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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Child of the 70's 2: The Lunch Thief

When my sister and I were in the 7th grade, someone started stealing lunches from our group of friends. Before long, one of us was missing her entire lunch every day.  If this wasn't bad enough, when the thief saw my sister's usual  lunch--which usually consisted of four slabs of high-fiber Wasa bread which had gone soft under a layer of  Port Wine cheese--he just threw it on the floor in disgust, leaving it to be trampled into crumbs!

We were beside ourselves. Every time a lunch disappeared (or was smashed on the floor) we had to share the four lunches we still had among six of us--so we all went  hungry. And, unlike some seventh grade girls I could mention, who wore fashionable mini-dresses and had feathered hair and boyfriends--we all had braces and pigtails, were very passionate about our stuffed animals,  and really, really liked to eat. My  67-lb sister could eat 12 tacos at one sitting. Helen could put away a box of Fudge Stripes every day after school. I considered a whole bag of potato chips with a container of sour cream a healthy snack, and  Emily, who weighed even less than my sister, could go through a gallon of ice cream in one slumber party. Our parents used to wonder about parasitic worms. 

The thief definitely did not target us for our high-quality lunches, either--the ones he stole were only fractionally better than the Wasa bread and port wine cheese. We all had feminist '70s moms: they loathed housework, cooking,  and shopping, and  they made us pack our own lunches starting in like,  first grade.   My mom gave us week-old leftover chicken legs, which sometimes made me throw up; Montana’s mom was experimenting with algae; Helen’s parents were in the middle of a divorce, so she usually had cold pizza; Amy usually had a Thermos of macrobiotic tofu casserole, and Emily brought the same PB & J every day.  
A few weeks after our food started disappearing, everyone's lunch (except Samantha's!) was gone on the same day. We were miserably sharing four soggy Wasa Bread and Port Wine cheese slabs among six people (even though they had been stepped on) when Helen dropped her tiny portion of Wasa Bread and gasped: 

“Oh my god!  Garret Smith is eating my sandwich!” 

She knew it was her sandwich, because her mom had just made spelt bread, and the inside was sprouts and leftover turkey pot pie. Despite the fact that Garrett was nearly six feet tall in the seventh grade, shaved, and wore all black leather, Helen (she had guts!) walked up right up to him and said, 

“Hey! That’s my spelt bread, spouts and leftover turkey pot pie sandwich!” 

 “No dude, it’s mine,” said Garrett.

“Oh, really? What kind of bread is it then?” demanded Helen, her hands on her hips.

“It’s my f***g bread!” said Garrett, while all his friends laughed. “Now f*** off!” He swallowed the last of the sandwich, smirked at her, got up from the table, and sauntered away.  

Helen stormed back to our lunch table: “That ***hole is eating my spelt bread, spouts and leftover turkey pot pie sandwich, and he told me to f*** off!”

“By the way,” she added, looking at Manth and I, “I think one of his friends had one of your mom’s chicken legs!”

We were furious! Aghast! Livid! Not only was this  jerk stealing our food and handing it out--he was eating it right in front of us! He could care less if we knew it was him. This would never happen to the popular girls. 

We came up with a plan: we would booby trap our lunches with food so disgusting that Garrett would never steal our of our lockers again. We went from house to house (except Emily’s, whose mom had permanently banned us from her kitchen after that unfortunate ice-cream-and-steak-knife incident). Amy had the weirdest stuff in her kitchen: mysterious Asian hot sauces and fish past and creepy frozen stuff her mom kept in ice trays in the freezer (which turned out to be homemade pesto and was probably delicious), and Montana’s mom had stashes of algae and tofu.

Helen’s mom had nine cats.  

On Monday, we each left a fish paste, hot sauce and cat food sandwich in our lunch bag, cunningly surrounded by normal food like Fudge Stripes and granola bars.  Now that we knew who the thief was, we kept on alert for any sign of him--but he normally ate outside  in the smoking area (it was 1982).

At lunch on Monday, the booby-trapped lunches were gone, right on schedule. We retrieved  our real lunches from deep inside our book bags, where they were flattened but intact (room temperature chicken legs never looked so good!) 

It only took one round of cat food sandwiches, and our food never disappeared again.

We never once considered telling an adult. 

If this happened now--there would be emails! Meetings with mental health professionals!  New school policies concerning booby-trapped sandwiches and allergies! Probably Garrett’s parents would have sued us for feeding him cat food and fish paste, and we would have all gotten detention for bullying

I don’t think any of us ever considered the idea that Garrett  (not his real name) stole our lunches because he was actually hungry. If we had told someone, maybe he could have been set up with a school lunch account if he didn’t have one. But no one really fell through the cracks in our tiny little school--I am willing to bet that Garrett was probably was eligible for school lunch; and probably even had an account--but that he preferred to steal, so he could eat in the smoking area.  I could be wrong. I'll never know. 

At least our little group tried to teach him it’s wrong to steal--even from geeks. 

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