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Quit While You’re Ahead, Kid

Filed under : Childhood Stories

Written on March 10, 2015

It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I was friends with this lunatic of a person – Ed. He’ll feature in quite a few stories I’ll tell, but this one is short enough to tell in one piece.

One day, Ed and I were dropped off by his mom near a series of stripmalls in Phoenix1, for reasons I don’t recall. There was a video store nearby, and Ed said “hey, let’s go check out their game selection”. I thought that was an odd thing to do, since we’d have to get his mom to drive all the way back out there to return them. I followed him in to check out their selection of Genesis games anyway.

Do you know why rental places don’t put the actual item you’re renting inside the box on the aisle? Cause people steal ’em. This was the summer of ’92 and most places had gotten wise to this fact. Not this place, however. It wouldn’t have even occurred to me to check but Ed sure did. I looked over and he was just finishing stuffing a game into his pocket. He said “c’mon man.. let’s get the good shit”.

We walked the aisle for another minute or two, and probably pocketed 5-6 cartridges2 each. We promptly walked out, unbeknownst to the only employee they had on staff.

I felt like a king. Here I was, holding onto 5 brand-new games, scot-free. No one saw shit. We got away clean. Fuck yeah.

Now, Ed – being an idiot – clearly had other plans. I didn’t know this at the time, of course. I didn’t even know we were gonna lift those games in the first place3.

We walked a few blocks over to another stripmall, where they had a GameStop (or some equivalent). Ed said “now let’s see what they’ve got”. I said “dude… I think we’ve got enough. That’s a really small store. The guy’s gonna see you”, but I followed him in there anyway.

After Ed had a brief chat with the fella behind the counter about various games, I decided to just walk outside. It’s like one of those dreams you have where you’ve suddenly got a shit-ton of money, so you’re thinking of all the ways to just hang onto it, at all costs. I had new games. I was off the hook. I’m good.

Fuckin’ Ed.

Ed asks the guy “hey… what would you give me for this?” – I could hear him from outside. I wanted to run in and say “noooooo..” (all slow-motion like) but it was too late. Ed handed this guy a game with a little holographic sticker of the video store we’d just come from wrapped over one of the top corners. The guy said “ohh man, this is great”. I think Ed was like “fuck yeah, pay day!”, but the guy probably meant “ohh man, this is great. a fuckin’ idiot thief”. He asked Ed if he had any more. He said “ohh hell yeah, man…” and handed over his catch. The guy says “ohh nice! what about your friend?”. Ed sold me out. Not cause he’s a snitch. But because he’s an idiot. And he thought we were gonna get paid for this shit.

The FUCK is wrong with Ed?

The guy motioned for me to come in – I didn’t want to. I said “I’m gonna.. just hang out here, wait for his mom to pick us up”. I thought, maybe, if I could just stall long enough, I could get home with my games before we got in trouble. Ed came outside and said “it’s cool, man. The guy’s looking up prices now and writing me a receipt. I’m gonna get like $200!”. I said “Ed… these games have stickers from the video store on ’em. He’s not giving you money”, and got “dude, you’re so paranoid” in response. I continued to wait outside for Ed’s mom to show up.

The guy called Ed back into the store, for reasons unknown. That’s when I noticed a cop car behind me. I didn’t think the cop was there for us. I just figured “we should probably not be here”. I yelled into Ed “grab your shit! cops!”. I was desperate at this point. But it was too late. The cop was there because this dude called while Ed was outside “waiting for the guy to ring him up”.

I was arrested. Placed in the cop car. Driven to the station. My mom picked me up. The worst part of all, beyond losing the games? My mom had previously bought me tickets to see the spring training session that the Oakland A’s did in Phoenix every summer – which was only 2 weeks away. My heroes at the time – Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Ricky Henderson – would all be there. But my mom knew how to punish me, so she ripped up the tickets when we got home. Two of my dreams were crushed in a single afternoon.

For my crime, I had to return to that video store and do two 6-hour shifts of cleaning every aisle in the store. It was brutal, and the staff constantly mocked me while I worked. I also had to attend some kind of “youth in trouble” class with fucking actual criminal teens – three of them had stabbed people, for fuck’s sake – but nothing topped being denied the chance to meet my heroes in their prime4.

Fuckin’ Ed.

  1. shout-out to Scottsdale & Shea, which recently became famous for being the location of “Amy’s Baking Company” 

  2. for you younger folks – think “game discs” 

  3. I’m not trying to sound like a saint here — I stole anything that wasn’t tied down at various points in my life. It just literally didn’t occur to me that stealing games from a video store was possible 

  4. McGwire’s prime was technically a few years later, as he would end up holding a — still standing — record for the fastest player to hit 500 home runs, with less than 5500 at-bats