A few months back, me and two of my friends were sitting together in a..
youuuuuuuu got it! A cafe. We were all sitting in a cafe together. Typical.
And the cafe was Saturn. One of my friends, Reed, had never been to Saturn before, so as he was looking up and around and slowly taking in all of the beautiful, outer space-themed aesthetics, I impatiently asked: “Have you noticed the trashcans yet?”
He flicked his eyes toward me and raised an eyebrow.
“They’re SHAPED like ROCKETSHIPS,” I explained, substantiating my sense of urgency by pointing at one of them.”See?”
“Ahhhh. I do see. Nice.”
Now that he had a point of reference, I shared with him how deeply I longed to have a rocketship trashcan in my house, and Reed offered a logical solution: “You could walk over to the trashcan, get the brand name, and then try to find it – or a similar one – online?”
How brilliant! I marveled. I’m not embarrassed to say that I had never considered the idea before.
So I ran over to the rocketship and discovered that the brand name for its design was Wesco. I returned to the table, googled “wesco rocketship trashcan”, and THERE IT WAS! The exact one! For sale, and available to the public! And it was only $350.
I experienced a wave of euphoria (joy) and a jab of pain (devastation) at the exact same second; their combined effect sat like a nauseating and swirly mixture in my stomach.
“I could never.. justify.. spending three hundred and fifty bucks on a trashcan. I mean Jesus.” I paused, looking across the table at Reed, and then at Charlie. “That would be CRAZY,” I declared, daring (wanting) them to challenge me. Another pause. “Just think of how many burritos you could buy with the same amount of money,” I whispered.
So it was settled, then; the trashcan was out there, and it could be mine, but it wouldn’t be.
I moved on with life.. with its calming and predictable looping rounds of work and walking and biking and writing and grocery shopping and avoiding the laundry and drinking coffee and tending to the animals. I hung out with a few people. Slept 10 hours a night, every night. Ate burritos and bananas and mashed potatoes and salad. And I wasn’t even sad about the trashcan at all.
But then Charlie and I showed up early to a dance party at Saturn (home of the rocketship trashcan) two months ago. And that’s when things got bad again.
While we waited for the beat to drop, we shuffled over to a table with a TV screen that was hooked up to a game system and began a 2-player game of Mario. Once, when it was my turn to play (which actually happened pretty frequently, because Charlie sucks at Mario), Charlie leaned over and whispered: “Now’s your chance, Jace.”
I tilted my head in his direction without removing my eyes from the screen. “Yeah? For what?”
I could feel his breath on my ear. “For the trashcan.”
I paused the game and looked directly over at him. “What on earth are you talking about?”
He adjusted his glasses and took on a very sober expression. “I mean… the trashcan. One of them is right there — right behind you. You can grab it, fly out that emergency exit door,” he pointed toward it, “and then never, ever come back.”
I laughed at him. “Oh my god. You are so stupid. A. Stealing is wrong and B. I couldn’t stand being banned from Saturn. It’s my favorite.”
He was joking, of course, and while my fictional self couldn’t help but imagine the whole scenario playing out — me, grabbing the trashcan and awkwardly fleeing the building with it; Charlie, turning the key in the ignition and flinging open the door to our runaway car — I would never actually steal anything.
I only stole once.
Am I going to tell you about it? Of course I’m going to tell you about it.
Stealing Story #1: Stealy Stealer, take a bow.
I was like 5. My mom, dad, brother and I were walking into Toys R Us together (are those still around anymore?), and I can vividly remember seeing this magical, endless sea of pretty and colorful bows covering the floor. I don’t know how they got there, or why they were there, cluttering the entrance, but I was delighted by them. I picked one of them up — a red one (why I chose that one, I don’t know, because red’s never been a favorite color) — and I held onto it while we moseyed about the store. Eventually, we left the store, and when I hopped into the backseat of our family’s car, I was still gripping the bright and shiny bow in my hand. #andsomyattachmentissuesbegan
We stopped at a restaurant on the way home. I brought the bow in with me. After I slid into the booth and my brother, Bobby, sat down beside me, I plopped my bow onto the table so that I could look at it, and it was then that my mother finally noticed it.
Disclaimer: I can’t remember the conversation verbatim (twenty years removed from the event, it’s all a little hazy), but it probably went something like:
I looked up, startled.
“WHERE did you get that bow from?”
The toy store, I explained. Duh; where else?
“Did you buy that bow?” my dad (who was now also aware of what was happening) chimed in.
No.. it was on the floor.. it was free..
“How do you know whether or not it was free?”
I began to cry. Am I going to jail? Are you going to tell on me? Am I going to be on that TV show? Will they play the ‘bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna do’ song?
“As soon as we leave here,” my dad warned, “we are driving right back to Toys R Us and you’re going to walk up to the manager and tell them exactly what you did.” Awesome. Now I have two things to look forward to: the waitress bringing me a grilled cheese with pickles, and my dad handing me over to the cops right afterwards.
Now that statement – the one from my father – I can remember clear as day, because I recall that – when the food came – I couldn’t eat any of it. Not a single bite. I was so scared that I would soon be leaving my family and going to jail that I just sat there, with quiet tears and a wild heart, staring vacantly at my cheap diner sandwich and watching my happy life end inside of a dark and solitary cell with the strangely upbeat ‘bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna do?’ song droning insanely and relentlessly in the background.
Within the hour, our car was reversing its tracks.. rolling down the interstate and then slowing to a halt inside of the suddenly ominous Toys R Us parking lot. I stumbled out of the old, yellow station wagon, the sad bow dangling loosely from my left hand, and I struggled to breathe.
“Go on,” my dad urged. The manager – who looked very tall, very serious, and very official – was already waiting for me, standing out in front of the store; my dad had called him on the way, apparently, and explained what had happened.
My dad instructed me to walk up to the manager by myself. He wouldn’t be going with me. I obeyed. I can’t remember anything beyond this point; what it was like, returning the bow.. whether I tried to explain myself, or apologize, or if I just mutely stood there, equal parts humiliated and terrified. But I will never forget the time I accidentally stole a bow and almost went to jail for it.
Stealing Story #2: Did any of the cards make it worthwhile?
Fast forward five years. I’m 10 now. My family has moved from South Carolina to Florida. There’s this girl who lives down the street – Noel – and she is a hot mess; three years older than me, sexually promiscuous (at the tender age of 13), and unapologetically bad-mouthed. I took to cussing (for the first time) while in her company, feeling cool and validated in the presence of an older girl.
Well one day, me and this older friend biked out of the neighborhood together, pedaling all the way to the nearest gas station. After leaning our bikes up against the whitewashed brick building (back then, I never worried about locking my bike up — there was no need to secure it to a pole or a fence; that same bike was stolen out of my backyard a year later), I started to walk toward the gas station’s entrance, but an arm flew out in front of me and I knocked right into it.
“Wait,” Noel instructed, slowly retracting her arm. “We’re going to try something new today,” she said more quietly, curving her lips into a devilish smile, “and I want to explain it to you before we go inside.”
How exciting! I thought to myself, already super intrigued and fully on board with whatever was about to happen.
And here’s what she told me: “When we go inside, I want you to talk to the cashier guy… ask him a question, or ask him to help you find something; whatever, I don’t care. While you do that, I’m going to grab a pack of Pokemon cards and sneak out with them, and then we’ll split the cards up when we both make it back to your house.”
I was instantly uncomfortable with the idea. Isn’t what she’s suggesting wrong? I wondered to myself. She didn’t use the word ‘stealing’, but that’s what it sounds like. I had about three seconds left to agree with the plan before Noel thought I was a wussy. I think it’s wrong, but Noel seems okay with it… even excited about it… so maybe it’s not, I reasoned (weakly). And I don’t want her to be upset with me or to stop hanging out with me.
So – without speaking the words – I nodded my head up and down to signal my agreement; okay — I’m in. I’ll do my part.
And we both did it. We executed the plan perfectly and we never got caught. And there wasn’t a single damn worthwhile card in the whole pack that we stole.
When I was 15, I suddenly remembered the incident, and I felt bad about it. Really bad. I felt so bad about being the accomplice in a small-scale robbery that I confessed the whole ordeal to my mother and asked her to please mail a check to that gas station. She did. We pulled up the internet together, found the gas station (which was located in New Port Richey, Florida), and she wrote out a check for $10. I wish I could remember what she put in the memo field of that check; “Stolen Pack of Pokemon Cards” would have been the most fitting description.
So those are the two times that I’ve stolen. As a child, I was basically a criminal.
But I never did end up stealing the rocketship trashcan from Saturn. Here’s what I did instead.
I played a gig at The California Pizza Kitchen last month, out on their patio. It was nice; two hours of singing and strumming quietly in the background while ritzy Mountain Brook-ite guests sat outside and sampled wine in-between delicate bites of warm, salty pizza.
I noticed, at one table, that an older-looking gentleman was seated across from a young boy (presumably, his grandson). Wanting to play some tunes that he’d be familiar with (I figured that he probably wasn’t enjoying the Katy Perry and Gotye hits), I flipped around in my songbook and performed a tune by America, followed by a Monkees hit, and then a third song by Stealers Wheel. I didn’t look over to gauge his reaction to the sudden appearance of these oldies, but I hoped that he felt a little more comfortable and catered to by the change in direction.
Near the end of my set, this older gentleman and his grandson stood up from their table and prepared to leave, but before exiting the patio, he walked over to where I was set-up with my guitar and amplifier. I was preparing to start my next song.
“Hello,” he greeted me with a soft smile. “They don’t have a tip jar for you out here?”
I laughed good-naturedly. “Nope! But that’s okay.” It was a company-paid gig, so I wasn’t checking for tips.
“Well,” he looked around suddenly, and then lowered his head, “despite the fact that most of tonight’s applause has been coming from behind you,” and here, he motioned toward Charlie (seated at a table behind me), “you did a fantastic job this evening. When you’re finished here, you two go have a nice dinner on me.”
And here, he extended his hand. I was flattered.
I reached my hand out to meet his, beginning to thank him for the $5 or $10, and then I saw three digits on the bill he was holding. He was giving me a $100 tip.
“Oh my god,” I breathed, not knowing what to say or do. I really didn’t want to accept it, but I’d lost my words. When I looked up again, he was already walking away, smiling and nodding.
“THANK YOU!” I called out after him.
I turned my head around to look at Charlie. “ONE. HUNDRED. BUCKS!” I mouthed silently.
During the car ride home, I joked that the unexpected cash could go towards my rocketship trashcan fund.
“It would honestly be less expensive for you to have the image of the trashcan tattooed onto yourself,” Charlie laughed.
My first reaction was to laugh at the statement, but the more I thought about it.. it wasn’t that bad of an idea. “That’s actually pretty funny, Charlie,” I complimented him. “And original. Who the hell would voluntarily have a trashcan tattooed onto themselves?”
“AND,” he added, “you could ALSO have items floating around the trashcan.. like, empty containers and bags that advertise your favorite things (things you’d end up throwing away). A pint of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream.. a bag of sprouted sweet chili chips..”
“A BROWN CHIPOTLE BAG,” I exclaimed, becoming increasingly excited. “Charlie — I’m not joking; this is actually a REALLY neat idea. I’m going to consider it.”
And to my mother’s horror, I did. But I decided that I’d rather just have the damn trashcan.
After a full year of passionate longing and several months of deliberation, I ordered my rocketship trashcan online. Clicking “confirm” for the order sent shivers down my spine.
“Is this a terrible decision?” I asked myself.
“You know it is. But it was an inevitable one. Merry Christmas until 2020, Jace.”
My dream trashcan arrived two weeks later. Want to see it? Of course you do. I’m including a cell phone picture of the trashcan below, and the cost for viewing it is only $5/person, so you can just mail a check my way. In the memo field of the check, please hand write the date you viewed the trashcan along with the following verbiage (for my records and yours): “Digital view of the most beautiful and expensive trashcan in the entire freaking world.”
PS: If we’re friends and you’re local and you ever come to visit me, please understand that this trashcan is not to be used AS a trashcan. I keep it in my bedroom (to avoid incidents) and have a white, plastic bag in there (in case anyone forgets and makes a mistake), but it’s too drop dead gorgeous to have trash just tossed into it. The trashcan is for decorative and inspirational purposes only. There are other, actual trashcans located within the house that you can use to throw your shit away. I’d also prefer that you not touch it. I don’t even touch it. It weighs 40 pounds, so don’t even bother entertaining the idea of stealing it. You’ll fall down the stairs in the process of stealing it and IT WONT BREAK BECAUSE IT’S UNBREAKABLE, but you might hurt yourself. Who wants to be injured and in jail? -J