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Social Thievery

Those I surround myself with always seem to find themselves in trouble, and me with them. I suspected that this was the case before June 6, 2010, but it required one major time to drive the point home. My desire to help those around me and my desire to do the right thing often conflict, and I discover myself in some very sticky situations.

In April, science club sent out small yellow sheets of paper to all of the members. Even though I hadn’t participated much in the way of science, I received one. “Six Flags Trip” was printed in bold black type on the top. June 6, 2010 the Central Lee Science Club planned to charter a bus to Six Flags, St. Louis.

Another student, a friend of mine, was going too. The student, Mary*, felt excited and we proceeded to plan out our day together. We were to ride all the roller coasters, eat cotton candy and popcorn, and laugh until our sides ached. Her eagerness grew on me, and I looked forward in anticipation.

On the day of, the Sunday after school released us for the summer, the charter bus left at 6:00 a.m. Most of us buzzed with excitement, while the others yawned and complained about the early morning. I seated myself next to Mary, and we tittered about the day ahead of us. Mary received a call from her boyfriend halfway through the trip, though, and spoke very loudly into her phone. She became irritated, and eventually hung up on him and fumed.

After a very long three hour drive, we arrived in the parking lot of Six Flags. Our happiness renewed at the sight of towering coasters and colorful water slides. A steady stream of people entered the front gates, and we bounced up and down with joy. We bubbled about what we would ride first, and which paths we would take. We almost immediately disobeyed our teacher’s orders to stay in groups of three and scurried off, just the two of us.

Mary’s boyfriend called her again, and I became irritated. This was supposed to be our day, and I silently seethed with anger. When she hung up, she treated me coldly and cruelly. She blamed me for losing us in the park, and not knowing exactly where we were. She complained that we had not rode any rides yet, or enjoyed ourselves at all. Quiet, too kind me failed to point out that she was also a cause of these things. I suggested she turn her phone off, and her face flushed scarlet with anger and she huffed. I suggested we go search for a few other students from our group, and she stamped her foot and ground her teeth. I wish I had gone off on my own, but instead I stuck by her side.

We rode a handful of rides, and eventually our spat was forgotten. We joked, laughed, and enjoyed just being two girls “hanging out”. Our heads spun with the speeds and corkscrews of the roller coasters, and our stomachs jerked and tossed. Our eyes glittered with excitement and exhilaration; stars twinkled behind our eyelids.

After we ate lunch near the charter bus, we sauntered over to the water park. We just entered the park when we passed a small souvenir shop. It was designed to look like a surfboard shop, with wooden structures and beachy paint. I had saved money from earlier, so I ambled in to take a look. Mary followed me into the store. After wandering around a bit I decided everything cost too much for my measly wallet. I walked out, expecting Mary to follow me.

A few hundred yards away from the shop, Mary caught up to me. She handed me two necklaces and asked me to keep them in my pockets, her itty bitty shorts just couldn’t hold them. I slipped them against my thigh, and then remembered that she had spent all of her money before we had entered the shop. My hands began shaking, but I didn’t know what to do and didn’t want to turn my friend in, so I kept walking.

Suddenly, a gravelly voice behind us asked us to stop. He wore a simple white T-shirt and khaki shorts, socks with sandals. He flashed a security badge and asked us to hand him the stolen merchandise. I gave what was out of my pocked, but Mary pretended that the necklaces in her hands were paid for. I snatched them away from her and placed them in his outstretched palm.

“Walk in front of me, and do what I say.” he said, as he guided us through the crowds to a small inlet of buildings. The walk seemed to suspend us in time, it seemed that everybody noticed us. Mary appeared visibly terrified, knowing that she had done very very wrong. I offered to shoulder the blame for her, and she just nodded. I felt afraid too, though.

The room we were guided to was small and freezing. We sat in chairs on opposite sides of a table. He asked if either of us had ever stolen before. I answered honestly, “no.” Mary admitted to being arrested in sixth grade for shoplifting. I shook my head, wondering how I fell into this mess.

I explained what happened, the truth. I wouldn’t be Mary’s scapegoat, I wasn’t in the wrong here, especially if she knew better and had stolen before. Mary, however, just sat there crying the entire time. She was obviously distressed, but I think she should have spoken in my defense. She did not.

After much shaking and worrying, we called our parents. Mary spoke in obscure details in hopes of fudging the story in her own favor at home. My mom remained calm, and heard the story from the man himself. He saw the entire incident and knew that I had done nearly nothing. The words on the warning sheet of paper handed to me were “Possession of Stolen Merchandise”. He instructed me not to enter any shops for the rest of the day.

He punished Mary quite a bit more. He warned her, he also told her she could not enter any Six Flags parks for a year and one day. He told her that if it happened again she would be arrested. Six Flags sent her parents a bill of $200.

We sat in that cold, over air conditioned room for two hours waiting nervously for our teacher. When she arrived to collect us, I repeated the story to her, Mary still unhelpful. Our teacher marched us to the bus, then pulled me aside. She told me how the same thing had happened to her when she was in high school and how she was worried it would become worse for me if it did not stop now. I promised her that I had learned my lesson, and I had.

We sat for the rest of the day on the bus, Mary too ashamed and me too tired to go back into the park. We returned home, and the incident blew over. What happened on June 6, 2010 did not follow me menacingly like I feared it would, life went on; but I changed. People would no longer use me. No longer would I be forced into trouble by those with which I surround myself.



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