Caught Red-Handed

Pamplin Media

I live in a small suburb of Portland.  It’s essentially a collection of bedrooms, a Red Robin, a movie theater, and a bunch of teenagers with iPhones.  Last month one of those teenagers left her phone in the theater.  After getting to the parking lot and realizing this, her friend used the “find my phone” app on her own iPhone to pinpoint its location inside the theater.

The girls went to the locked theater and asked if they could go inside and get it… only to be rebuffed.

Using the app, they noticing that the lost phone was “moving around” through the cineplex; they suspected that someone had found the phone and was intent on keeping it.

They called the police.

After searching the theater they had seen the movie in, with the police officer, they finally found the lost phone… hidden behind a wall panel… in a different theater.

Apparently a worker had allegedly found the phone, tried to keep it, and when the gig was up, tried to ditch it.  Property was returned, arrests were made, and teenaged girls became local heroes for their investigative prowess.  It was like a 21st century Nancy Drew story… The Mystery of the Wandering iPhone.

It used to be that you could get away with stuff.  

I once stole an entire roll of Rollo’s just to see how they tasted.  I took the candy from the supermarket by sliding it up my sleeve.  I was with my mom, so I had to wait through the entire checkout process before I “got away with it”.  The entire time we were in the line I just knew that I was going to get caught.

The cashier kept eyeballing me.

I kept imagining that she knew exactly what I had done, and like some twisted character from a Poe story or Dogstoyevsky novel I sweated it out in the line, as terrified of getting caught as I was of succeeding.

As my mom rolled the cart towards the door, the checkstand lady complimented her on how well-behaved I was.

The store security dipped his head at her as we went through the automatic doors.

It all felt like it was happening in slow motion.

At home I ate the Rollos in the bathroom, and flushed the tin-foil evidence.

I played a quick round of Breakout to take my mind off of my malfeasance.

By the time M.A.S.H. started I’d forgotten all about my crime.

I remembered how bad I’d been the minute my parents put me to bed and turned out the lights.   I probably stayed awake for about 30 minutes trying to come to grips with the monster that I’d become.  I also “knew” that the store manager had probably finished his nightly review of the security camera footage and was contacting the police detectives.  I imagined that the black and whites would pull into my driveway at any moment.

Lying in bed I pulled the collar of my pajama top over my nose to shield my face, so the press wouldn’t get a good photo of me as Officer Frank Poncharello put his hand onto the back of my head to keep me from bumping as they loaded me into the car.

I had a family reputation to protect after all.

To my surprise the evening passed uneventfully and I didn’t wake up feeling like going on a crime spree.  I was nice to my sister, polite to my parents, and mowed the lawn without being asked.  For the better part of a week I began to feel better about myself… because I hadn’t gotten caught.

Within the month I’d swiped two G.I. Joes (Grunt and Short Fuze) and a whole bunch of die-cast Star Wars miniature figures from a local retailer.  I didn’t even worry about getting caught.  Nobody looks twice at an agreeable kid with blue eyes and a blond bowl-cut.

It used to be that you could get away with stuff,
but it wasn’t good for you.

I was so convinced that the folks at the store had no clue about the disappearance of their items that I never considered the fact that my parents might be “on to me.”  While they never knew about the candy, they did know how many toys I was supposed to have… since they were the ones that bought them for me.

When they pinched me with the toys in my hand, there were no lies that I could tell to keep them from not only punishing me, but putting me in a position to make restitution.

My crime spree lasted for a little more than three weeks.  It ended with me snivelling for my life at the scheduling desk of a part-time manager in the stock room of a GEMCO store.  My parents not only caught me with the loot but they gave me up to the man… and by man I mean a balding, middle-aged, community college attender who could have cared less about my Jack Lord-esque grasp of crime and punishment…  I thought I was going to jail.

Turns out the man just wanted payment for the lost goods and told me never to come back into the store without my parents.

I had been sufficiently scared straight.

Getting caught was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I haven’t purposefully taken anything that wasn’t mine since.

My parents knew that I wasn’t going to jail that day, but they let me believe that I was.  They let the gravity of the situation press onto me, even if it wasn’t as heavy as I thought it was.  This was so I wouldn’t make any excuses, or have any excuses made for me.

You might be thinking that this was a harsh thing to do with a 9 year-old kid, especially when the total amount of money I had to pay back was less than $20, but they’d have done the same thing if they’d caught me with the Rollo’s.

Because if they’d caught me with the Rollo’s I never would have taken all that other stuff later on.

We’re never actually getting away with anything,
a
nd this is actually good for us.

Unconfessed sin always leads to getting caught with something bigger.

It’s why I’m telling you all about the Rollo’s.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” -Proverbs 14:12

4 Responses to “Caught Red-Handed”

  1. Andy Schreiber August 15, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    I just talked about Crime and Punishment in the intro to my sermon on Acts 7 on Sunday!

    Love that book . . .even though it took me two tries to read the whole thing.

    • Jon August 15, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      I still haven’t made it all the way through, but boy, he was onto something about guilt right?

  2. Charles Oberg August 15, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    The entire time I read this I was thinking of The Tell-Tale Heart. You know – That heart in your throat feeling when your life can change in an instant from one decision you make in your life – Been there…

    • Jon August 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      I’m right beside you man.

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