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Old 10-27-2013, 12:06 AM
 
624 posts, read 782,509 times
Reputation: 975

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A former employee of mine just sent me an obituary via email, of someone I barely knew but who has haunted me for years.

In the late 1990s, when I was the manager of a Blockbuster video in a big shopping plaza, there was this kid, 14 years old, who used to come in at least twice a week on his way between school and his job as a bag boy at the grocery store next door. He was obviously poor, not only because he was working at 14 but because his clothes were worn, too small, and often smelly. He was a heavy and ungainly kid, too...face full of acne, sweaty skin and greasy hair. He was a nice boy, though. Very respectful and mannerly. Every now and then he would try to rent a racy R-rated movie, and every time my employees and I would tell him no. He would reluctantly hand over the contraband and go back to the shelves for something rated PG.

My store was home to the regional corporate headquarters, and I was responsible for training new managers for stores throughout the city. One day when the boy came in, I was training a group of new management hires with the aid of the regional loss prevention director. I didn't notice the kid until he was leaving. He hadn't rented anything, which was unusual for him on a Friday. As he walked through the security system by the door, the alarm went off. He stood still and clutched his backpack anxiously. With new hires and the loss prevention guy watching, I asked the kid for his bag. Inside, I found a sexy R-rated tape, without the box. He hadn't realized the sensor was on the tape.

I asked the boy to come into my office, and my entourage crowded in behind us. The boy told me he was sorry and that he just really wanted to see what the movie was like. He said he had planned to return it after he watched it. I knew this boy...I believed him, but I was stuck. I told him I had no choice but to call the police, and perhaps worse, his mother. He nodded silently, tears streaming down his face. Everybody was watching. I had to follow procedure to the letter. The police came, his mother came from work early to pick him up...all the while he just cried quietly and repeated that he was sorry...over and over.

Then the plaza manager showed up. The police officers told his mother that he would be banned from the plaza, which meant he would lose his job. His mother started to cry and said the family needed the money. The plaza manager said it was non-negotiable. The police led the boy outside to take him to the grocery store to quit his job. I walked the boy's mother to the door and told her I was terribly, painfully sorry. She looked at the loss prevention manager, then directly at me...right in the eyes. She put her hand on my shoulder, tried to smile, and said, "Honey, I know you had no choice." I had to keep it together till the end of my shift, but I sat in my car and cried for an hour in the parking lot afterwards.

I never saw the boy or his mother again...except in my head, and they've never really left it. It was the boy's unusual last name that made my old employee recognize his obituary. He died at 30 years old. No reason given. His mom and siblings were the only people mentioned in the budget obit. I actually cried when I read it. I'm so sorry, kid.

Have you ever had an encounter with another human being...something you did to someone...that you really regret? Do you think you will ever truly get over it?

Last edited by Slithytoves; 10-27-2013 at 12:15 AM..
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Old 10-27-2013, 01:47 AM
 
Location: Europe, in the Land of the mean
950 posts, read 1,540,738 times
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Not yet. But I'm so sorry, Slithy, I feel some of your pain and would have felt the same. I think the only thing you could have done differently was to let his mother have your office contact- no cells in those days- and to tell her to somehow let you know how he was getting along. Or to ask the store next door for it. I don't understand why they didn't let him off with a stern warning?!

I saw an Oprah episode where a boy stole some candy or sweets and his mum marched him back to the shop to tell the owner what he had done. How did that kid turn out? He became a cop!

RIP, young man.
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Old 10-27-2013, 03:27 AM
 
Location: Tucson for awhile longer
8,872 posts, read 13,547,969 times
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What a sad story. I'm sorry for you and that family. It certainly is hard to reconcile these things.
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Old 10-27-2013, 06:45 AM
 
Location: Western NY
559 posts, read 1,204,556 times
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It's tough because it happened in front of all of those people from your company, so you had to follow the company's procedure. You were between a rock and a hard place. Like his mom said, you had no choice. And you didn't know what the police and the plaza manager would decide to do.
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Old 10-27-2013, 08:40 AM
 
624 posts, read 782,509 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gudra View Post
Not yet. But I'm so sorry, Slithy, I feel some of your pain and would have felt the same. I think the only thing you could have done differently was to let his mother have your office contact- no cells in those days- and to tell her to somehow let you know how he was getting along. Or to ask the store next door for it. I don't understand why they didn't let him off with a stern warning?!

I saw an Oprah episode where a boy stole some candy or sweets and his mum marched him back to the shop to tell the owner what he had done. How did that kid turn out? He became a cop!

RIP, young man.
Thanks.

I had their phone number on their Blockbuster account, and gave the mother my card. I told her she was still welcome in the store...it was her account, of course. I wanted to call many times. Couldn't do it. I thought it was better to leave them alone. I felt like she and I had pretty much said all there was to say and the pair probably wanted to forget that day.

I got busted taking a piece of candy from a bulk bin at a Hickory Farms store when I was very little. I was with my mom..she was the one who caught me. The candy probably cost a nickel, but my mom made me go the counter and give the manager a dollar. That was all of my shopping money. She said that when a person steals, it's worth more than the item itself...that it breaks somebody's trust. I thought about that when the police and plaza manager were talking to that boy. I just wanted to ask the kid for a dollar and end it right there, lesson learned.
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Old 10-27-2013, 09:36 AM
 
20,549 posts, read 16,619,414 times
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I am so sorry you had to go through that. I agree you had no choice. I think we as a society have gone too far with "zero tolerance", there should also be room for human judgement, IMO. I got caught shoplifting when I was 17 at a big downtown department store. This was in the late 70's, and things weren't as harsh. After taking me to that awful room and taking my picture to post on the "wall", and after him attempting to call my mom and not reaching her, he was kind enough to let me go. I never stole anything again, and I thank God I didn't mess up my life over a stupid teenage decision.

We all have things we regret, do not beat yourself up. Judging by what you said about him, I do not think this incident was the cause of his life turning out as it did. It sounds like he was born with 2 strikes and regardless of what happened that day, it is not surprising to me that his life was not a long or fulfilling one.
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Old 10-28-2013, 04:30 PM
 
12,887 posts, read 15,427,107 times
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Wow, that's tough..nothing you could do when fate would have the boy do what he did at the worst time he could have. Not your fault...I believe things would have turned out differently Slithytoves , because of you, if it'd been any other day..I'd wonder about the boy as well..what happened in his life that he died so young.
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Old 10-28-2013, 08:09 PM
 
793 posts, read 1,287,875 times
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What a compelling story! I think everyone has done stuff like this, stuff that we regret saying to someone. You don't know his whole story & the other factors involved. Whether what happened at your video store had much impact on him, who knows. I sincerely doubt it had all that much to do with what happened later in life.

You show a lot of compassion and that says something about the type of person you are. Don't beat yourself up anymore over this. Learn from it, and show other young people compassion as well. You can't change the past but you can learn from it and be a better person in the future.

Best wishes!!!
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Old 10-29-2013, 03:44 PM
 
624 posts, read 782,509 times
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Thanks for the kind words, everybody.

I don't feel responsible for his death, of course, but I hate to think the halfway point was something so rotten that I was right in the middle of. I know how keenly I remember bad things that happened to me at that age. Such formative experiences.

I tracked down his mother and sent her an anonymous card. I didn't want to raise the spectre of that day while she is grieving, but I did want to tell her I knew her boy when he was young and that he was a sweet, polite boy whom I still thought of from time to time, and that I was very sorry to hear he had passed.

Mom's address was still the same...an apartment complex that was always an eyesore but looked like a complete dump last time I was in town. I enclosed some money...maybe that wasn't bright...but I suggested she use it "in whatever way you see fit to honor his memory."
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Old 10-30-2013, 01:13 PM
 
846 posts, read 1,058,021 times
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The thing is....you have no idea what else was going on in his life. Not to be judgemental of him, but it's entirely possible that he was involved in many other things that made that one incident a mere drop in the bucket. I've known several people over the years that were some of the sweetest, most gentle people you'd ever meet...on the surface. But behind the proverbial "closed door", they were someone completely different.

While your incident may have been a defining moment in his life, it's also entirely possible that his "moment" may have come years prior, and that was the time his true self finally came to light for you. It may well be that mom said that she knew you had no choice because she had been down that road multiple times with him before.
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