Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The only things I have ever stolen are books.
I never went through the teenage stage of shoplifting and petty theft. I never stole cosmetics, clothes, or alcohol. Unlike my younger brother, I have never stole a shark's head or a variety of flags from different countries (but that is a story for another time.)
In college, I studied abroad in Western Australia for six months. One of the first things I did when I got there was locate the closest libraries. I have to have a constant supply of novels and fiction to remain sane and happy.
Besides the nearby public library, my dorm had a tiny little library room. These books were cast-offs, uncatalogued and unattended. You checked them out on the honors system by removing the index card from the back and leaving it in a box by the door.
Before I left Australia, I stole about seven novels. I barely felt a twinge of guilt. In their place, I left behind the books I had accumulated in the six months. It was more than a fair trade. I gave some best sellers in wonderful condition and took away books that had been last checked out over twelve years ago (according to the index card tucked in the cover.)
One of the problems was that books are heavy. And I carried them all with me in my backpack. So in order to made room for the souvenirs and knick-knacks of three weeks of traveling, I decided to turn the books into gifts for strangers.
It wasn't difficult. Every time I finished a book, I found a clever hiding spot where someone might spot the book. I hoped that each one would be picked up, brought home, read, and loved.
I left one at a train station in Adelaide, nearby the PacMan machine that I played for an hour while I waited for my train to leave. Another I placed on a park bench near the Sydney Opera House. I left them in Fiji hostels, where I imagined tourists picking them up and bringing them to along to a new home, on the other side of Australia, in New Zealand, in Great Britain. The last novel I left in the LAX airport, wondering if someone would marvel at the "PROPERTY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA" stamp and realize how far the book had traveled.
I judged my reading habits well. I had only one book left over at the end of my journey, the one I chose just in case I needed something that would take me awhile to get through. I actually still have it and I still haven't read it. It's Shogun by James Clavell.
I have never stolen anything since then, books or anything else.