Thou Shalt Not Steal Cigarettes
Doug types too much...
October 11, 2017
At the start of the 70s, I was friends with the Byrd brothers. Jerry was a classmate and his older brother David was ahead of us by two grades. David was an exalted high school senior. Mostly it was me hanging out with Jerry, but occasionally David would endure our company.
David was cooler than us, but he wasn’t a jackass brother. He was pretty decent and often introduced us to new records. It was the first time I ever heard Led Zeppelin. Starting with Whole Lotta Love. So there you go. That’s what David was good for.
The first time I ever heard the Beatles put I’ve Got a Feeling to bed was in the Byrd living room. He’d brought the Let it Be album in, but wanted to start on side two. We’d never heard it and were like, “No, play it from the beginning.”
David shushed us. His eyes were dancing as the needle came to rest on the vinyl. He shot us a look. “Forget side one. Listen to this.”
For me, I’ve Got a Feeling is still the ace on that album. Thanks, David.
David had a part-time job at a tiny, weathered convenience store that smelled of damp moldy wood. The elderly owner eventually trusted David to man it alone from time to time.
David never took from the register. But cigarettes were a different matter. By the carton. For himself and us.
Teenage life was relatively good in the middle of nowhere in Maine. One of the last times I spoke with David was after he’d graduated. He hadn’t moved away yet. That’s when he announced our cool cigarette gig was over. No more free cigarettes. David had been purchasing his smokes.
I looked at him in disbelief. “David, why are you spending your money? Just steal ’em.”
David leveled his eyes and spoke with a peace in his voice. “I’ve decided it’s good to pay for things. It makes me feel better.”
I walked away from that conversation convinced David had lost it.
I still wanted stuff for free.
My thievery period was relatively short-lived. As a half-assed defense, when I was stealing, it was usually because I had no money and there were certain things I needed. Like records and cigarettes. And not to pat myself on the back too much, I found it to be pretty easy and I got pretty good at it.
But then, not long after my little talk with David, I got caught by a supermarket manager. He took me in the back. He summoned the cops. Two police officers read me my rights and escorted me out to their car. I was put in the back seat and they drove to the end of the parking lot and turned off the engine.
Both cops turned simultaneously to face me and one said, “It’s your lucky day. The store’s not gonna press charges. So you’re free to go, but I suggest you don’t show your face in that supermarket for the next six months.”
We parted as friends.
I made good on not showing my face at that store for at least a year.
I stopped shoplifting.
And part of that turning process was what David started in my head. I just needed Miranda rights read to me to complete the transformation.
When I was sent to church, as a child especially, they made sure you understood God sees everything you’re doing. What I surmised pretty early in life was that God may be watching, but that may be it. God may, or may not, move in mysterious ways. At least with me anyway.
But God watching me wasn’t enough. I had to watch me. I had to help God a little. You know, while God was secretly helping me. I got to the David place eventually. I had a lot of work to do.
I don’t steal anymore and I don’t encourage it.
But there was a time I had to be righted.
Shown the way.
Told about how to feel good inside.
Somebody had to say, “Hey, listen to this.”