February 23, 2007
It’s easier (and funnier) when making the employees shoplift for me. Reason why I’m in Border’s caf? strategically sitting two steps from the side exit and one arm length from the trash can. Replacing the conventional ‘smuggling out the door’ for the better ‘merch through the trash’ method – ensuring the goods to be out back by midnight.
Why do the work when Borders can do it for me? Maybe customer service at it’s finest – leading to giddy times in the dumpster – after hours – wiping coffee grounds off plastic wrapped audio books in an arrangement that makes thieving not only easier, but convenient. So I’ll sit back with a magazine and slip a few CDs past the "Thank You" written on the can flap while thinking, "You're sooo welcome."
There's a man at the next table typing on a laptop while the couple across the room talks about decoration schemes to be used in "the common room" and I wonder what their scam is. Why are they here? Sometimes it's fun to see everyone as criminal. The man with laptop – busy hacking electronic bank accounts while the couple talks secret plans through code words. "What do YOU think about the RED curtains eh...?" Everything so exciting and vague until I see laptop guy checking female Myspace profiles. Then the couple delves into wall trimming. These people are lame. Familiar Border's scene – dull and causing my drift from reality. I needed excitement.
And also needed caution of what I wished for – like the old saying, but in effect as a payroll member walks in – his long hair waving when thrusting a pointed finger – at me! He gives a look, then walks away – leaving me confused and a little on edge. That's how they do horror movies. A calm scene, maybe suspenseful music, then something jumps out – startling everyone. And I'm startled – leaning forward to hear the conversation around the corner.
First employee: "That guy steals ALL THE TIME!"
Second employee: "mumble... outside the door... mumble ...empty his pockets."
Uh oh... Sounds like a plot. But how'd they know? Was it the CDRs I stole for James? The Johnny Cash album for Mandy? Yesterday's book, headphones, months of diminishing inventory, frequent trash can visits, or... the girl... I remember her.
Several months ago, black hair, and a polka-dot dress. We meet the rainy night I'm taking refuge next to the food table in the KU Art Museum – night of a gallery showing and eating the last cracker. She approaches, smiles, and says
"I saw you in Borders today!"
"Yeah, that's where I work!"
So started a strange relationship. Friends with the enemy, and visiting her twice a week. Short conversation over the customer service desk about her recent adventure to Mexico, my adventure to North Carolina, and always interrupted the moment I’m going to ask "let's hang out". Rude customers wanting to, ugg.... BUY something. We shrug. She goes back to work, and so do I – grabbing books looking over one shoulder, then walking out to resell at the store down the street – dreaming about the night her and I will explore campus steam tunnels together – not yet knowing if she was even Vegan, but hey... I can dream, and one day it won't be so busy in there.
Then comes the day, one week later and store virtually absent of customers. But something is different. She's avoiding eye contact and blowing me off. Also talking to a blond haired manager who's motioning toward me. Hushed voices and nods. The man walks in my direction. I rush out the exit, cross the street, and mourn over the betrayal. Heartbreaking... Shoplifters are people too, but maybe in days of exchange economy we forget these important insights.
She's replaced by someone less interesting a week later and I never see her again.
Oh painful memories... Anyway... back in the caf? with threats of finally catching me, this was it. The final confrontation. The dramatic end. Months of them organizing against me and a manager who wasn't going to take it anymore!
There I was with enemies around the corner, trash cans stocked, several books under one arm, and making the final move – two steps to the exit. No parking lot to cross. Just a sidewalk, then a street, then relaxing in full knowledge of Border's 'no chase' policy. Glare at me from the windows employees, but you know I won. Sure there were casualties, turn over rates, questions of loyalty, betrayal, and me cashing in on resell value. And though the war goes on, THIS battle is victorious. I stand across the street with only one thing to do – a victory dance.
I don't know... I got away.
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Spydr, editor of "Conscious Defect" zine, picks up where the "Evasion" author left off. Scamming Rite-Aid, Amtrak, Starbucks and numerous other chains while finding unused squats in University stairwells and rooftops; Spydr's column is more travel journal or How To guide than opinion.