The case of the stolen shopping cart

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:41

    Or... learning lessons outside the classroom By Leslie Sullivan Okay, so this is how the crime went down. As freshmen we are often lost without our cars, the freedom we got accustomed to throughout our high school senior year. As a result, we sometimes forget that small detail when out shopping for dorm room necessities. That was the situation recently when my cell mates, aka quad mates, walked down the road to a nearby store to pick up a few items for our room. After checking out we realized there was no way we could possibly carry the amount of items we bought back to campus. We approached a store employee and asked him if we could borrow a shopping cart. We promised to return it immediately. He quickly said yes and waved us off while he reiterated the necessity of returning it. We agreed, thanked him and off we went…with permission to borrow the cart. So perhaps we looked a little odd pushing the cart down the street...and to all our mothers, yes, we were naïve, but we got permission. Onto the campus we roll, like four bag ladies, when we are approached by an incredulous security guard. As if the shopping cart contained a lifeless body, the security guard — doing his job, and doing it well — investigated the scene and questioned us about what he believed was a crime in progress. We were initially speechless. We did nothing wrong, so why was this man taking out a pad and pencil and asking for our names? The security guard spoke about the cart being the property of the store and about it being unlawful to remove private property from the store premises. “Oh, don’t worry,” we assured him. “We got permission.” He followed us into our building and, again, our names were taken by our building security. Now the plot is thickening and although we explained ourselves, we were getting the sense that perhaps we might have broken some rule. Yes Mom, I know...naïve. But how did I know it was illegal to remove a shopping cart from the property of the store? Besides, we got permission, we thought it was okay. As promised we took the cart back. We decided to ask the nice store employee -who gave us permission in the first place- for a note explaining to the campus po-po that he said we could borrow a cart. A note from him would certainly prove our innocence when brought up in the campus court of law, in front of a jury of our peers, who would determine our fate. The nice store employee held the ticket to our freedom. He would surely get our criminal record expunged. We went up to him and explained our situation and inquired about a note. Immediately things changed. The employee began to stutter and stammer, making little to no sense. It seemed our situation upset him and he was concerned about getting into trouble. And then it dawned on us. This nice, caring, generous man was mentally challenged. He was nervous, believing he would also get in trouble, so we backed off,and assured him we wouldn't name him as an accomplice in our crime. Walking back to campus we were dumbfounded at the situation. Reflecting back we realized that had we taken another second or two to assess the man’s behavior and speech we might have been more in tune to him. But we were so thrilled he said we could borrow a cart that we just piled our things in and left. The lessons we got out of this are as follows: Never take on more than you can carry. Don’t be in such a rush that you miss the obvious,getting permission doesn’t make everything right. And our mothers back home can all sleep well knowing that nothing gets past the campus security. Three days after the alleged theft my roommates and I received a large box in the mail. We tore into it and found ourselves laughing out loud at the gift my mother had sent. The box contained an actual shopping cart. Alright, maybe I did learn one more thing. Although I’m living away from home, there will still be times I will need my parents' help, advise, and the occasional care package to comfort and make me laugh. Leslie Sullivan has been a weekly correspondent for the Sparta Independent while attending Sparta High School is in her first year of college at Marist in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.