Thoughtful Thursday: Thief

January 5, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the January Intelligentsia, the people who have commented on every Thoughtful Thursday post in December.

#27: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#23: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#23: Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#19: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#11: Tara from Turkey In My Oven
#10: Ana
#9: St. Elsewhere
#8: Lori Lavender Luz from Write Mind Open Heart
#2: Sara from Aryanhwy

Thoughtful ThursdayLast week during Thoughtful Thursday we talked about the many lies of our nanny. First, you should know that she is now our former nanny — precipitated by the theme of today’s post, theft.

It all started with Mini Eggs. Last year around Easter, I bought a big bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs in Canada, because most foods are slightly better in Canada. When I got home, there were some other perishable sweets I needed to eat first, so I put the bag in the sweets drawer for later. Day by day, the bag got smaller and smaller. Eventually, it was totally empty, and I’d never eaten a single one. DH doesn’t eat Mini Eggs, and Burrito and Tamale never went near the kitchen, so the only remaining culprit was the nanny. I don’t really care if someone eats my food, except when I have specifically imported it from another country. Back then, we were very happy with our nanny in every other way, so I let it go and never mentioned it.

As a nanny, she was really great, up until she wasn’t. Aside from the lying I talked about in the last post, over time she became a crappier and crappier employee (good with the kids, but bad as an employee — late, lazy, didn’t improve in response to feedback), and the lies accumulated, and we got increasingly sick of her shit but felt trapped, not wanting to take a chance on hiring a new nanny who might be a better employee but not as good with the children. The devil I know is better than the devil I don’t know.

Then, last week, we figured out that our nanny had stolen more than Mini Eggs. As in, a lot of money. Equivalent to 1/3 of an IVF — or maybe more here and there from our wallets, but that’s how much we can prove on our credit cards. At that point, we could no longer look the other way, and even though losing our childcare a few weeks before we move far far away really screws things up, we had no choice but to fire her. And then we called the police.

I asked DH about his own history as a thief. After 4 minutes of contemplation, he came up with his grandest larceny: a chocolate bar, at age 8.

I stole something even smaller as a child: at age 7, I would take a single pinto bean from the bulk bin every time I went to the market. I thought they were pretty. I bet the store would have objected much more to a kid’s grubby hands fishing around in the bulk bin than to the loss of a whopping 5 pinto beans over the course of several months. As an adult, I decidedly do not steal. If a store clerk accidentally gives me too much change, I am likely to go back into the store — or drive across town the next day — to return it. I don’t steal, I just don’t. The only thing, aside from pinto beans, I can think of that I ever stole was, uh, my friend’s boyfriend. But that was more than 20 years ago. I don’t know if it makes it better or worse that, looking back, he totally wasn’t worth it. I’d much rather have 5 pinto beans than that loser.

Our friend Mr. OH (mentioned last week as a nonstop fibber) also stole something 20 years ago: half of an IVF, in cash. He felt that he had it coming to him from an employer who was stiffing him, so he skimmed from the cash register over the course of several months. He absolutely thought he was morally justified. I absolutely thought that he was not justified, and told him so, many times. DH agreed with me that it was wrong, and he would break Mr. OH’s balls about it now and then, but he fundamentally doesn’t like to judge anyone, particularly his friends.

After The Nanny Situation, though, DH saw it from a new perspective. Even though it’s not true, our nanny could make the same argument as early 1990s Mr. OH did, that we didn’t pay her enough and she worked so hard and she had it coming to her and we would barely miss it. When DH called Mr. OH to fill him in on The Nanny Situation, it all came together in DH’s mind. Mr. OH commented that 1/3 of an IVF was a lot of money; DH replied without even thinking, “Yeah, but not as much as you stole from your bosses.” DH and I have had fun breaking Mr. OH’s balls about his crime for the past 20 years but now, having been on the other side, it’s not so funny.

What is the biggest thing you ever stole? Do you have categorical rules about stealing, or is it justifiable in certain circumstances?


17 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Thief”

  1. Two Kayaks Says:

    That is utterly disgusting behavior. Disgusting. I have so much I want to write and I don’t know where to start.
    I once stole an inking stamp from a friend’s bedroom when I was maybe 7 or 8. I have always felt awful about it, yet not enough to return it at the time or own up to it. I don’t think about stealing in absolutes, but I live by the words, “Character is who you are when no one is watching”.
    Naively, I suppose, I think everyone lives by these words and I am sometimes too trusting when it comes to money/things (when it comes to my children, I trust no one other than my parents, my brother and my husband). I taught for over a decade in a grade eight classroom. At various times of the year (due to book clubs, class trips and/or hot lunches) I would have thousands of dollars in my desk drawer – unlocked. My students knew where I kept my purse, knew where my car keys were, etc. In all those years, not one dime was ever taken. Not one. Lucky? Maybe. But we talked a lot about character in those days and about integrity.
    Now, I am always being watched. I have two little sets of eyes who are watching every little thing I do and I don’t take that for granted. The way I interact with people, the way I react, and the way I carry myself is all being taken in by Chick and Pea.
    I can’t imagine how betrayed you must feel. This person came into your home and betrayed your trust. Vile. I hope that, together with the police, you can find a resolution that can help you find peace with this.

  2. Kristin Says:

    When I was much, much younger (honestly don’t remember what age except I was young and living at home), a friend dared me to steal a candy bar and I did. I felt incredibly guilty.

    As an adult, I have returned change (sometimes significant amounts) when a clerk has given me too much and I’ve been known to return to a store to give back a jar of baby food one of my little ones tossed in my cart. Stealing is wrong and I don’t condone it at all.

  3. a Says:

    We were just discussing borrowing a printer from work today! How to get it out (and back in) past the cameras, just so I could take one home and print out a project for my daughter. My printer does not work well, and we have a series of moderate to high priced printers all over the place at work. Of course, a good portion of my work life is spent discussing how to get away with crimes, due to the nature of my work, so this is not actually an unusual discussion – just much less violent than most. In the end, I did not attempt to bring a printer home for the night, because a) it’s wrong and b) I left early and the bosses were still there (joking!).

    I do get concerned about this though, because early in my career a large amount of money was submitted to be examined, and the amount listed was different than the amount present. It was simply a miscount (made by the police agency), but that sort of mistake is not easily settled.

    Sorry to hear that your nanny was so awful. I hope that she gets prosecuted.

  4. St. Elsewhere Says:

    I don’t have ‘I am an arsonist’ stories, but I do have a couple of thievery stories that I can share…all related to stealing in some sort…

    Stealing 1: I did not intend to, but got labelled one.

    Once after the school was out for the day, and I was busy packing my bag to go home, I discovered a Chemistry notebook of a classmate/friend that she had forgotten under her desk. (This was in ninth grade, btw). She was gone, and I put the notebook in my bag to hand it over to her the next day. Once home, I realized that her notes were very well made, and I was terribly behind, so I decided to finish my bit of the notes from her copy. Next day in class (I had brought the notebook), even before I could meet her and tell her that I had found her copy, there was already loud talk of how X’s copy had been stolen the day before. I clammed up as soon as I heard what the talk was. X eventually met me and asked me….if only I would have had the courage to say it that I had her notebook, and that she had left it under her desk where I found it…But the circumstances and soddy thinking clouded me into denying anything to do with it. A week later, when my senses returned, and I gained some courage, I wrote an apology note in the back pages of her copy, and quietly left it under her desk where she eventually found it.

    If I would not have been smart enough to pen the note in my own handwriting, she would have still found the copy and never found out who had kept it back for 6 days. She told me in the assembly next day that she knew who had ‘stolen’ her copy and that I can never ever visit her home (she told her sister about me).

    After that, we never spoke more than a couple of lines again for the rest of the term, the rest of the school years…

    Stealing 2: Don’t know which category I will put this into.

    My bro was in the habit of saving up the gift money he received, in a wallet shoved into a secret place in his almirah. We were adolescents at that time. A neighbourhood kid asked me for money and if I could lend him some. Well, I was never good at not spending everything I received, and I knew the amount my brother had stashed away and I never suspected anything dubious about why he needed the money. The neighbourhood kid promised to return the money soon. I raided my brother’s wallet and passed on the money to the kid.

    The neighbourhood kid ran away from his house! That twerp….he was later caught and brought home…and when asked about how he arranged for the bus fare…he pointed fingers at me….darn! Anyways, the boy’s mum came by to return the money and tell of my good deed. The money went back to my brother, who had no idea that his wallet had been temporarily depleted with no help of his, and that his secret place was not so secret.

    Stealing 3: I did it intentionally, and was pretty happy with myself over it. Till date, no guilt!

    When I was an undergraduate, one of our cousins came to live with us. Let’s just say that we never got along, and I and my brother somehow always felt that my father favoured him unduly, and well there were other choice adjectives that we began to associate with him. He pissed me enough to make me once take away 6-7 of his shirts to my college where I distributed them to the watchman and the boys working in the canteen. This is the stealing where I neither got caught, and I was crazy happy to have gotten back at my beloved cousin.

    And I don’t think I had/have rules for stealing. I did not even think like that. And even though I did not feel bad about what I did in the third incident, I am not going to declare it justified or generalize it. Most of these three were all school/college time things, and I have never stolen from an employer, I pay my taxes, and in general am considered honest.

    P.S. You are hereby banned from including these incidents in my biography in case you are planning to pen one.

  5. Sam Says:

    Its such a violation isnt it? I always suspected that my previous domestic worker stole a lot of money from my wallet over the years she’d worked for us. I just never had the “right” amount of money left in my wallet when I opened it to pay for things and it just didn’t add up. That added to the stuff like sugar, coffee, tea, toilet paper, tampons, soap and toothpaste that seemed to disappear like nobodies business every month… and this was somebody who only worked for me 2 days a week. When I needed to hire a full time worker to care for Kade, I did not hesitate to “retrench” my old worker and hire afresh. Sorry that you have to deal with this.

    Oh. And when I was about 8 I stole a pretty pen from the local stationery shop. I took it back the next day cos I felt so guilty and the store owner pinched my ear so hard I NEVER considered stealing anything again EVER.


  6. Sara Says:

    I find my bout with stealing a bit difficult to write about, actually, even though I still completely understand why I did it in the circumstances I did.

    I didn’t turn 18 until almost the end of my second semester of college, which meant I was still working on a work permit and hence had limits on the number of hours I could work. Especially second semester, I truly was a Poor, Starving College Student ™. I’d go grocery shopping once a month, for eggs, frozen chicken breasts, frozen veggies, ramen, tortillas, and milk, and then would withdraw $5 from the ATM every week for my on-campus food money. 10 years ago, $5 didn’t get you very far. So I was often really hungry, and so I would occasionally filch food from the cupboard in the breakroom at work. I never knew if the food was communal or not, but I never saw any indication that it belonged to anyone…

  7. celia Says:

    I am VERY HAPPY you are done with her. I totally stole a recipe from a co-worker because I was a competitive bitch and wanted a promotion.

  8. Ana Says:

    I can answer this one unequivocally. I thought long and hard and can’t remember ever in my life having stolen so much as a single pinto bean. And money? I can’t even fathom stealing money…it chills me to think of someone who would steal money; like they are on another side of the solid line between criminals and non-criminals. It’s obviously not that I’m morally superior (I lie, remember?!) but I can’t imagine getting away with it or not feeling guilty about it for ever after. I don’t know if I’d drive across town right away to return extra change, but I’d probably call and send a check (if its a lot) or try to remember to return it next time I go.

    What your nanny did, and what Mr. OH did, are inexcusable. If you think you deserve more money from your employer, you present your case and ask for it. If you are denied, and you TRULY believe you deserve more, well then why aren’t you finding another job? If you really do believe that your services are worth far more than you are being given, there must be SOMEONE out there that would recognize that and pay you accordingly, right?

    Its pretty black and white to me. The ONLY scenario in which I would justify stealing is for basic life necessities that cannot be procured any other way. i.e. someone who needs food, medicine, shelter and cannot afford it or convince anyone to give it to them.

    (btw, what St Elsewhere describes about taking her cousin’s shirts…I don’t see that as stealing per se…more of a prank against an annoying person).

    And yes, YEAH for being rid of her! Sorry you all had to endure the drama.

  9. strongblonde Says:

    wow. I am still shocked by this. It’s not in my nature to steal anything. I do have two incidents where I stole, however:

    1) I was 5 and “found” some loose marbles in the check-out line at the grocery store with my mom. I picked them up and showed them to her just as we were about to leave. She made me go put them back. I remember thinking that it was okay to take them since they were on the ground.

    2) As a (stupid) senior in high school, I let a friend talk me into stealing some jeans from a department store. I have NO idea what I was thinking. I was caught and the people told me that this was obviously the first time I had stolen anything because I was the worst theif they had ever witnessed. I felt like such a dummy. They called my parents, but not the police, and when my dad got home from work that night he yelled about how we had a theif in the house. And then proceed to call me “thief” instead of my name for a period of time after that. It was effective, to say the least.

    I get irritated with people who are adults and steal. My “CSA friend” does sketchy stuff with her taxes every year and it is so upsetting to me. I just feel like you shouldn’t cheat or steal, despite my history.

  10. strongblonde Says:

    and btw…that’s the first time that I’ve admitted the jeans stealing incident in almost 20 years!

  11. Elana Kahn Says:

    Biggest thing I ever stole? I remember stealing a small animal figurine from someone’s desk in school when I was in 5th grade. It was the stupidest thing, really. I have no idea why on earth I even did it. Other than that, I mean I’m not particularly careful if the grocery store forgets to charge me for something or if they don’t give me change. My husband, on the other hand, is scrupulously honest and will flip out if he sees that he wasn’t charged for something at the grocery store and will insist we go back and pay for it. I’m like “whatever”. I just don’t think it’s right to take other people’s hard-earned money or belongings. If something is freely given to me it’s one thing, but taking is not ok.

  12. Ugh! I’m sorry to hear about this. How awful. But I’m sure the next nanny will be much better. In high school, I stole a romance novel and a crossword puzzle book from a grocery store. It wasn’t the first time I’d done it, but the first time I’d gotten caught. I was hauled to the back office by a tired plain clothes security officer and my mom was called in. I was let off with a warning but it was very embarrassing and my mom was so disappointed in me. Like your friend I somehow thought I deserved the books I stole before I got caught. Unlike your friend, I now understand that no one living in a first world country has the write to steal anything.

    However, if I find a cute dress in my best friend’s or sister’s closet, that dress is getting stolen, and I’m informing them that I’m doing it on my way out the door. They now tell me I can’t steal certain things before the words are even out my mouth.

  13. Mel Says:

    I would feel massively violated were that to happen. I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this.

    I’m not really a tangible theft sort, but I did have someone accuse me of stealing her friends when we were in high school. I couldn’t really wrap my mind around this one. I knew the people as long as (and in some cases, longer) she did. They were humans with free will. There was nothing stopping them from being friends with both of us. But she viewed them as her friends and once I started hanging around with them more, they took time they used to give to her and gave it to me. Therefore, I stole from her. Did I? Can you really steal a person, especially in regards to friendships?

    I was accused of the same thing years later by a new friend. Her girlfriend was part of this group of people I just discussed above, the people I “stole.” For years, we were out of touch, but when she started dating a friend of mine, we were brought back together. We started hanging out a lot again, and her girlfriend accused me of stealing her time. She knew that her girlfriend wasn’t cheating on her, but she considered it to be the equivalent of an emotional affair on her girlfriend’s part because she was spending so much time with me. So different person accusing me again of stealing something from her, which didn’t seem steal-able. They broke up after a few month; my friend couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who was constantly jealous if she spent time with anyone else.

  14. Well, I’ve been postponing commenting on this post because I have in the back of my head that there was one thing that I once stole, but I cannot for the life of me think of what it was or when. So I probably just made it up. I’m too honest. When I get too much change I give it back too. I don’t go back to a store though when they’ve made a mistake to my advantage, because I also don’t go back when they’ve made a mistake to my disadvantage (with the exception of when the mistake is a lot of money and/or the store is in walking distance from my home). In that respect I did “steal” a cake form last year – bought two, put them inside each other with all my other groceries on the belt. Paid, left. Was a bit pissed because I could not get the discount on the parking (with which the store advertised) because I had inserted my credit card upon entry instead of getting a ticket. Then when I was back home I discovered the clerk had not seen there were two cake forms stacked into each other and had thus only scanned one. Tant pis.
    But if you call taking small office supplies home (just the occasional bottle of white out, or a few post-its) stealing, then yeah, I’m guilty.

  15. Oh, and the nanny story is just disgusting. I’m so sorry for you.

  16. Chickenpig Says:

    That is just terrible!

    The biggest thing I ever stole was a pair of socks. I think I was 6 or 7. They were beautiful fancy socks and I had never had anything like them in my life. (my mom was a single mom raising 3 kids on her teacher’s salary…nothing but practical stuff for us). Of course, my mom didn’t have the money to spare for the socks, so I pocketed them. I still remember my hand reaching out to touch them, and snatching them from the rack like my hand had a mind of it’s own. When I took them out of my pocket to hold them in the car, my mom made me go back inside and give them back. It really sucked. I also ‘stole’ a pencil sharpener by accident, I walked out of the store with it in my hand because I was short 5 cents and I was going to ask my sister for it. I caught up with her and got the nickel, and the store clerk was so proud of my for ‘bringing it back’ she gave it to me for free, along with a giant candy cane. I was totally baffled.

  17. Tara (TIMO) Says:

    I stole 2 bowls from the $1 section at Target last week. I had stacked 2 sets of bowls & two plate together. I saw the clerk separate the pates and scan them both but the boys distracted me when she got to the bowls. It wasn’t until we were home that I noticed I only had $3 on the receipt not $4 and that she had missed one of the sets of bowls. At that point I was not about to load everyone back into the car just to pay for a $1 item. I know that at some point Target will overcharge me for something and I won’t challenge that.

    My office was broken into a number of years ago and all of our computers, printers, cameras, etc were taken. I still remember the disgusting feeling walking into the office for the next few days. You could “feel” the thieves presence in the space.

    I can’t imagine being in your shoes with the thief being someone you trusted with your life and your children. I’m glad you are moving on from her.

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