Let me begin by saying VERY LOUDLY that I am not a thief. At least not by trade or profession.
And I’m not that big of a fan of Wal-Mart. Sure, I shop there faithfully. Religiously even. But that’s not the point. Walmart is the cancer that erodes all local grocers in the existing neighborhood, with no regard for the damage it causes.
I do love ginger beer—that’s not true—I LIKE ginger beer. But I LOVE Fever Tree’s rendition of the Caribbean classic. It does my heart and soul good; it connects me with the inner me I often neglect.
Yes, I am being poetic. Yes, it is that good. And guess the only place I have found it-bothered to look? You guessed it. Wal-Mart.
So what does that have to do with integrity? Let me tell you what happened….
It was like, several Tuesdays ago. I had a long day of clients and meetings, and still had shopping to do. I’m trying to be a good husband and father. You might even say impressive. So I told my lovely wife that I would do the grocery shopping. She agreed quickly. Maybe too quickly. But I digress.
Anyway, I’m tired. I suck it up, I’m THE MAN after all. Unfortunately, I’m a horrible shopper. I never know where anything is. The list in my head never made it to paper, and that list in my head continued to grow as hunger pangs seized the opportunity to escalate my aggravation.
And they moved the tofu.
Why would they NEED to move the tofu!?
Stupid Walton family!
So as I’m aiding in the corporate takeover of small markets, there is only one comfort that eases my conscience, one thought that is keeping me from being overwhelmed. You guessed it again! Boy, are you smart! Yes, the one comforting thought is that the ginger beer- FEVER TREE ginger beer- is in stock.
However, the availability of the brand I love can be hit or miss. I look anyway. I’m not too proud to admit that I might have had a spike in anxiety when I looked and the precious liquid was nowhere to be found. Its usual place was empty. And now, so was my heart. Before despair could overtake, something told me to press forward, to exercise more dutiful diligence.
With limberness I didn’t know I had, I bent down to take a closer look. There, way in the back, hidden from greedy hands and predatory eyes, was my prize. It was as if heaven saw the day I was having and hid a treasure just for the worth…
I am the worthy.
The sight of that glorious four-pack immediately lifted my spirits. I was going to be O.K. I was going to make it. But my version of shopping was not over. After wandering around both aimlessly and with purpose ( I’m talented), visiting and revisiting isles that were clearly marked (and for some reason I kept missing), it was finally time. Time to check out. Yes, my kids need food. And toilet tissue is a must when you are the only male with 3 women in your house. But you know what MY eyes were on…
Do I need to say it? Of course I do.
The ginger beer. My eyes were on the ginger beer. Just in case you haven’t been paying attention thus far.
Anyway, the hour was late, and I still had much to do after exiting the cult known as Walmart Super Center. As usual, the lines were ridiculous. Why have 13 isles, but only 3 lines open at a time?!? This deserves a boycott, or at least SOME sort of civil action to let the powers that be know that this type of corporate maneuvering wouldn’t be tolerated!
But then I saw the self-checkout was sparse with patrons. And as I said, the hour was late. So I slid over. And I was next! Everything was going well. I stepped up to the next available automated machine that was on the fast track of putting millions of people out of jobs, and began swiping.
The familiar beep was reassuring as the items in my cart disappeared into the grocery bag. Sure, it was cold outside. And wet. And yes, the transmission to my van could give out at any minute. But you know what? None of that mattered. Because I was at the end of checking out my items. Just one more item left. I literally saved the best for last.
Ginger beer. It was the ginger beer. By Fever Tree. This is not a promotion. This is my testimony.
As I ran it through the scanner, there was no familiar beep. I ran it again. Still nothing. My stomach felt now was the time to remind me of unkept promises of sustenance. Hungry was quickly turning to hangry. Then my phone started ringing. And no amount of geometrical positioning of the item was creating the satisfying beep that would free me from the clutches of culinary confinement.
To my horror, I realized what the problem was. Though non-alcoholic, due to the name, there was a need for me to show my ID. I didn’t have my ID on me. It was in the van with the bad transmission which was parked in the wet, cold outside.
I looked around for assistance, but being that Walton’s are so CHEAP, there was none to be given. Not an employee in sight. So I left. With the ginger beer. The unpaid for recently confiscated ginger beer.
I was dressed nicely. Handsomely, if I dare take it that far. With a wink and a smile, I eased past the greeter-security guard- refund checker. I wasn’t stopped. I tipped my hat to the greeter. And I went home. The van started up (Hallelujah!), and my crime was complete, the getaway well at hand.
I have now joined the criminal underworld.
And you know what I found out? Whether purchased or stolen, that same spicy, yet surprisingly refreshing taste did not waiver nor compromise. I relished in it. There was a pinch of guilt. More like a tap, a gentle, loving tap that may have been confused with encouragement.
Don’t judge me. Look at what Walmart made me do! Look at what I had to become in order to swim the tide of societal stress, abusing me at every turn. If they would treat workers fair and not monopolize an industry while giving so little back, MAYBE I would not have had to turn to a life of crime. Maybe I-
Maybe, I just lacked integrity. I stole because I desired. And when my morality was tested, I chose self. Often, circumstances just bring out the truth that is left unchallenged. I didn’t steal to “stick it to the man.” I stole because when what I wanted clashed with inconvenience, I chose me. After the ginger beer was gone, I still had to look myself in the mirror. I had to decide who I
would become. And also know that whoever that person would be moving forward, still didn’t excuse my wrong-doing.
I went to Walmart, days later. I now knew the system and how to beat it. I could continue to thieve, justifying my actions as a small jab to the idea of ownership that is polluting this country. Frame my behavior as some attempt at corporate rebellion. I could even justify myself as a hero. The temptations to steal, a temptation I had not really felt before, hit me strongly. I shook it off. I headed to the self-checkout and…
THE EXACT SAME ISSUE ONCE AGAIN SHOWED ITSELF!!
But this time I sought out a clerk. This time I had my ID ready. I left, all my items paid for. I tipped my hat once again to the greeter/security guard. Once in my van, I popped open the beverage and enjoyed myself. Still, that great, spicily refreshing taste. Without any of the guilt. Not even a tap.
And as I drove home, it was nice to not justify. True, the Walton’s need to do better. SOCIETY needs to do better.
But so do I.