I'm running out of money, but drink is a priority and thus I always make sure that I can afford something. My tastes, which gravitate towards aged whiskey and wines at the pricier end of what I once deemed "affordable", have been jettisoned in favour of quantity. This practice is common among alcoholics. Money devoted to quality or palatability is money not directed towards the alcoholic's ultimate shopping objective; procuring as much alcohol as possible. Drinks which possess the best alcohol to cost ratio are an alcoholic's most treasured friend as they can be bought in the greatest quantity and thus can get the alcoholic more drunk, and for longer, than would otherwise be possible. I usually buy own brand whiskey or vodka from large supermarkets. Whiskey is usually slightly more expensive than vodka, but in practice it works out cheaper because I developed an ability to consume this particular drink neat during my years of drinking much higher quality brands, so no mixers are required, while in the case of vodka I always have to pick up a carton of orange or apple juice to mask the flavour.
These drinks have become my staples over the course of my alcoholism, but they are not the object of my thievery. There are two reasons why this is the case: firstly, as I shall explain later, I only steal from convenience stores, which usually don't allow direct customer access to such items, and secondly, even if they are accessible, these bottles are deemed valuable enough by the owners to be adorned with security tags. My thievery is restricted to two drinks which I rarely otherwise consume: cider and beer. In fact the only other occasions when I drink either is at a party or social gathering where nothing else is available. The reasons for the idiosyncrasies of my petty crimes shall become clear in reading the following anecdote, which is an account of a typical theft. While it is a fictional representation of events, the details are derived directly from my experiences.
I awake to Dublin in the sun. Even at the height of summer this can be a rarity. Soon my thoughts turn towards alcohol, and as I look at the shadowed edges of the trees and hedges of the garden I realise where I'm going to get it. A coffee and the end of a bottle of whiskey and then I'm in town. There are four shops that I can count on and, failing that, three others that I have stolen from which are a bit more treacherous; the security guards a little too sharp, the cameras a little too abundant and worst of all, the floor space too broad to allow the camouflage of crowds. All of these problems are multiplied tenfold when it comes to supermarkets. In my wilder moments I have thought about venturing into a wines and spirits section on a Saturday afternoon with a small pliers stored in the sleeve of my overcoat, ready to snip the security tag from a bottle of whiskey, but that is a much more complicated and daring effort and all in all, it's not worth the risk when more vulnerable targets exist.
Just like the city itself, each shop will be crowded beyond anything one would expect for a typical dull or rainy day. After some brief reconnaissance from the other side of the bustling street I make my approach. I remind myself that my pinstriped blazer, pink shirt and dark sunglasses are as much my friend as my foe as the security guard clocks me with his dull, bulbous eyes. I pass him without turning my head even a degree.
Inside I quickly assess the scene. The fridges, the newspaper stands, the fruit stalls, the counter, the entrance and exit, all are surrounded by a crowd at least two people deep. Particularly well populated is the area of my interest: the alcohol shelves. Perfect. In my limited experience of convenience stores I have noticed that they all seem to use the same pungent cleaning agent. Due to the fact that I rarely enter these stores for any purpose other than theft, the mere smell of this chemical is enough to heighten my senses as memories of past endeavours momentarily thrill me.
Keeping in my peripheral vision the second, equally dull looking security guard positioned at the centre of the shop floor, I reach for a bottle of water from the fridge next to the alcohol section. I apologise as I intentionally bump into a young woman beside me, and move to my right to make way for her. I am now standing opposite my target. As I expected, none of the more potent drinks I would otherwise choose are in this fridge. I suppose people like me are too common for such a risk. They are shelved behind the counter, tantalisingly free of security tags but unreachable all the same. I step closer to the fridge, wedged in a gap in the crowd. The people to my left and right move closer, almost completely obscuring me from the security guards and the cashiers. I move into position and glance once over both shoulders. My only hard and fast rule in the whole process is that the second I find myself unobserved I take what I want, no hesitation, no waiting for a better opportunity that may never come. I know the brands which I desire, those which would provide the best alcohol to expense ratio if I were paying, but often the pragmatism of proximity overrules these ambitions. It is of little significance anyway, only a matter of marginal variations in the degree of the resultant drunkenness. My briefcase, which wasn't purchased for this purpose but happens to be very well suited, is already open. I pull the flap aside and slip two rows of cans, eight in total, into the centre pocket. It's open for no longer than five seconds before it's closed again, this time the buckles fastened. As always I can always count on the assumption that even if those around me noticed my actions they are either too busy, too timid or simply too apathetic to intervene. I ease my way out of the thick of the crowd and join the queue at the counter. The deed is done, all else is a formality. I leave the shop, sipping from my bought and paid for bottle of water. The eyes of the security at the front door slip over me once more. That may be my favourite part.
The fruits of my labours are taken to a nearby park. I find a shadowed corner where I can sit and sip my spoils. I don't consider myself an immoral or bad person. In fact I don't even consider myself a shoplifter, despite the obvious absurdity of this opinion. Criminals are both demonised and worshipped by Western society. They are either the subject of newspaper reports which bemoan their actions or film and literature which glamourises them. I, like the majority of people, don't consider myself to be a hero or a demon. I am quite normal and average by my assessment, therefore when I am faced with the question of my own criminality I feel myself wrestling with contrary labels, neither of which I can accept with any sense of reality. In my mind criminals are other people, not me. The can fizzes as I crack it open, spraying white foam on my thumbnail. I sit there on the grass in the rare Dublin sunshine, watching the people pass and feeling the sanctuary of drunkenness approach. I meld into the flowing, pulsating river of humainity, and all of my sins are absolved.