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All About Ben
By Ben Robinson

One of my bad habits came back to haunt me recently.

On Wednesdays I run a route delivering newspapers to stores so that they can sell the copies, people can be informed about their community, and most importantly, I can earn money for every stop, putting some distance between me and the poor house.

I generally never lock my car doors. For most of my life this has been because I knew that any self-respecting thief would be embarrassed to be seen snooping in my car. Somebody might think that’s their car after all.

“No, I don’t own this messy car,” the thief would probably say if one of his friends saw him. “I’m just stealing stuff.”

Another reason is that I own few things of any value. I may lose my collection of dirty sweat socks, but that’s a risk I will have to live with.

But one week while I was running my route, somebody ruined my theory.
Apparently while I was inside a store delivering newspapers, somebody braved into my car and removed a few items.

It took me a while to notice the items missing.

One was the debit card on which the state places my unemployment check each week. I guess I should be insulted that the state decided I was not worth the paper used for a weekly check, but honestly I appreciate the help so much, I’m happy to have it any way I can.

The other item stolen from my car was my driver’s license. A month or so ago, I left my wallet in my pants pocket, then washed my clothes.

Of course, that led to the wallet being destroyed (my brother joked that I was trying to “launder money” and got confused). So the former contents of my wallet were stored in the little compartment between the driver’s seat and the front compartment of my car, above my emergency brake.

I can only figure that the thief used the wallet as ID when he used my unemployment card. That means our thief was either an ugly fat man, or he was fortunate that the store clerk didn’t look at the ID and say, “Wait, that isn’t you. You’re not that ugly. Oh, you’re ugly, but not that ugly.”

The third item the thief took was my trusty camera.

It took me a while to notice the camera was gone, because my car was such a mess. But I was ready to use it one day, and I could not find it in my car.
It took me a couple of weeks to know for sure the camera was gone. I would clean out a little from my car, look for the camera, then clean out a little more.
The irony was that when I finally finished cleaning out the car, I was so proud of it, I wanted to take a photo to commemorate the occasion.

Of course, I couldn’t, because the camera had been stolen.

So eventually I called the folks at the unemployment office and admitted I was missing my cash card. They agreed to send me a new one, though I’m sure my thief has cleared the money from the card. Later, I will stop by the highway department and work on getting a replacement license.

Monday night was the tree-lighting service at Baptist Medical. I’ve covered this event countless times over the years, but this year was special, because my friend Roddey Gettys, who is retiring this year as administrator of the hospital, was set to be the honorary lighter of the tree. So I decided that a newspaper reporter, even a broke, unemployed newspaper reporter, needs to have a camera with him at all times.

So I stopped at one store, but could not find where their cameras were. I guess they don’t deal in antiques.

The second store I stopped at had cameras, but I couldn’t find them. I asked the girl at the check-out counter where the store’s cameras were. She pointed to a large display that had a big sign saying, “Cameras.”

I smiled and admitted, “I’m not really very bright.”

I looked through their selection for the camera that would best meet my needs — in other words, the cheapest one.

I saw a couple that were just like my old camera, but they were priced about $400 higher than the $102 I had in my bank account.

“No, that would just attract more thieves,” I said to myself.

I found one that was priced $69. I told the girl at the check-out counter, and she went back to the camera display to see if the store had any other than the display model.

They didn’t.

She asked if I would be interested in another camera, priced the same, but with a different brand name. It was Nikon.

I’m not smart (we already went over that part, didn’t we?), but I know that Nikon makes good cameras, even their cheap ones. I told her I would accept that one.

As it turned out, I even had enough left over in my account to purchase a memory card to store the digital images on.

I returned to the hospital, took pictures of the ceremony, and remembered that “tree-lighting” ceremonies generally happen after dark. The pictures didn’t come out too good, but a year earlier with the $500 camera the photos had not come out very good either. I took a few photos inside, where the lighting was better, and left to enjoy a quiet Yule-tide evening.