Stop! Thief!

A funny thing happened yesterday. I was walking to the retail park next to Next when I was knocked down by a running man in a baseball cap and shirts over his arm.
“Fucking hell mate!” I exclaimed as I struggled to my feet. Next thing I saw two women with walkie-talkies in warm pursuit.
“Did you see that man?” one asked.
“See him?” I said, “He almost flattened me!”
“Why didn’t you stop him?” the other one said.
“Are you taking the piss?” I said.
“But did you see where he ran?”
“That way,” I said, pointing with my injured foot.
As the two women ran off with their walkie-talkies I then realised they were staff from the shop the man had looted.
“I’m fine, thanks for asking,” I said to myself, disgruntled, and brushed myself down. As I limped on my way, the incident bore into my mind. I became irked that a few shirts costing buttons in the scheme of things were more important than me. And I wondered why were the women so annoyed that I’d done nothing to stop the thief? Should I have done? Did I neglect my civic duties by failing to make a citizen’s arrest? Was I a bit of a coward? And if I had seen the man coming, would I have stopped him? Then no, I thought, because the man was probably homeless and his story was possibly more tragic than mine, and the cost of a few shirts he badly needed to score, or even perish the thought to wear, would cost him hundreds of pounds but cost the company pennies because they got made in a sweat shop in India. And if I’d intervened, what if he’d pulled a knife on me? What if I’d misread the situation and the shirts were legit and the man in the cap was just keen on running with shirts over his arm (people do have the strangest hobbies) and accused me of assault for wrestling him to the floor? No, I mused, that story was unlikely. Nevertheless, I finally decided with equanimity that I would not have stopped the thief. Because he was probably homeless, like the many homeless people fighting their fight on the beaches of British towns. And as I’ve been homeless myself I knew exactly where he was coming from… if not where he was going to.

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