The all-you-can-steal buffet

June 11 — I was home in California recently and scored free Dodgers tickets. The seats were right behind home plate and included a hot dog. I don’t think anyone would say no.

I was in a state of overpriced Coors Light when I went to the ATM to get more beer money. There, the words on the LCD screen unceremoniously told me that I had overdrawn my account by $800. I thought of my recent purchases: a few books from Amazon, a second hot dog and some shady eBay transactions. Someone stole all my money.

Screw Coors Light, now I needed tequila to drown my sorrows. But Dodger Stadium was not conducive to the $5 I had left. Usually there are many willing men to buy me beer, but at this time of recession, I can’t even get a wink from a pot-bellied sports fan.

When the bank told me my ‘identity had been stolen,’ I imagined a man with a mustache wearing my clothes and charming my friends, riding the yacht I was saving up for and reading the books I had ordered. The bank assured me the bank would replace the cash in time.

‘Well what about the guy who stole my money?’ I asked the bank.

They said it could easily have been a woman. I asked if she was in jail.

‘I’m sorry, Miss Shanfield, but your money was transferred to offshore accounts in India. It is unlikely that we will ever know who stole your identity.’

Great. Now I can never eat Indian food again. I couldn’t believe someone stole the entirety of my year’s earnings and got away with it. I thought there were laws against this behavior, but apparently the Bank of America finds those unnecessary and tedious to uphold. They’d rather just ditch the effort in finding the man riding on my yacht and tell me I need to send money orders to people named Raj claiming to have Poison tickets.

When the initial shock of $1,400 being drained from my bank wore off, it occurred to me how genius the concept of stealing an identity was. All our lives we’ve been taught not to steal and to strive for individualism. We find it very hard to ignore these life lessons when we go to the gym and see purses spilling out of the communal cubbies. Other people’s belongings are always ripe for the picking, but the consequences for getting caught are so fearful that no one does it. However, in my experience, there are no consequences if you don’t get caught, and when you have an offshore account in India, you’re pretty much good to go.

I thought of what I might say to the person who stole my identity if I saw him on the street. He’d be walking really slow, possibly eating a banana and wearing my Rosebowl XVII T-shirt and pants made of the Brazilian flag. I would hope that I would pummel him (or her) into the ground and immediately take my hard-earned money back, which would conveniently be in crisp bills in his pocket. However, I’ve never been in a fight, so I would probably just approach the fake me and say, ‘Hey, that banana is mine.’

He will answer, ‘No, it’s not.’ Genius. I can’t prove that any of that stuff is mine because he stole it, making it his. I don’t have video proof that I was at that Rosebowl game. I would let him keep walking because his power to deny is stronger than my claim of ownership. I’d look crazy insisting those pants are mine.

Stealing something is a manifestation of thinking you deserve something you didn’t work for. The people who did work for said item are so below you that you can take what’s theirs. Since these thieves are independent enough not to listen to the life lessons they learned in preschool and have the balls to give the finger to society, who’s to say they don’t deserve what they steal?

My moral code immediately changed. When I saw that I was losing a game of Monopoly, I leaned over and grabbed everyone’s money and red houses. Everyone said I ruined the game, but I won. ‘You broke the rules,’ they said. Sorry, Mom, I stole your Monopoly identity. As far as I’m concerned, there are no rules. Sesame Street and Saved by the Bell specifically told me that stealing was breaking a rule, but someone stole $1,400 from me and got away with it. Maybe I’m bitter, but I’ve got to survive.

Later, when I was walking along Newbury Street, I became hungry. I walked up to someone sitting on the Stephanie’s patio and took his plate of prosciutto mac n’ cheese. When he asked me, ‘What the hell?’ I explained that this pasta was now mine because I stole it, and that’s how stealing works. I knew this because my identity had been stolen recently, along with all the money I’d made sitting on my ass as a receptionist for the Photonics building. He nodded, mentioned that the Photonics building was cool-looking, and watched me go.

Perhaps the psychology that makes thieves feel no guilt is that they’ve been stolen from. Now that I’m a victim, I don’t feel the least bit guilty walking straight out of the library with piles of books, while the maroon-blazer people eye me, nor am I ashamed when I sleep in my roommate’s more comfortable bed and pretend to still be asleep when she asks me to get out. Life is one big buffet, and I want more mac n’ cheese.

Sarah Shanfield is a senior in the College of Communication.

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