January 24, 2010

Kids these days

When I was working as a barista, people would sometimes steal our tips out of the tip jar (or sometimes the whole jar itself). One day, I walked away from the bar to talk to a coworker and as I walked back, I made eye contact with a kid, probably 10 or 11 years old. We both froze and it took me about half a second to realize he had his hand inside the tip jar. I had recently started working at this place after being unemployed for a while and I was literally broke, basically living off my tips and using my paycheck to pay rent. It had been an especially busy day and the jar was pretty full, and there was no way in hell I was going to let some little brat take my hard-earned money.

Luckily, the manager at the time was a friend of mine and we both immediately left our work posts and ran down the street after the group of kids (sadly, we were pretty used to running after people as there was an overabundance of shoplifters in this neighborhood. I would also often see the servers from the restaurant across the street chase after people who had dined and dashed. Jerks!). I don't think I've ever run so fast in my life. Unfortunately, a group of 10-year-olds are much faster than a couple of 20-something smokers. I was winded after the first block and I literally cried exactly one tear as the kids ran away screaming and laughing with my wad of dollar bills.

"That was all the money I had," I remember saying.

One of the kids ditched their bike during the getaway and Eric, the best coworker in the world, called the neighborhood police officer and handed the bike over. We figured that if the kids had the nerve to come back for it, they or their parents have to get the bike back from the police. We laughed about how they would be in SO much trouble. Being of a different generation than these children, we assumed that they feared the wrath (or at least respected the authority) of adults - if not of us, then definitely of the cops. Wrong. The children of the Selby-Dale neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota fear no one.

The kid who ditched his bike - 
in an attempt to flee the scene of a theft he committed - sent his thug-ish dad (or maybe big brother) to retrieve the bike. The dude rolled up in an Escalade with tinted windows, blinged out to the nines. He strolled in and got in Eric's face, demanding that he return the bike. Luckily we had given it to the cops, otherwise Eric may not be with us today - this guy was pissed off. Eric held his ground though, and explained the kid had been stealing from the store and left the bike while running away (thus, ahem, doing something wrong). I don't know about you, but if a manager at a store told my parents that I had been stealing and ditched my bike at the store I was stealing from, not only would my dad have left the bike (hopefully to be given to a less-fortunate kid who deserved it more, as he often threatened), but I would have had been dragged by the elbow into that store to apologize and return the money before I could even count it. I stole Barbie clothes from my daycare lady once, and after my mom forcing me not only to return them, but to admit what I did, I more than learned my lesson.

But here's a lesson I've learned about modern day children - not only from this experience, but from serving people with kids: they don't give a shit, and usually, neither do their parents. I know everyone parents differently, but I'd like to think "Don't steal money from people" and "If you leave your bike on the sidewalk while running away from stealing from someone, you might not get your bike back" would be commonly held values. Maybe not.


  1. I used to work as a barista too and I know that every time someone stole from us - and it happened a bit - it was such a bummer. I always hoped that person needed it more than me.

  2. Yes, I think you have to hope that in order to keep your faith in humanity!