, Corbin, KY


June 26, 2014

Early embarrassing lesson in the evil of thievery sticks through to adulthood

CORBIN — I tried my hand at being a thief — once.

When I was in the fourth grade, my parents had taken me with them to Rose’s department store to go shopping.

I couldn’t tell you why they went — but I can tell you I got a hankering for some candy while we were there.

So while my parents were visually occupied elsewhere, I knelt down in front of a candy rack, and looked around.

With no one looking, I quietly took this little plastic trash can filled with a Sweet Tart-type of candy and shoved it deep into my pocket.

And we left the store.

Not long after we got home, my mother’s instincts kicked in for some reason — and I was forced to tell them I took that trash can of candy.

I was in so much trouble at that point I couldn’t begin to explain — I remember the word “consequences” and picturing that word in my mind, it was in big, black, capital letters and outlined in an angry red color.

That angry red color in my mind ended up oozing onto my face shortly after that — when my parents forced me to return to that store and give back the candy, with an admission that I was a thief and stole it.

I couldn’t describe the humiliation — it was probably the most embarrassing moment for me up to that point.

But guess what.

I couldn’t steal a thing after that incident — thanks to my parents’ forceful lesson.

I got to thinking about that yesterday when I went to get a bite to eat at a local fast food restaurant. They were kind of busy for the middle of the afternoon, and things were on the brink of getting out of hand — several people were waiting at the same time for their food.

After about 15 minutes, I was finally blessed with my lunch, and promptly went to sit and chow down.

A couple came in after me, and they ordered and sat to wait on their food.

A few moments the couple got their food and started eating.

A few moments after that, the guy opened up one of his items, took a big bite — then held it back in an obvious way and looked at it.

Immediately he approached the counter with the apparently obscene food item in his hands.

After a few moments, he very visibly wadded up the offending food, and returned to his table with the “correct” meal.

Once he sat down, he looked around toward the front counter — then unwrapped the “offending” food item and proceeded to eat it anyway.

It may not be much in the way of price — but if 200 people did the same thing yesterday, that would be approximately $600 lost in food cost.

And if that happened in 200 of those restaurants across Kentucky, then that store would’ve lost a collective $120,000 — just yesterday.

Once when I was in high school, a group of us were on a field trip in Virginia. For whatever reason — we ended up at the local mall.

It was the black trench coat phase of the late 1980s, and I was sporting one myself.

We were perusing the bookstore and I found a book I really liked and flipped through it. I also looked at the price and knew that wasn’t going to happen.

My friends were done shopping there, and we left. Moments later, a man grabs my arm and slings me around to face him.

Scared to death, he then says he is a store security guard — and proceeded to accuse me of stealing that book.

I told him I didn’t take it, but he wasn’t satisfied with that — he searched my person and patted me down, looking for that book, I presume.

Which, of course, I didn’t steal — despite what his imagination told him.

That was another lesson in stealing — albeit undeserved. For me the humiliation of the public search was enough to cement the lesson learned in fourth grade.

But stealing happens — over and over and over again. I had left work one night and headed toward the only 24-hour grocery store — the Wal-Mart in Corbin.

As I walked in, there were two apparent loss prevention officials standing with two people with packed shopping carts. The girl was crying her eyes out, and the guy was just looking nervous. Of course, the next day the newsroom saw a press release that the pair had been arrested for shoplifting.

I can’t figure out this whole stealing thing.

To me, it’s easier and quicker just to buy what you can afford and shrug your shoulders at the rest of it.

I’d rather look ahead to the rest of my life — instead of having to constantly look over my shoulder to see if my past has yet to catch up with me.

(Times-Tribune Staff Writer John Ross can be reached at

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