gratuitous vulgarities. Can’t do it. Sorry. I know you will continue to find success with like-minded people. Bye.

    • I guess you are the unicorn who didn’t fuck up as a kid? Or perhaps you had parents who gave you guidance and helped you learn to successfully navigate adulthood. Because that isn’t the case for a lot of us. Telling our stories is a way to deal with who we are today…and really…stories where there isn’t any conflict or bad decisions are mostly boring. Thanks for your .02. Might want to keep that in your pocket though, because I might try to steal your pennies.

      Or should I just go with “bite my bell beefer”?

    • Boasting? Nope, I know. I was there (yeah, that’s me mentioned in the article). Michelle had many unfortunate things happen in her past. Yet, she’s turned out, despite the bullshit, to be a productive citizen and has achieved what most people only dream.

      In my experience, anyone who takes a moral high ground often needs to feel superior and judge because of guilt and shitty choices they’ve made in their own life.

      One the plus side, I do agree with the overuse of fucking gratuitous vulgarities. But, that’s why I love her so.

      By the way, you are probably breaking the law right now –

  • You’re the reason they invented those dye-tags LOL. And to think some people get caught the first time they try. My friends all got busted stealing. I didn’t get busted only because I wasn’t with them that day. I stole a few bubble gum lip gloss, too (on a previous occasion). I think it’s a weird risk tweens take to test their boundaries. Well, not what you were doing though. That was a full-blown business. Kudos for the business acumen, Michelle. Actually, your childhood sounds really tough. You’re resilient as hell.

    • Thank you! It was a rough childhood and I am happy with who I am now. I am resilient and honest and loyal..I just took the long way to get here. 🙂

  • Another cat? How is Alfie taking this situation? Most of my criminal activity surrounded the cultivation, sales, and use of marijuana. I was born and raised in Humboldt County, and it’s boring as fuck there, but boy is there a lot of really good pot. It’s legal here now, but I don’t do it any more. I pretty much got up off of all of my vices when I had my stroke. The only thing I still do that’s bad for me is strawberry soda, and Dr, Nelson told me it’s OK as long as I don’t gain weight or get bad sugar levels in my blood.
    I did used to run with some honest to gawd outlaws, though. And for a short time I worked for a serious kleptomaniac. He stole everything he got the chance to steal, just for the stealing of it. One time the cops were trying to arrest a local guy whose dad was a fairly famous Hell’s Angel, and he ran into the back yard where the tree service’s trucks were parked and hid under one of them. While the cops were back there trying to coax him out, my boss slipped out the kitchen door, and reappeared a minute or so later with a pair of tan work gloves. Later, when the cops came back looking for them, we discovered that my boss had stolen them from one of the police cars. At that point my boss’ dad, who was my good friend, asked me if I could get rid of the gloves, and I took them outside and dropped them by the fence which one of the cops could have plausibly done. For my trouble I was jacked up and had my numbers run to see if I had any warrants, which it turned out I did not.

    • Oh wow..Man, I LOVE hearing other peoples stories. I’m glad you didn’t have any warrants.

      Alfie is not taking the addition of Gertie very well. He hates her and just wants to beat her up. We’ve been keeping them separate because I’m afraid he will kill her. She’s so tiny. But my cat owner friends are telling me that I’m being overprotective. (She is SO FUCKING CUTE). I will post some pictures soon.

  • Hah Hah Hah!
    Love your answer to Karen, btw.
    But I love all your writing. Your stories are magical, sometimes. The heal when they hit me right.
    Thanks for the honesty and humor!

  • My sister and a friend got busted trying the jeans-under-jeans theft. Big mistake was it was a small store with a few dressing rooms lined up along one wall, with doors that start above your ankles. Too chicken to try this myself, I was on the other side of the store watching all this when I realized the clerks saw what they were doing (like in your Goodwill story – there was a lot of excited pointing.) I literally froze in fear. Police got called and they were hauled away. Store clerks told me to never come back, but at least I wasn’t hauled away by the police. Still, I was mortified. Parents were called to police station. Thankfully, we lived in a small town and it was the mid 1970s, so they were never officially arrested and we all just got a scared straight experience and a serious grounding.

    Only thing I’m guilty of now is when I buy organic vegetables and fruit at the grocery store, I never correct the cashiers if they ring them up as regular. #ThugLife

  • Wow wow wow! I had some great spine tingling stuff to write for you, but that flew out the window watching you and Randy come out all ‘bell beefer fucking gratuitous vulgarities’ guns blazing and I am now content for the week.
    *bows low before Greatness*
    The link to the ‘criminal unfair’ article was priceless.
    Loved that so fucking much!
    Thanks for letting me see love and camaraderie at work <3

    • He always acts like it’s no big deal if someone is unhappy with me or types mean things at me and that it’s part of this. I agree completely. Then he goes and defends me. He’s so sweet.

      • Knight in Shining Armour.
        *fans face*
        I think I got the vapors 😀
        …or a hot flash.
        I LOVE it when Tim offers to turn some dick upside down for me…
        There was a comedian once who said, “True love is when your partner knows your weapon of choice and has it ready for you.”

By Michelle


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