My head

Am I Moralistic Crime Fighter or Just A Plain Old Bully?

October 14, 2012

I tried to do the right thing the other day, but in doing so, I think I ended up making quite a cock-up of the situation and wish I’d just pretended I hadn’t seen a thing. In the heat of a moral dilemma something bizarre came over me and I’m not sure if I’m proud or ashamed. Perhaps in making my confession to you I can just forget that deep inside me lies a moralistic crime fighter, or maybe I’m just a self-righteous wanker. You be the judge…

I was standing in a little Ma’n’Pa type deli in my local shopping strip. I’d never been there before and I have no affiliation with the place, in fact, I was not overly thrilled with the quality of the ham I bought so I will probably never go back….not to mention the fact that I’m well embarrassed.

An elderly dude shuffled in carrying with him the aroma of Old Bachelor. You know what I mean – it’s a little bit of tea, a little bit of musty fustiness and a sprinkling of urine for good measure.

He put a tenner on the counter.

‘The usual, please’

While the lady proceeded to cut his devon or brawn or whatever the usual may be, I was putzing about with my purse, when I saw this old gentleman behave in a most ungentlemanly fashion. He took a Honey Nut Bar from the counter and he put it in his pocket. Fairly brazen, one could say as I was not half a meter away holding my shocked ham…..or shocked, holding my ham, I believe would be more accurate.

A million thoughts raced through my mind, all of them heavily laden with exclamation marks, and I have no idea why. Who am I? The smallgood police? A retail watchdog? Wonder Bloody Woman?

Why do even give a shit?
 I mean, really, it’s not like I never stole anything.

I went through a stage in the summer holidays of my 13th year were I was so damned light-fingered I was like Oliver Twist without the torn pants and whole orphan baggage. You name it, I filched it. Food, lollies, clothes, jewellery. I was shocking. I was led astray by the wrong crowd, yes, but ultimately I found it quite thrilling.
That said, I doubt this octogenarian was doing it for a thrill, although it may be how the old codger can gets his jollies these days.

I wanted him to know I saw him, and I wanted him to feel bad about stealing. I got my vigilante on.

I don’t think for one single second that this is a black and white situation. I mean, stealing is bad, mmmmmkay……but maybe this guy just wanted a treat? Maybe his monthly pension didn’t stretch to nut bars and he just wanted to stick his dentures together one last time before he turned his toes?
Hell, maybe it was part of ‘his usual’ but that mortifying scenario didn’t even cross my mind until someone gently pointed out that perhaps I’m simply a big, fat bully.

Anyway, I took $2.50 out of my purse and I slipped onto the counter in front of him and I leaned quietly into his flappy, old man ear –

‘That’s for the bar you put in your pocket.’

He looked at me blankly, all confused and bewildered. Possibly feigning ignorance, or more likely he was struggling to understand me as suddenly I was speaking all growly and husky, like Batman, and even Lois Lane is all like “Quit mumbling, Batman – Just enunciate for God’s sake”

‘I saw you do it, now put it on the counter. Do the right thing and pay for it.’

Who the hell did I think I was? I honestly don’t know what came over me, I should have just minded my own business but to be quite frank, I have always struggled with doing so.

‘Alright’ he answered quietly and I walked outside.

Good deed done. Dishonesty averted. My cape was un-tarnished.

Had I left it there, perhaps I wouldn’t be feeling like this right now. The situation was more or less sorted, I got my point across and he learned his lesson.

Wrong. I became this self-righteous, uppity, freakozoid, and this is where it all went pear shaped.

I didn’t walk away. He started to collect up the money, but his shaky hands dropped a coin into a display. The shop lady came to help him.

‘That lady just gave me some money’

He was putting the money in his pocket, she was looking at me and I was looking at him and his little sphincter would have been clenching in that unique way it does when you know you’re busted.
 She walked up to me asking if I was ok, I said ‘yep, don’t worry about it’ and she walked away.

Was he sticking the money in his pocket?

Was he going to use it as I intended?

It didn’t appear so. Maybe he was taking his time, working out how to get the offending bar from his pocket to the counter without being obvious, but he was going too slow, I wanted that bar out in the open now. 
I could see the tasty snack poking out of his hip pocket so walked up to him, grabbed it out of his trousers and slammed it on the deli counter in front of the shocked man….then I quickly grabbed my pram and rushed of to a chorus of him calling out –

RightO. RightO. RightO.

I’ve only ever really known one other person to say ‘righto’ and he was an ex-lover… felt strange to be thinking of him in that moment.

My heart was pounding. I’d done the right thing, hadn’t I? Stealing is wrong, isn’t it? But I bullied a poor old man…..why did I do that?

So, there it is. I tried to do the right thing, but then I got carried away with myself and intimidated a poor old clepto, and I just can’t stop thinking about it.

If he was a teenager I would have been doubly on his case, but should I have let it slide because he’s old?

Should I have made excuses for him and turned a blind eye?

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  • Reply changeforbetterme October 14, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Oh wow, that’s a tough one. We do let old people get away with more, well because they are old. It would be nice to know if he could afford the candy or not. Like you said, maybe he couldn’t and just wanted a sweet. Not sure you were really a bully. I’m thinking a bully likes an audience and you didn’t make a fuss in front of the person behind the counter, just the old man. so I would vote on the side of “not a bully”. But then again, stealing is stealing. Like you though I am not one to judge, since my teenage years were not that golden. So again I don’t know.

  • Reply faydanamyjake October 14, 2012 at 8:31 am

    When I am old.. I love that poem. Thats so me.. in a few years.
    Personally I would have been amused and smiled to myself and observed him more to see what’s next. I might have made up a story about the man who stole nut bars in my head and passed a happy moment.
    I would not have done what you did and yes I think you were a bit of a bully. I wonder why you got so cross. oh well 🙂

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys October 14, 2012 at 8:34 am

      To be honest, it’s probably extreme tiredness. No excuse, but my fuse is kinda short right now.

      Still weird behavior though!

      Sent from my iPhone

      • Reply faydanamyjake October 14, 2012 at 9:22 am

        Oh a lack of sleep does horrible things, I swear I can feel my brain chemistry misfiring. 🙂

  • Reply Maxine October 14, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Why didn’t u just slam a bar of soap on the counter as well. And kick him in the nuts. Xx dan your great never ever change!!!!! X

  • Reply casseager October 14, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Love it! The suburban crime fightress with pram in tow!! I’m not sure I’m up for passing judgement on that one. I would have sniggered and left it alone me thinks, but you do have hutzpah!

  • Reply Jet October 14, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Wow! I agree that had it been a teenager it would have been a wonderful thing, but for an old regular of the establishment? Nah. The owner and the old man probably got a good laugh though! Don’t feel too bad about it; we all go overboard with wanting to right the world’s wrongs every once in awhile.

    P.S. Unrelated, but I got “Fifty Shades of Grey” on Playaway (finally) and I pushed myself to reach the third chapter before giving up. The writing is pretty terrible, the character is dense, and the girl who narrates sounds like she’s auditioning for the movie “Clueless”. Kinda hard to go from “The Time Traveler’s Wife” to Grey, lol. I know it was not a “real” suggestion for my reading anyway, but I thought you should know…I found it deplorable 😉

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys October 14, 2012 at 11:00 am

      Sucks balls, I think would be accurate for Gray!!
      I’m now reading a book by Time Travelor’s Wife author.
      Something Symmetry, Imperfect maybe? Just beautiful. Such a way with words.

      • Reply Jet October 14, 2012 at 11:08 am

        Her Fearful Symmetry! I cannot believe that’s only her second novel. Impressive. Let me know if you have any other (honest) suggestions 🙂

  • Reply Peaches October 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I can’t vouch for my own sanity but I would have at the very least been tempted to do the same thing as you. I get very irritated with old folks getting away with stuff just because they’re old, all the while their generation slams the younger one for supposedly being morally depraved. the hypocrisy not only astounds but really offends me. Ya know, I don’t steal. I don’t know anybody who does (to my knowledge). Young people do just fine.

    SO yeah, I point stuff like that out.

    I probably would have waited until the deli counter lady came back and made a (seemingly polite) comment about how his regular included a nut and honey bar. “Geeze! You must have to order them in special just knowing he stashes one in his pocket everyday.” Then let the store owner deal with it…

    Maybe they’d just move the bars behind the counter from then on.

  • Reply sisinlaw October 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Funny story…don’t know if it was right, or wrong… but more importantly I’m hoping that the above “Maxine” aren’t Nana Maxine’s comments!! ha ha ha! x

  • Reply Papa Angst October 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I went through something similar recently, not with an old clepto, but something related to my toddler son. After the dust cleared, even though I’d technically been in the right, I’d acted, as you said, like a “self-righteous, uppity, freakazoid.” Wasn’t too pleased with myself and wondered what the hell it was all about. Could’ve been sleep deprivation. Could’ve also been my protective parent mode in overdrive. Either way, it made me take a hard look at myself, which included understanding a bit more, without necessarily liking, parents I’d previously felt were self-righteous. I hope that wasn’t rationalizing. Anyway, I don’t feel too welcome in that place when I go back. Seems like you can still go back in that deli with your head up, so you’ve got me beat. Excellent post.

  • Reply Yaz October 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    you totally did the right thing. you can’t make excuses for said old man, what difference does age make. If my 75 year old Mumma can’t afford something, she goes without until she can. as we all do. the deli owners are running a business not a charity.

  • Reply Mrs H October 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    I must admit I agree with Yaz, why should it be any less wrong for an old person to steal than anyone else? and i liked Peaches other option to point out to the store owner. But I also totally relate to feeling like you’ve totally over reacted to a situation or more irritatingly not stopping when you should have and ballsing it up as a consequence. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything… I would definitely not say you were being a bully – sounds to me like you were just shocked at how he wasn’t even going to fess up or pay for it even when you’d pointed it out, which I can totally understand feeling righteously indignant about! Great honest post – thanks.

  • Reply Rachel Noel October 16, 2012 at 4:26 am

    I thought stealing was an inherent part of getting old. It’s like, a perk? Actually- I saw this a lot when I was a flight attendant. At first it made me really angry, but then I got real about it. That old man who stole the bar was not some villain… He was just someone who makes excuses for why it’s okay to steal a nut bar. I don’t think shaming people is an effective way to get them thinking differently. I think you have to appeal to the best part of them; rather than making them feel small. I love this post though… You kind of turned around and moral policed yourself; didn’t you?

  • Reply Roar Sweetly October 16, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I have a soft spot for old men, especially if they’re a bit smelly and down on their luck…blind eye for me, but loved the story!

  • Reply Shannon October 18, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Well…I would have been shocked to see an old chap steal something because for some reason I have it in mind that once you reach a certain age you become a pillar of virtue. I also imagine people in the old days lived in sepia hues and there was always a soft radio tune playing in life’s background.

    Anyway- I wouldn’t have had the balls to confront him and I would have convinced myself he mistook his pocket for the counter and then forgot he had grabbed the tasty snack at all.
    I would have told the shopkeeper what I saw so they could be aware of him the next time he came.

    So glad I found your blog BTW.
    You are hilarious!

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