Boots and Rallies

by Aaron Pellowski | 10/9/14 6:49pm

My rental bike was stolen last week from the knoll between Fahey-McLane and frat row. Let me say, if you’re the mongrel who stole it and you’re reading this, I wish you no bodily harm. I would rather you grow up to perfectly resemble a parent you despise, or a person whose presence will remain addicting to you for the rest of your life breaks your heart, or you realize on an early deathbed that you never had a proud moment that came from within.

I wish all of this because I live off campus and it’s a real pain in the craw walking to class. Those extra minutes add up, and as Dr. Charles Flyte (my dissertation advisor at the Delaware Advanced Institute of Unreality Studies) used to say, those minutes are breaths of death before the gust.

The past few days of angry anguish and brooding have given rise to some deeper contemplation on the topic of theft at Dartmouth. There’s actually a massive quantity of this sinful activity that escalates each term. It starts with stealing from DDS, justified with a beautiful example of what I call a Creon Complex, a phenomenon that occurs when a smart person generates an elegant, compelling and potentially even legitimate set of reasons for taking a controversial action, but those reasons aren’t actually true.

Dartmouth students walk out of FoCo, Collis, the Courtyard Cafe and Novack Cafe with pockets stuffed with goodies for later. But this is okay, because “DDS steals from us by having such high prices and exploitative meal plan options!”

Now the sophomore with a fanny pack full of pesto pasta and the senior with a two pizza slices under his armpit aren’t petty thieves anymore — unthinkable that a salutatorian from Great Neck with a 2340 SAT score could ever partake in such a banal, third-class, proletariat crime — they’re actually Robin Hoods, stealing from the Pantagruelic Dartmouth Dining Services and giving to themselves.

The flaws of DDS in both the structure of its meal plan and the comically abysmal prices are so obvious that it’s boring to waste space on them here. The point is that these kids aren’t stealing in some virtuous act of rebellion — they’re stealing because they want something and common morality is no hindrance.

The next instruction in larceny comes early in freshman winter term, when you find yourself stumbling out into the freezing bleakness of 1 a.m. Webster from a dance party without your North Face because you thought it would be sleek to get the plain black one, just like everybody else.

You’re full of anger because you’re cold and down one pricey jacket, and in the snap of the moment you decide you’re going to walk back in and take somebody else’s jacket, since it’s not stealing if you’re replacing something that was stolen from you. A soberer, warmer version of you might reason that the right thing to do is to suck it up and cry to your mom to buy you a Canada Goose with a combination lock built in.

The very lowest it gets comes with stealing fraternity memorabilia. I’m thinking especially of composites here, which are not only extremely expensive in the first place, but have a value exceeding their mere monetary worth. I’m dumbfounded that this practice exists at all, and I hope at least some silent majority is with me on this.

What horrifies me most is the consideration that after careers in performing the re-circuitry of moral computers in order to excuse their crimes before the tribunal of their own conscience, there are many (or even just a few) Dartmouth students who will go on to occupy positions of great power.

And when they are in the position to make big moves in the worlds of politics, finance, education, agriculture and more that could rob half of America of its material wealth or well being, they have no moment of hesitation in which a microscopic voice asks “Is this evil?” because alternate logic is already hardfused in them to stamp that voice out.

Perhaps I, one morning a decade from now, I will open an alumni magazine and read “Jimbo K. Waggoner, Dartmouth Class of 2016, announces his promising candidacy for president. While at Dartmouth, Mr. Waggoner majored in art history, played water polo and stole bikes.” I will take this as a sign that God wishes me to move to Italy and become an expatriate novelist right at that moment, before America curls up and perishes like a spider under a cigarette.

So, Jimbo, if you want to save this country and your soul, please return my bike to me. On the advice of my mother, a first-grade teacher and an angel of love, I will forgive you on the spot and charge you nothing. Life is too beautiful to waste it on being bad in such ordinary ways.