By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
I was a victim, I think, of something akin to my grandfather’s reasons for stealing. My car sits unlocked, unwashed, windows wide open, left idle in the same spot, sometimes for a week, until I must move it to avoid being ticketed. It is an open invitation to theft. I am, in effect, the man my grandfather gleefully stole from.
A still more complex motive is at work here. By making it obvious — indeed, by advertising the fact — that my car was practically worthless to me, I conjured one of my own justifications for (more frequently than I care to admit) taking things that really do not belong to me. If something I covet looks discarded, abandoned, unused, even though I know it has an owner and that it is on private property, I will occasionally lift it. Need an extension ladder? There’s one in that house for sale two doors down. Missing an oven rack for the vintage stove? There’s that dilapidated O’Keefe & Merritt tucked in a garage a few blocks over.
My motive, apart from the brief adrenaline rush, is genuinely intellectually dishonest: I tell myself that what I’m taking is destined for the dumpster. I convince myself that I can put it to better use. Hell, the very fact that I will use it at all is reason enough to liberate it.
I have also persuaded myself of my superior aesthetic. An unappreciated object is an object in need of a new home. This justification can occur to me as readily in an alley as inside a museum. I compound this lie by telling myself that the act itself is art, like pickpocketing, and is thus worthy unto itself. The true value in property is its implied use, whether practical or artistic. Therefore, my theft is a social good, even an act of grace.
I have no idea if the thief or thieves who took my battery employed such elaborate mental dodges. Probably not. Someone needed some cold-cranking amps and was in a hurry to get them. The evidence of this base motivation was in plain view the morning I noticed my battery was gone. What caught my attention was the car’s hood, which had been left propped open. Had the hood been closed, I might not have noticed the theft for days. Only when I tried to start the car would I have realized that a rapscallion of my grandfather’s mordant ilk had been there. Instead of a groan, I would have been forced to laugh at the bill to replace my stolen property.
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