Pontification on the guy who stole a bag full of stuff.

19 August 2021

You might have seen on the news a couple of weeks ago a video of a guy on a bike sweeping a bunch of stuff off of a shelf into a garbage bag (local copy) (video.hackers.town) and exiting the Walgreens with alacrity on a bicycle. Unsurprisingly, there was a brief wave of outrage, jokes in questionable taste, hellthreads on Nextdoor, and a run on strings of pearls to clutch. Rather than join in those particular fun and games it reminded me of something I saw in the Before Times while out and about.

Please note that the two things may not be connected at all. I tagged this article 'pontification' for a reason.

When it was still possible to do so (least of all because all the coffee shops I used to visit went out of business during the first quarantine in 2020.ev), I would wander around the Bay Area on the weekends and occasionally stop here or there to pick up some stuff I needed. On one particular afternoon I paid Walgreen's a visit. While scanning the shelves for what I needed (because every store is laid out a little differently) I heard a quiet snapping sound next to me. Having survived the USian public school system I froze, tilted my head a bit, and looked out of the corner of my eye at the source of the sound.

The source of the sound was a taller guy that I've seen at one of the homeless camps in the area before. He had a gym bag slung over his shoulder, partially unzipped, and had a pair of what looked like pruning shears in one hand. The snapping sound was the guy in question cutting notches in the packaging so that they could be removed from the security shelf (it is not uncommon in the Bay Area for essentials like toothbrushes, deoderant, and soap to be kept under lock and key in stores) and slipping them into the gym bag. It wasn't the first time I'd seen something like this, but what struck me was the stuff he was shoplifting.

Band-aids. Antifungal cream. Tylenol. Dental floss. Toothbrushes.

I didn't openly stare, nor did I say anything (see also, veteran of the USian public school system) but I did discreetly follow him down the aisle as he picked out what seemed most useful to folks living in an encampment. Basic toiletries and first aid supplies that we take for granted but aren't common if you're homeless. He moved with purpose, knowing what he wanted, where it could be found, and why he wanted it. After he'd acquired what he came to the store to get he walked out the front door like nothing at all had happened and vanished down the street. Judging by what he grabbed I'm fairly sure that it wasn't to resell (a phenomenon the existence of which I am somewhat skeptical). He was looking for things that people needed at that moment for specific purposes.

I don't know what else I can reasonably write about this. I don't have anything else to say. I don't know the guy and haven't seen him him in quite some time. I don't know his situation. I don't have any solutions for getting homeless folks permanent homes, none that others haven't already discussed to the ends of the Earth, anyway. I'm just some schmuck that saw something interesting and connected two dots, and maybe expanded the perspective of one or two folks. Just... be good to each other, okay?