Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ring of (sap)Phire 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA woman with a thick Russian accent called for help writing a reward poster. She had been in a grocery store bathroom earlier that day and removed her ring to wash her hands. She placed it next to the sink but then forget it and left, and when she returned a few moments later, the ring was gone. She wanted to know what she should write on the poster, and what kind of reward should be offered. She was distraught and weeping throughout the entire phone call, and toward the end she confided that the piece, a ring of amber and intricate gold workmanship, was her engagement ring, and was priceless to her. She sobbed that she didn’t know how she was going to confess her mistake to her husband.

And by the way, how many women lose rings this way? I know that my grandmother lost a ruby and diamond ring in Mexico City doing the exact same thing – she took off her ring in a public bathroom to wash her hands and left it there. Jewelry is beautiful but it carries a heavy responsibility. I myself have tried to cultivate a philosophy of non attachment to it, ever since I had a ring stolen from me my junior year of high school.

I was attending an all girls boarding school at the time, and although the students were supposedly young ladies from well-to-do families, the entire place was a den of thieves. I’m not sure why stealing was so widespread, but I think it was more of a sickness, a psychological disorder like kleptomania, than greed/need motivated stealing. I got the feeling that it was about stealing the other owner’s essence and power than the actual object. Items taken ranged from the smallest, most inconsequential things to big ticket items like typewriters and jewelry. One girl was actually shipping boxes of stolen objects home. For some reason a box was returned and the administration opened it. In it there were half empty bottles of shampoo, a typewriter and about 50 bras of varying sizes that had been stolen from the laundry room throughout the year. She was as indiscriminate as a magpie - there was really no rhyme or reason to what she had taken. In any case, in the boarding school environment, kleptomania and other unfortunate psychological disorders like bulimia flourished. The environment just seemed to breed it.

Like a fool, I brought back to school a sapphire and diamond ring my grandmother had given me for my sixteenth birthday. Right before a big three day weekend, the ring vanished from my dresser. I was devastated. Although I don’t quite remember why, my roommate and I suspected one of the girls in the room next to us. Although we had no concrete proof, the girl we suspected seemed a little too eager to cast the blame on others, and had acted strangely when I told her the ring was missing. One of the girls down the hall even dreamed that she had been the culprit. We could never prove anything, however, and the suspect was expelled the next month for cheating on a math test.

I thought I would never see my ring again. Several years later my roommate was at a fraternity party at Washington and Lee, and saw the girl, our former neighbor we had suspected, WEARING THE RING. My roommate was drunk and scared to confront her, but all of her friends kept goading her on, making chicken sounds, and finally she walked right up to her and said, “Look. I know you have the ring. Give it back.” And she did! Just like that. My roommate knew a bunch of her classmates, and so word was out about her larceny and her reputation was ruined. My roommate also heard from the girl’s friend that that week she had had an abortion as well, the consequence of a one night stand with some completely unsympathetic fraternity asshole. To be exposed as a thief and suffer an abortion in so short a time period - what a shitty week that must have been for her!

One of the African American cooks at a summer camp in East Texas I went to told me about an unusual thief. She began noticing that her jewelry and various articles around the house like hairbrushes started disappearing. She suspected and accused her sisters, who then claimed that they were missing objects as well. The air was thick with suspicion and they all eyed each other with mistrust until one day she went to the attic and discovered a little lair that her pet raccoon had set up for himself, full of all the missing items. Her raccoon had been stealing them and decorating his nest with all of the objects. She said that it was like a miniature Aladdin’s Cave, full of jewelry and other shiny objects and bright feathers and colorful bits of cloth. I guess all God’s creatures love and get tempted by pretty things.

My dear tabby cat Antonio was such a thief. He stole the way other cats hunted gophers - he would always bring things in and leave them for me in the same spot.

What did he bring in? A lighter in a beaded case. A cabbage patch baby doll. A baseball glove. A pair of work gloves. Several tennis balls. But my favorite of all time was a bag of frozen peas, still frozen.

It was quite a labor of love for a 12 pound cat, too. He had to jump up about 5 1/2 feet into a window, then jump back down onto the floor.
I gave a girl a ring once. She took it off and placed it near the sink to do the dishes but somehow it went down the drain. It wasn't in the trap when I took the sink apart. Oh well.
College co-eds, raccoons, magpies. . . They are all amateurs when compared to the kleptomancy of senior citizens. I've been reading about this phenomenon for awhile now, but it was at it's most entertaining on this episode of "This American Life":
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