Someone I know was the victim of a crime recently. She stored some berries in a fridge at the office, and someone stole them. You may say: "First World problems!" Yes, inasmuch as the First World is full of thieves.
I don't want to be too harsh, in case this is one of those "Les Misérables"-type situations where someone sneaked into a tightly controlled office environment, made his way past the front desk and took the raspberries to feed his starving daughter. That could be the case.
"Anyone at your office named Les?" I asked. "Les Misérables? No? Then we can rule out the unfortunate outcast pursued by a relentless, pitiless agent of the police. Not even Leslie Misérables? Could be a woman? No? OK."
It wasn't just raspberries. Also blackberries. You know the small flimsy containers that open up in your shopping bag on the way home and squish all over everything? Nature's dye packs? Those. I know exactly what they cost: $3 each. I know this because I never pay $3.79 for blueberries because I know they will be two for $6 next week. I also know that the standard price is probably $3, but they bump them up to $3.79 to make me think I'm getting a deal when it's two-for-$6.
The pilfered berry containers both were almost half-empty, so the total value of the crime was about $3.27. Not quite the point where you call the cops, because you know how that would go.
"I'd like to report a theft of some berries."
"I'm assuming these were in a semitrailer truck and the truck was also stolen and is currently driving the wrong way down 35W in the sane lane. And it's on fire?"
"No, just berries, about 30 or so. Does the number matter? Is it grand theft fruit if it's more than 30? Point is, someone stole them, and I'd like justice."
"I understand, sir, but we're a little busy now not following up on car thefts and home burglaries, and we really don't have the manpower to not follow up on berry heists. I can send you some helpful information on keeping your berries safe in the future."
"Arresting workplace pantry pirates and putting them in the workhouse would keep them safe, too. Are you suggesting I padlock the Tupperware? I have one of those fake aerosol cans you can use to store valuables, but if I put a can of furniture polish in the fridge, it'll seem conspicuous."
"I'm sorry, sir, but it doesn't rise to the level of police involvement."
The conversation continues until I snap "I pay your salary," and the officer wearily says he appreciates the $1.37 I contribute annually.
But we're getting away from the issue, which is: the thief. The person or people unknown who stole the berries don't consider themselves thieves, I'm sure, but they are, right up there with people who take Amazon packages off porches and inside traders who divert millions of dollars to offshore accounts.
Granted, I don't think the pantry thief is diverting stolen berries to a Grand Caymans fridge. But it's still a matter of taking something that doesn't belong to you, which requires stifling that little internal remnant of a conscience that stands up wearing a Cherub Choir robe from second grade and says, "You know this is not right."
We all have those moments, and they're not always matters of law or ethics. Hitting a yellow light a bit too late and going through the intersection on red — it's against the law. Not holding the elevator door when you suspect someone's running to catch it because you're looking at your phone — not illegal and not unethical, but not kind. Telling your kid a white lie at a certain point in their youth because they're not ready for the red truth — debatable, but you know in your heart you're telling a falsehood.
It's complicated, this life, is what I'm saying. Except for the matter of stealing berries from the fridge, which is not complicated at all.
If it seems like I'm making a big deal about it, well, I am, because it's this or write something sappy about Thanksgiving. You know, like this:
"It's the time when we all come together to share family and traditions and the foods that form our traditions, and it's a good thing no one from the office is coming over because the cranberries would probably go missing, and the thief would sit there smiling away, thinking 'it was just some cranberries, what's the big deal. If you don't want to lose them, don't put them in the fridge.' "
It's as if they think that putting something in the common fridge is like putting an unwanted domestic item on the curb. That would be true if you opened the fridge and there was an old TV or a chair in there.
Hold on, you say. Aren't you being a little ridiculous? Maybe it was an honest mistake. Maybe someone thought the berries were theirs because they'd intended to bring half-empty containers to work, forgot, then saw them and thought, "Oh, I did bring berries after all," and ate them.
Upon returning home and opening the fridge, this person was confused: "How can the berries be here when the berries were there? Are these Schrodingerberries? Or did I — gasp! — I take someone else's?"
Thus the berries are replaced the next morning with an apologetic note and maybe a gift card to Target.