Not long ago I viewed a security video from a downtown Dallas alley. It showed a young man about 20 years old parking his car on a lightly traveled side street. Emerging from the ten-year-old vehicle, he carefully removed his cellphone, cigarettes, and loose change, then stored it all behind the driver’s seat.
From the same place, he retrieved a rock, then tightened his shoelaces.
Crossing the street and entering the alley, looking all around for traffic, animals, and human witnesses, he made his way to a newer VW bug. There he pulled a long rag from his right rear pocket, wrapped it around his left hand, and used the rock to break the drivers’ side window of the Volkswagen. He casually opened the door, rummaged around inside, and then left, empty-handed.
Quickly returning to his own car, in full view of security cameras, he opened the door and retrieved his personal items. Seated in a matter of seconds, he started the car and drove away, with just a quick glance over his shoulder. Then he was gone, at a casual pace, his bandaged left hand still clutching the steering wheel.
I for one was fascinated, starting with his plan of action, which included a minimum number of steps and carefully orchestrated movements. He wasted no time or energy, and utilized space, light, and speed to accomplish his mission. It would have been brilliant, if only it weren’t so stupid.
I am not a student of human behavior. I don’t even know that many humans, and the only thing I recall about nature is the Four Seasons—-Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. It may well explain why I’m baffled by petty criminals and the industrious efforts they expend for little or no gain.
As I reviewed the tape again, I began to make some interesting observations. He appeared a bit gaunt, like my pot-smoking nephew, and looked like he missed his best friend or burned down a bad joint. His car was battered but legal, I think, because there was a Texas inspection sticker in the windshield.
If he worked for me, I would fire the guy, or nominate him for Employee Of The Month. On the one hand, he clearly exhibited criminal activity. On the other hand, he showed nerve and initiative. If he got away with nothing, to show for effort, at least he got away.
His steadfast resolve, attention to detail, and dedication to the task at hand was admirable. That is, if it wasn’t so unnecessarily risky, illogically conclusive, and bloody dangerous, as the Brits might have said. If he exhibited the freedom of following his chosen vocation, then it also illustrated the likelihood of future incarceration.
But he’s got a lot going for him. Under age thirty, obviously, he’s still immortal. His long-term plan for the future is a week from Monday, so meddlesome things like health insurance, retirement plans, and investment portfolios aren’t even on his radar screen. Even his tool kit is pretty basic. It’s just a rock, after all.
With so much potential, of course, there’s always limitations. The opportunity for advancement is only a plea bargain, his credit rating is a pawnshop, and home is probably a cot in some buddy’s garage. For people like him, vacation is just another word for parole.
But wait. He’s not the dimmest bulb in the box, in a way. He’s now a rising star on YouTube, even if it’s ascending somewhat slowly, and his only investment is a chunk of granite.