Street Talk: You're going to need fresh underpants

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So, you want to hold up a convenience store.

Maybe you’re looking to finance that Vicodin habit for half a day or perhaps you just need some extra dough to get through the holiday season.

I’m not here to judge. It seems like everybody and his cousin is robbing stores these days and one or two of them even get away with it.

You know, until some rat fink on Facebook recognizes the face in the store surveillance photo and calls it in.

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It ain’t as easy as it used to be, you know. With Orwell-approved cameras on every street corner and police mining social media for clues, your garden variety stick-up has never been more challenging.

Which is, apparently, a part of the thrill.

I once had a conversation with a scrawny, bat-faced little fellow who claimed to have robbed half a dozen stores before he finally went down for sticking up a 7-Eleven.

“It’s awesome,” he told me. “Your head is all cloudy going in because you’re coming off the dope, but once you’re inside the store and ready to roll, everything becomes super clear and in focus. When you pull out your gun or whatever and start screaming at the clerk, it’s like someone else is controlling you. All you can see is the clerk’s terrified face and all that beautiful green in the cash register. It’s a total adrenaline rush.”

Of course, that adrenaline can also cause a stick-up man to lose control of his bodily functions, which might mean leaving crucial DNA evidence at the scene. It happens, yo.

The adrenaline dump can cause a fellow to make bad decisions, too, such as running straight to the bar to buy rounds for all his friends.

And once that surge of adrenaline is gone, dope sickness returns along with intense paranoia and a lingering sense of panic that gnaws like a fanged rodent at the nerves.

“The eighty or ninety bucks I got in the robbery would be gone in three hours,” the retired stick-up man told me. “But that sick feeling of panic would last for weeks.”

Rob a store and you become like that poor slob in “The Running Man,” hunted by police and a community of citizens just frothing to see your downfall.

Nobody likes a thief, my friend, and a thief who threatens a hardworking store clerk with violence is even more reviled. Your own momma might turn you in. Your friends will make anonymous calls to the police and even the dealer man you were so eager to buy from might drop a dime if only to earn brownie points with The Man.

The days of glorified thievery are long gone. Jesse James is dead, his reputation in tatters, and Robin Hood can no longer fit into the tights. Even the most woeful excuse — I was out of my head on Oxy; the dealer was going to break my thumbs; my ma needs an operation that costs between 80 and 90 dollars — will be loudly rejected by the masses.

Even those quasi-polite robbers who eschew weapons in favor of a note (“Dear store clerk: would you terribly mind handing over all the cash in the register? Would really appreciate it. Thanks. XOXO”) are universally scorned.

Whenever the newspaper reports on a fresh stick-up — guy with a knife at the Big Apple in Lisbon; guy with a gun, twice, at USA Gas in Lewiston — the reaction from our readers tends toward the extreme side.

“Bring back hanging!” declares one poster.

“To heck with that,” offered another, “thieves should have their hands cut off like in the olden days!”

That may be a little bit harsh for our modern times. But at least while these bandits remain on the lam, you can rest assured that they’re probably not out there living the high life with that fistful of crumpled tens and fives. Cowering in dark apartments, too paranoid to step outside, more likely, and lamenting the grisly ruination of another pair of underpants.

Sounds like quite the thrill, eh?

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. Bandits on the lam can turn themselves in at mlaflamme@sunjournal.com. 

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