I once had a brush with what proved to be a fascinating case study of human behavior.
It was ninth grade. I had a locker. I refused to lock my locker, probably out of some strange sense of teenage rebellion and/or laziness. A friend of mine—we shall call her Beth—asked if she could share my locker because it was closer to her classes than the one she had been assigned.
“All right,” I said, “but I don’t lock my locker. And by now I’ve lost the combo, so that’s never going to be in the cards here.”
Beth said she understood the law of the land. So I agreed to grant her asylum.
But what I really should have passed on was the warning that I thought went unsaid. You see, Lockerville was a dangerous land. It wasn’t that I had any illusions that people wouldn’t try to steal the crap out of my stuff; it was that I only kept textbooks in there so that no one would bother.
Beth seemed to have a sunnier view of human nature. And in her absolutely unwarranted faith in the human race, she decided to leave her CD player on the locker’s top shelf.
That thing sat there for no more than seven measly hours before it was gone with the mother-lovin’ wind.
This, in and of itself, did not surprise me at all. Here’s what did surprise me: in the center of the top shelf, in the exact spot where Beth’s CD player had once sat, was an unopened package of chocolate chip cookies.
These were not Beth’s cookies. They were not my cookies.
There was only one logical conclusion: someone had broken into my locker, stolen Beth’s CD player, and replaced it with cookies.
What a weird honkin’ thing to do.
Seriously, think about what this act implies. The thief opens the locker, sees the CD player, knows that he is going to take the CD player, but must also on some level understand that this is a nasty, unethical thing to do. However, instead of letting that stop him, he thinks, “Wait a tick, I know what will soften the blow!,” and then he leaves us cookies.
Never in a million years did Beth think someone would steal her CD player. I totally did, but never in a million years did I think a thief would be considerate enough to swap in cookies.
We handled the situation accordingly.
Beth was livid. “MY CD PLAYER!” she shrieked to the heavens.
I was pleasantly surprised. “Hey, free cookies!” I exclaimed to no one in particular.
Beth did not appreciate my positive attitude. “Fuck the cookies!” she barked at me. “I had a CD in there!”
I paused for a moment. “So… do you not want the cookies?”
“No, I don’t want the cookies!” Beth screamed. “Why the fuck would I want the cookies?! What I want is my mother-fucking CD player! Who the fuck would steal my CD player—”
This went on for some time. At the end of the day, Beth went home with no CD player, disillusioned with human nature, and I went home with free cookies, feeling a little confused but mostly just impressed.
To be clear, I’m not endorsing criminal behavior. All I’m saying is, if you have to go there, you might as well go there considerately.