I went for a run round the resevoir this morning. Running up Barrows Road and passing what the building supply shop that at least used to be called Maunders (might not be now) I was reminded of something that I had got up to as a child. It was ostensibly naughty, but I like to think I had quite noble motives. Though thinking about it I was probably just using this as an excuse for getting away with something naughty.
I can't have been much more than 8 because my best friend at the time was Angus Ashman and he left town not long after that. He used to live in Barrows Croft and I would pick him up on the way to school and walk with him. One day I noticed that some of the cars parked in the street outside of Maunders were not locked. It says a lot about how things have changed in the world that this was even possible. Ee in those days we could leave our doors unlocked and no-one would think of robbing you.
Yet even as an 8 year old I knew this was a stupid thing to do. What were these people thinking? Did they want people to steal their cars? What point were they making by not just locking them.
I decided that like some kind of vigillante superhero I would teach them all a valuable lesson about the sanctity of private property and so often as I passed I would simply open the car door and leave it open. Nothing more than this. I wouldn't get in the car or touch anything. I just wanted to make a point.
And yeah, OK, I liked the thrill of doing something that I knew was wrong, but I could justify it to myself and still come out looking like a hero in my own eyes, so all was all right with the world.
Yet the foolish people at Maunders did not seem to learn the lesson, because even when they had had their own recklessness so clearly demonstrated to them (whilst not having lost any actual property for which they could count themselves lucky) they continued to leave their cars unlocked and I carried on, intermitently (I wasn't stupid, I knew they would have look-outs and stuff for a few days after each incident) opening their doors and leaving them open.
I wasn't a very naughty child generally, so this was quite out of character, but it did give me quite a buzz not unlike that which I experienced later on in my brief career as a shoplifter in my early 20s. I came to that form of thrill seeking embarrassingly late. I really did steal kinder eggs. As well as lots of other stuff that I didn't want or need. Though I still have the hair dryer I managed to get out of Boots and a complete set of Tin-Tin books which I stole in two visits to one book shop- stupidly all in paperback. As a thief I was an idiot. I'm sort of ashamed of myself for that, but not all that ashamed. I see myself as a kind of Robin Hood figure, stealing from the moderately well off and giving to the me, even though I didn't really want or need most of the stuff I took.
Although I was never caught for shoplifting (even now when I continue to brag openly about it the police do nothing about it. I taunt them like Jack the Ripper did, but they are too stupid to catch someone as clever as me!), I did finally get caught with the car door thing. Angus Ashman had already clearly squealed on me to his mum, because he told me that he wasn't allowed to be my friend any more because his mum didn't want him hanging around with boys who opened car doors and then left them open. Angus Ashman was a pussy. I suspect he still is. Fancy telling his mum and then obeying her when she told him to keep away from me. How old was he? 8? Oh yes, he was. Still if I ever go back to opening car doors and leaving them open I won't be ringing him up to ask if he wants to come along. And I bet he'd really want to now.
But that did not lead to my capture. Mrs Ashman had some kind of honour (or was it fear of what I might do) and did not inform the authorities.
My spree had gone undetected and like Jack the Ripper I decided to retire from the game, my identity still a secret to everyone except Angus and Mrs Ashman.
But a couple of years later, a bit older, but not much wiser I was walking down Barrows Road and became nostalgic for my life of crime. I was both disappointed and delighted to spot one of the few cars that now did not have its door locked and for old time's sake I sprang it open with all the dexterity of a safe cracker whirling the dials of a safe and hearing them click. But before I could run away laughing a hand was on my shoulder. I had been caught, "Do you think it is funny to open people's car doors, do you?" said a voice. I said no and apologised. I cannot picture the person who collared me, but still I hear their words ringing in my ears. My face flushed and no doubt I cried. And my captor let me go on my way with a stern telling off, hoping that the shock would be enough to mend my evil ways. But the jokes on them because I did really think it was funny to open people's car doors and I still do. I never learnt my lesson at all! Ha ha ha!
But today as I ran by Maunders (unless it's not called that now)I looked at the car doors of all the parked cars. Every single one of them was locked, in no small part thanks to me and my campaign for justice. I felt proud that I had helped to make the world a safer and less trusting place.