Don’t make me ‘mom lecture’ you {OPED}

Caitlin Walker

RBC | I was a bit of an odd kid. (Nothing has changed, if you’re wondering.)
When I was around 4, we went to a hardware store to pick up a few things, and I was instantly enamored, but not with the power tools, the wall of paint chips, or the shiny bright array of light fixtures, like a regular kid. I was obsessed with the rubber O-rings. Black, tiny, stretchy, right at my eye level from the shopping cart, and the coolest thing ever.
I had no idea what they were for, but I had to have them.
I waited patiently. When mom turned away to deal with one of my brothers, I snatched a handful and stuffed them in my corduroy jumper pocket.
My poker face has always been terrible, though, and mom’s sixth sense was on point. We were loading up the minivan when she discovered my transgression (as moms always do.) I was lectured six ways to Sunday and marched right back inside by the straps of my jumper to return the 50 cents in O-rings I’d stolen and make a personal apology to the store clerk. I was officially scared straight.
Fast forward about 20 years, and I’m now the exhausted mother dragging three small children through a store. I have a newborn in a baby carrier and two toddlers taking off their shoes and throwing them out of the bastard offspring of a shopping cart and Cozy Coupe play car, legitimately one of the worst inventions on the entire planet.
We’ve made it through the hellfire of grocery shopping, and while I’m busy checking out, my littles notice all the delicious candy sitting right outside the window of their tiny car. Unbeknown to me, the toddlers both grab Baby Bottle Pop candies.
We make it to the minivan, I strap in the fussy newborn, unload the groceries and realize the toddlers are suspiciously quiet. I discover them wrestling with the candy wrappers, and history repeats itself. Lecture them six ways to Sunday, unload the baby and march them right back inside to return the unopened candy and formally apologize. Another generation officially scared straight.
The universe has a delightful sense of humor, doesn’t it?
Five years later, the subject of stealing has returned to my life. While picking up paper returns a few weeks ago, we discovered someone took not one, two or even five papers from the rack at the Meeker post office, but 20, two thirds of the papers we dropped there, without paying for them.
I’ve been counting quarters for the paper off and on since I was 15. Newspaper theft has always been an issue, but this one is a whopper. The newspaper isn’t exactly a cash cow. We operate on a shoestring. By the time we’ve gathered editorial material, designed the paper, printed it, picked it up from Gypsum, packaged and distributed it, not to mention all the administrative work that facilitates this, that one dollar we charge has worn very, very thin.
My first thought? Wire the racks to record a “mom lecture” every single time someone opens them.
More recently, this past weekend, in fact, I escaped from my full-time mom gig to take photos of Meeker High School’s graduation ceremony. I’ve always hated mucking up photos with a watermark, so when I put them up (after a combined seven hours of work taking them, sorting them, editing them and uploading them) on Smugmug (a site we pay to host our photos) I decided against the watermark. In less than 10 minutes, they had been screenshot and scattered across social media.
It’s 99 cents to download a digital high res file, and you can do whatever you want with it. But apparently, that price is too high. So now it’s ruined for everyone, including me, and I’ll have watermarks on my work. I don’t like them either, but lesson learned.
It’s basic application of the golden rule. You don’t like being stolen from, do you? Then do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
On a larger scale, if nothing has value, society won’t function correctly. That’s why stealing is illegal.
Things that cost pennies still have value to the businesses who sell them and the people who create those products, whether it’s rubber O-rings or $2 worth of candy, a photo someone else took while you were enjoying the moment (as you well should!), $20 in newspapers, a car, a wallet or an identity. They are all cogs in the vast machine that makes coexistence with our fellow humans possible.
If we all just take what we want and to hell with the consequences, we’ll be bashing each other over the head with clubs in a matter of weeks. We’re already pretty close to this with the current state of things, let’s not make it worse.
Gray issues are everywhere these days, but this one, like our newspaper, is black and white. Stealing is wrong.