Two things increased tremendously over my four years at college in such a tight correlation that any reasonable person could conclude their causal relationship: the amount of things I could drink, and the amount of things I could steal. Freshman year, I came in as a lightweight in both categories. I could only house a handful of beers and hard liquor, and I felt rebellious swiping a few utensils from the dining halls. By sophomore year, my tolerance had increased and I was able to keep pace with the other kids.
I had started thieving while drunk from much more public establishments, taking the whole bottle tabasco from Chipotle, or swiping an extra wristband or two while the bouncers weren’t looking. Junior year I hit my stride, and was now no longer the only person engaging in these drunkenly petty larcenies. My brothers and I had turned our exploits into a game, seeing who could come home with the best thing stolen from that night out. Sometimes, we’d get distracted and return empty-handed. Other times, we would scheme to steal something that sounded like a good idea while blackout only to have a person more sober than we were talk us down. But sometimes, we’d pull it off and get something great.
Returning for senior year, we all knew that this little game would be reaching an apex. We had committed ourselves to fully enjoying our final year, with easy schedules, no responsibility, and a living situation that maximized our party potential. In addition to getting fucked up more days out of the week than not, we were fully on the lookout for items to bring back to the house. Fall formal found each of us robbing a neighboring cabin’s canoes of their full-length wooden oars, each of us hauling one back up the hill to our own place for some future pledge education purposes. It’s amazing how much extra torque you can get with an extended handle.
Back on campus, things only escalated. One night, my brother and I were coming back from the bars after another alcohol-infused evening. Passing a place that had been holding a day-rager earlier in the afternoon, we made the keen observation that they had neglected to clean up their front lawn of the party’s products. With as many wing-floaties on our arms as possible and a beach ball or two stuffed under our shirts, we targeted the extended slip-and-slide for our own. With my brother slipping under near the front end, and me in the rear, we hoisted the thing above our heads as best we could. Walking down the middle of the street back to our house, we looked like a Chinese dragon at an Asian festival, our bodies obscured under the undulating, bobbing length of the plastic sheeting. The allusion was only added to by the swerving, surging way we walked, a product of the all the alcohol. Dumping everything on the front porch, we both had forgotten about our get until the morning after, when we realized that we had accidentally blocked off the door. We ended up stealing an increasing plethora of things that year, including more steins and glassware than we could ever need, various posters and composites, a stern informational board about respecting property rights, and ultimately, a stop sign, pole and all. Just ripped it out of the ground and walked home with it.
What drove us to this life of petty crime? Certainly the alcohol played a huge part. Nothing makes you feel quite as immune from the law as a solid blackout. Combined with the lapses in sound judgment and the freedom from any inhibitions, an atmosphere gets created wherein you feel like you run your town. Thieving provides a nice little rush as well, and the art of concealing an object on your person is tantamount to the best real-life riddle you can come up with. But I would propose that the biggest factor was the competition. Nothing drives bigger and bigger heists quite like knowing you have to one-up the rest of the brotherhood. Coming back with the best steal makes you feel like the prime hunter-gatherer of the chapter, hauling back the slaughtered buffalo for everyone to feast on. Not to mention your acts of daring and bravado can influence some of the impressionable young ladies into thinking you’re some sort of bad-boy Casanova who knows his way around a bedroom and plays by his own rules. Really a win-win all the way around.
This column is not meant to encourage everyone to go around stealing stuff. Some things can have actual consequences (like taking a stop sign), and committing a federal offense would probably be bad for your chapter. But hey, it’s your life, so I’ll leave you with the only rule you really need to live by. It’s a time-honored commandment that every fraternity man knows and remembers: Don’t get caught..