by JIM KNIPFEL
July 12, 2015
If You’re Nasty Enough to Steal From the Blind, Go Ahead
I had to ship out a couple of packages this past Wednesday, so made the harrowing but always entertaining mile-long trek down to the post office. Once inside, I whacked a few random ankles in my search for the end of the line until a man told me I’d finally found it. So I took my spot and waited patiently, as a few others began queueing up behind me.
The line wasn’t moving very fast, but I was in no tremendous hurry. A Middle Eastern woman on a cell phone wandered along the line from the back and stopped next to me for a moment. Then she wandered away toward the back of the line again. A few moments later she reappeared next to me. Although she was no longer talking on the phone, it sounded like she was tapping out an extremely important message on her little device. This time she didn’t wander away. She just stood there next to me. Whenever the line moved forward a few inches, she moved along with me.
Okay, being the trusting sort my first thought was maybe she was with the guy in front of me or something, but they never offered each other the slightest hint of recognition. Maybe it was all a coincidence, more of the typically self-absorbed behavior you get whenever you hand someone one of those jobbies. She likely had no idea where she was, right? And as soon as she finished sending that extremely important message, she’d resume her place at the end of the line.
Well, that didn’t happen. She continued pacing me as I edged slowly toward the front of the line. I took a step, and she took a step.
Oh, she wasn’t really planning on snaking her way into the line in front of the blind guy who’d never notice, was she?
When it became clear this is exactly what was happening, I should have said something, if only to let her know I was onto her crooked but ham-fisted scheme, but I didn’t. I kept my mouth shut as we at last reached the front of the line together. She never fully stepped in front of me, just sidled along a few inches to my left. She never exactly joined the line proper and never made her intentions completely obvious. But when the next window opened up she was off like a shot, darting in front of me as I began to take a step forward.
Now, I’ve seen similar moves at the post office result in screaming matches, fistfights, and near-lynchings, but I let it slide for a reason. I’m actually too fascinated by this sort of behavior to get pissed about it. I prefer to look at it like an anthropologist.
This sort of thing has been happening to me quite a bit lately. Not just people darting in line in front of me (though that’s happened three times this week), but clerks intentionally giving me incorrect change or selling me something other than what I’d asked for—the wrong brand of cigarettes or beer— assuming (usually correctly) that I wouldn’t bother returning it once the deception was revealed. The change I can understand, but the other seems to make no sense at all except as a cheap and cruel prank. Now, I always do my best to be at least reasonably pleasant and polite to clerks and people standing in line, so I have to think (though I may be mistaken here) the moves weren’t made out of spite or personal vindictiveness—they merely saw an opportunity, an advantage over someone who would never see what they were doing, and they took it for whatever reason.
Know what the really sick thing is about all this? I keep going back to the places that cheated me, not to bitch or accuse or raise any kind of hell. I never say a word about it. Finding it so damn hard to believe in this day and age someone would actually shortchange a blindo, I’m really, really curious to see if they’ll do it again.
I’m not bringing this up to whine about the hardships of being an old blindo. My interest in people who take advantage of cripples is just a small facet of a much larger fascination.
I can understand, in many cases even sympathize with simple burglars, murderers, extortionists, and people arrested on felony assault charges. Those and other crimes make perfect sense to me. Having written about crime as long as I have, they’ve even started to feel pretty banal most of the time.
What fascinates me are those people out there who have so neatly and efficiently excised all their scruples and sense of simple human decency they have no trouble at all stealing wheelchairs, pistol-whipping the elderly, swiping the donations for some eight-year-old with leukemia, setting up fake charities after major disasters, or better still approaching disaster victims directly with fraudulent insurance policies. In comparison snaking into the line in front of the oblivious blind guy is child’s play, but there’s still a family resemblance. At heart we’re talking about people who willingly and maybe even gleefully prey on the misfortune and misery of others.
Of course on a larger scale you have governments and banks and priests and cops and oil companies and corporations and militaries and pretty much any large social institution you can name for whom this sort of behavior is simply par for the course, integral to the genetic makeup (like drug companies who sell pills they know will kill people), but that’s to be expected. I’m obsessed with individuals who think and behave that way. I’d love to get a peek inside their heads sometime. I mean, there’s almost something admirable about it in a sick and twisted way.
Common, everyday criminals may step over the line distinguishing what the ruling powers have declared “right” and “wrong,” and G.G. Allin might’ve been called a nihilist because he used to punch random members of his audience and eat his own shit onstage, and I might think of myself as a nihilist because I refuse to take social institutions seriously, but there’s still something that prevents me from taking that extra little step.
These people I’m talking about though, whether handing me a single and telling me it’s a ten-spot or stealing some legless kid’s wheelchair, or pushing some old lady down a flight of stairs after dumping her into the legless kid’s stolen wheelchair are something special. A different species who have consciously ruptured the social contract. It’s almost Nietzschean, right? Beyond good and evil if you go back to his wolf and sheep parable (oh, look it up on the internet or something). Best of all, these are people who would never think of themselves as Nietzschean characters, which makes them even MORE Nietzschean.
Considering the way the world has been (and has always been) going, and the impending environmental and economic collapse, and the fact there seem to be more and more people like this out there every day preying on the weakened and disadvantaged, I get the feeling we’re going to be reduced to roving savage hunter-gatherer tribes again before you know it. And I’ll likely be set adrift on an ice floe.
To be honest I have no idea where the fuck I was headed with all this, but I’ll tell you—having some bitch sneak in line in front of you at the post office sure can get a guy thinking.
You can contact Jim Knipfel at this address:
With occasional exceptions Slackjaw generally appears weekly. For email notification of other Jim Knipfel publications (books, etc.) and events please join the Slackjaw email list here.