The Opposite Of Shoplifting

The fucking weirdest thing happened to me yesterday. I was in Stratford, ostensibly to deliver parcels of swag to my friends, and was taking my traditional naughty detour into Smiths to look at comics and music and art magazines. I picked up the new issue of Computer Music, one of my few guilty pleasures, then started thinking about bananas and pineapples and what sort of juice I could make, and before I knew it I was at the fruit and veg stall outside about to buy fruit, magazine still in hand. I had totally walked out without paying by complete accident.

My brain fizzed slightly, and, calmly, I walked back into WH Smiths and paid for the magazine. Somewhere in the time stream, fourteen year old me was apoplectic with rage and confusion.

As you might know, I was a notorious shoplifter in my youth. And one of my favourite things to do, from when I was 10 or so, was to wander into a branch of WH Smiths, peruse the magazines, then walk out with one. It was a foolproof strategy because, if a security guard ever collared me, I would just say, "oh, wow! I forgot I was holding that!" This became even more plausible once they invented mobile phones, as one could start talking to an imaginary person on one's phone and stride out of the shop, magazine in hand, with a great purpose, then blame the distraction for your negligence to pay if collared.

Of course, no one ever did collar me for stealing magazines from Smiths, as my scheme was so airtight my confidence worked as some kind of Jedi Mind trick on all of Smiths' security guards, from around 1991, when I started shoplifting, to 2010, when I last stole a magazine from Smiths (that last time was the first for a good decade, and no more than a queer experiment, an attempt of reclaiming an almost forgotten feeling. I'm actually not entirely sure). However I got caught in Woolies multiple times, in multiple branches - Bangor, Birmingham... along with a Superdrug, a Safeways, and some other places I forget now. This seems like a lot, but I was literally shoplifting on a daily basis for most of the nineties. And outside of Smiths, I had no plan other than to slit a big hole in my trench coat and pile in the goods, and I was never fully convinced I wasn't being observed, hence no Jedi Mind Trick. Without the Jedi Mind Trick a man falls victim to the odds.

That image up top, by the way, is from a comic I was illustrating that my little brother Ali wrote. I hope to finish it one day.