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Confessions: The Snack Burglar

I’ve written in the past about my experiences as a former fat kid in the 80’s and early 90’s. In that article I talked about the minefield of insults and embarrassments I had to deal with at school on a daily basis. While most of the heckling I received was unwarranted, there was one crime I was guilty of and never confronted on. Yes, I was a food thief. Not in the obvious way that Arnold Schwarzenegger caught that kid in Kindergarten Cop, more like the cat burgling jewel thieves from The Great Muppet Caper. I hope the statute of limitations has passed on food theft, because I’m about to confess my sins.

See, my Mom rarely let candy, cookies or potato chips in our house if it wasn’t a holiday or special occasion. This left me with a fixation on “how the other half lived”, you know, the kids that showed up to school with Squeeze-Its, bags of Cheet-O’s and Twix bars in their lunch boxes. So whenever I visited a new friend’s house, the first thing I did was case their pantry for junk food. It was all about patience.

I would just wait for everyone to clear out during a bathroom break or when my buddy had forgotten to take out the garbage, then cruise into the kitchen like a chubby ninja and throw open the cupboards to take inventory. When every fruit snack, Nabisco cookie and Lay’s brand crunchy delight was accounted for I would resume my place in front of the TV with a video game controller in my hand acting like I had just been waiting for them to return. Then it was time for phase 2.

I would always give my victims the chance to hand over the goods willingly with a gentle nudge, “Hey, do you guys have Oreos? You should ask your Mom if we can have some.” This worked about half the time, some adults were susceptible to power of suggestion. That or they were just happy their kid was eating anything. When this failed however, the rumble beneath my Gecko t-shirt began to makes the needs of my stomach known and the “Snack Burglar” within took over.

In many instances, my friend’s parents weren’t home from work yet, so the snacks were easy pickings. I could easily ransack their shelves and my friends could care less. If a stay at home Mom was involved, I would just fake a bathroom break with a detour through the kitchen. Carefully checking all visibility points, I would deftly open the cupboard, acquire the tasty target and casually seal myself in the bathroom to enjoy my stolen spoils.

This was just normal activity for me. In my twisted mind, I was the victim who was due for some retribution. After all, I was a child being denied the very essence of childhood. Why did everyone else get to enjoy the chocolate goodness of Dunkaroos and I had to settle for Wheat Thins with cream cheese? This was the only way I could relate to my peers and join in on playground debates about Chips Ahoy vs Pepperidge Farm. Though I was a master Snack Burglar by the time I hit 6th grade, I started getting sloppy in my old age and did find myself in some rather embarrassing moments.

For example, my aunt and uncle were very strict about when and in what quantities their kids could enjoy junk food. During an extended vacation in their home one day, I found myself dreaming of the crisp deliciousness of Bugles. I had already been reprimanded once for eating pretzels outside of the designated snacking hour, so I knew I had to pick my moment perfectly. Checking the hallway for signs of life I saw that the coast was clear and in sock covered feet, carefully slid open the pantry door, grabbed a handful and retreated to the living room to consume the cone-shaped crunchies. The first round went so well, I decided to try for another handful. BIG MISTAKE. I repeated the operation, but then could hear footsteps coming down the hall. 

Panicked, I hastily shut the pantry door and dove onto the living room floor, flipping through a book about the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. Soon I heard my Uncle’s voice, “Alright, who was eating Bugles without asking?” I stayed silent. Maybe he didn’t know I was there and would just retreat back to his room. Never mind the fact that all my cousins were outside, so I was literally the only one in the house. Soon my Uncle got me in his sights and said, “Hey, why didn’t you say anything when I asked who was eating the Bugles?” to which I responded, “Well, I didn’t hear you. I was just so deep into reading this book on the Phantom of the Opera”. He rolled his eyes and said, “I don’t know if I believe that”. Luckily he dropped the issue at that point, but as an 11 year old, I felt like I had regressed to a 3 year old with my terrible lying skills.

The day I had to hang up my “Snack Burglar” spurs was a mortifying incident indeed. So my friend’s parents had a jar of Jolly Ranchers on a shelf above the computer desk in their bedroom. On several occasions, my buddy had walked me in there and retrieved a few from the jar for us to enjoy. Having been given access before, I used to casually leave sessions of playing Sonic, the Hedgehog to sneak in and grab a Watermelon or Green Apple flavored treat. Then one day, I got caught. I entered what I thought was an empty master bedroom, slowly stepping on the soft carpet towards the jar of candy and having obtained my prize I made for the door, when all of the sudden I heard, “Excuse me!”

I looked around and couldn’t see anyone in the room or the hallway, it was then I turned to see a vague, blonde figure in the shadows of the bathroom. It was my Friend’s mom on the toilet. She must have been watching the whole thing silent and confused as to what this weird-o fat kid was up to. Never mind being caught in the act, I now had to deal with the fact that a grown woman was using the facilities in front of me with a scowl on her face. What else could I do? I bolted out the door! She never brought it up and I avoided all eye contact after that, but with that kind of trauma, you better believe I was never so bold again.

From that point on I just hung out at friend’s houses whose parents were very aware of their role as the party house and stocked the fridge accordingly. Yes, I had a good run, but even a master thief must bow out eventually. So tell me about your “klepto” moments of youth. Did you ever get caught?

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massreality Posted on Dec 21, 2015 at 09:07 PM

My little theft story involved one of those trays with peppermints in them for charity at a Quincy's Steakhouse. It was one of those deals where you just leave a quarter and take a piece of candy. I was around four and just saw the candy sitting there, so I swiped it. When the cashier yelled out, "Hey" I knew I was in trouble, so I took off running to the bathroom. (I would make a horrible thief) Luckily, my parents weren't too hard on me, but they let me know what I did was wrong, made me return the candy, and apologize.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Nov 26, 2015 at 01:40 AM

I think we all had that moment of stealing from as store, but it's always worse when you know the person.

Vaporman87 Posted on Nov 23, 2015 at 05:19 PM

Well, I wasn't as desperate as you when it came to snack foods. We had plenty usually stashed in the pantry in the kitchen. But that doesn't mean I was not guilty of food thievery. Truth be told, I was guilty of it in an "against the law" way!

See, once, while my mom and I were in a local department store (the mom and pop kind, not the big retailer kind), I took it upon myself to try my hand at theft. Yup. I snuck a candy bar into my pocket and made it out of there with it. All the way home actually. Then, when I foolishly (and perhaps, over-confidently) munched away on my spoils, my mom asked me where the candy had come from. I wasn't going to lie. I'm guessing I felt so much guilt over having just committed theft, that lying on top of that would just push me to the next logical step of joining a gang and shooting people. So I chose to fess up. I was then spanked, forced to call the sweet little old lady at the department store, and apologize to her through my tears. She graciously forgave me, and life was well again. Needless to say, I NEVER stole anything EVER again. LOL

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