“I Almost Stole Today”

November 9, 2009

Posted by Cort Johnson

This blog from someone in the Phoenix Rising Forums illustrates some of the decisions that confront people who have the misfortune to be both unhealthy and poor. What does one do, for instance,  when one only has a few dollars left at the end of the month for some stew and an onion costs 75 cents.  Shouldn’t everyone be able to have a simple onion with their bean stew? How easy it would be just to pocket it….

I contemplated two acts today which may have been either/or unethical and illegal – I’m not sure. Well, actually, I’m sure they were illegal. In general, I find the illegal less problematic than the unethical but sometimes they are convergent.

You see, July and August are both 31 day months and it will become clear in a moment just how this plays into my near crime spree. Those of us on disability really hate 31 day months. That’s a whole extra day to keep yourself fed.

I don’t know why I didn’t take into consideration the 31 day month when I bought the $4.00 flypaper (another story) but I didn’t. And, as it turns out, the flypaper is not useful for the pests for which I bought it which are not flies.

So, here I sat with 3 rolls of unopened, useless to me, flypaper, one open and slightly unspooled roll – they are boxed as 4 – in a 31 day month! Then it hit me – I could return the flypaper with a lie about it being faulty! Yes, yes, faulty flypaper is a stretch, I know.

Anyway, common sense aside, what are the ethical implications of returning flypaper, even three usable rolls, if you’d have to lie about the reason? On the other hand, $4.00 is $4.00 and the cupboard is very nearly bare.

Happily for my Karma, I could not find the receipt! Whew! I don’t know what the karmic cost for returning flypaper under false pretenses is but, whatever it is, I don’t need it.

So, armed with what was left of my monthly stipend: $4.76, I ventured across the street to the drab ‘Value Mart’. Now, doesn’t that sound like it should be an inexpensive place to shop? It’s called “Value” and it’s not the least little bit fancy or charming or anything else that might give one pause. That’s how they getcha – you don’t know what’s happening ’til you get to the checkout.

Figuring a big pot of chili could be fashioned from the rice I had and the canned veg I could buy, I searched among the loose onions for the smallest one. This, in itself was an interesting exercise.

Many of the small onions had soft spots and an ever so slight blush of mold and were quite light so would be cheaper. I thought about whether buying a bad onion would make sense and couldn’t figure it out so I chose a nice, firm, heavy but small onion which I handed to the young man, unpacking impossibly red and enormous (and probably tasteless) strawberries from God knows where, and asked him to weigh it so that I would know it’s price. My onion would be about 75 cents. “75 cents!”, I said, “For an onion?!” He smiled. None who work there would be foolish enough to shop there.

This brings me to the point, if it can be called a point, of this seemingly endless rant. I thought about stealing that onion. It was only the realization that, knowing me, there was a very real danger that I would find myself back there later in the day “confessing” some cock-and-bull story about how I just happened to find an onion in my pocket, probably stuck to flypaper, that stopped me.

Two crimes averted today. No onion, though. Ah well, never mind, there was a lovely loaf of flax bread in the day old shelf! Score! And, when I returned home I discovered that I have three more eggs than I thought! (Egg fairy? We’ll never know.)

Stomach 1 ~ Karma 1

Check out more on the Finances and Work Forum in the Phoenix Rising Forums.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Revday November 12, 2009 at 9:30 am

Sweety, you don’t have to have a reason to return things, just the reciept. You can tell them you didn’t like it, it didn’t work, you bought by mistake, you thought it was something else or you can simply say, “I don’t want it”. Enough said.

You have outlined the bottom line for all of the crime we have by the poor. The chronic desperation, pain, and humiliation inherent in poverty leads to the terrible weighting between ethics and needs. I know that side heavy scale of justice. And the deliberate focus our culture has in making those who are disabled and poor feel like malingerers. Less than. Unworthy.

Hell, they makes us feel like scum. The processes of getting government help, disability, and food stamps are designed to make it impossibly demoralizing, forces one into losses that are unconscionable, and eventually can kill due to lack of resources. Over 45,ooo die in our country yearly from lack of health insurance. Let alone the numbers of us with ME/CFS that have died because of the arrogance and sexism of the CDC, Government, Researchers, and practicing physicians.

Although I do not recommend stealing, there are consequences that can complicate one’s life. I do believe, if we live in a society that does not take responsibility for it’s sick and poor, then there may come times, that in order to survive, we don’t tell the whole truth.

I am reminded of the story of The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Anderson. If it was a matter of survival would you have that freezing child break into a building and sleep there? Such are the circumstances that others greed and indifference have created. Some may call this situational ethics. It is, but if you had a child or were your own child what would you do?

I would think that a God of love would break that darned window. I would too.

Food banks are available in most towns where you can get kitchen staples and meals.
If not, churches often have programs that feed the hungry. Please take advantage of them. I have and I will again.

Blessings and Peace.


cort November 16, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Yes, 45,000 people die every year because the US is the only developed nation in the world that does not provide health insurance to everyone; that, in my opinion, is criminal negligence on our nations part. That people are forced into penury through no fault of their own partially because the medical community chooses to ignore their condition says something about our nations priorities. The US medical system provides great opportunities for those who are able to access its riches but astonishing negligence for those whos illnesses don’t provide its researchers a ready ticket to success. There’s something very wrong with it.


leela November 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm

What beautiful writing about such an ugly situation.

Where’s Robin Hood when you need him?

Oh the systems we have created that don’t provide enough for everyone to have adequate housing, food and medical care. That stores that aim their products at people with not as much money charge so much more. I just bought a 10 lb bag of onions for $2.50 – that onion should be about 10 cents.

And the outrageousness of having to try to cope with any of this when most of our faculties aren’t working well. It would be challenging to manage when all systems are go.

Two small crimes, according to your high ethical standards, avoided today. Two major crimes, inadequate disability amounts and stores that make exhorbitant profits off the poor, outstanding.


Alyson November 22, 2009 at 6:02 pm

What a moving post. Thank you for sharing!


muffin January 22, 2010 at 7:46 am

This story made me very sad and MAD as hell that this poor person should have to be in this position. Tons of CFIDS sick would have grabbed you and dragged you in into our homes for a meal (ok, microwave from me, but it’s food).
I am so sorry that you are living so close to the line. Did you see if SSA would give you the extra money (can’t remember, money after SSDI for low-income? What about food centers? You shouldn’t have to live like this.
We all understand the ethical and legal aspects of what you go through. So don’t beat on youself in those areas. Just shows you are a decent person in dire straits – and no one can sit in judgment of you for that. NO ONE.
I hope things turn fast for you. You deserve far better than this. My heart is with you.


CFS Facts October 14, 2010 at 3:19 pm

This story needs to be sent to all Republicans and Tea Partiers who are deluded into thinking that SSDI is so much money that people aspire to live on it rather than working!


Robin November 13, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I know her pain all to well except I cannot get up to get a foodbox and yes I have a husband who is now sick and sons who try to help as much as they can and still food is a problem. This is common sad to say. I don’t have family and my sons are not living life trying to help their parents. I was a professional business woman and SSDI could care less. I get far less than people on welfare with one child because I worked as a outside contractor mostly. My meds and doc co-pays have devoured me and losing the bulk of my income didn’t help either and I dont qualify for foodstamps they say. I know her pain all to well and she is not alone. Healthcare costs with insurance will destroy you. It has destroyed me at least. Every month is harder. Its a lot more to my story but I cannot sit up long enough to explain, I just wanted to share.


Cort November 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I’m so sorry to hear about your difficult circumstances. It seems so easy to get into a financial and emotional spiral of devastation – particularly in the US, where the social safety net has so many holes. I hope you can find some help and that whatever circumstances you find yourself in you can find some peace. I wish you the best during these difficult times.


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