Plausible Explanation for Strange Underwear Beneath the Bed
by Tom Howell
A stupid new fusion I’ve been hearing is the word “crimertainment”, which is so fresh that it only shows up once on the international network—and even then it doesn’t mean what it means—but this word is nonetheless abuzz, you know, like, on the street.
But not on that sketchy street where the other crime words zip around. I mean on the other street. The leafy one with the pointy-turreted houses and the skylight over the loft room where the baby-sitter lives.
It’s this: rich educated people are breaking into houses owned by other rich educated people in order to steal things for fun.
I’m working on a radio doc about this (documentary, not doctor) but why not blab about it here first: My local Toronto police detachment has its own ‘crimertainment’ unit (the real name is less interesting) to deal with the illegal activities of ironic yuppies who get a kick out of planning and enacting break-ins across the neighbourhood. (Maybe it’s not a real unit. The investigative effort is part of the sergeant I interviewed, who does other stuff too, so, assuming that sergeants are not divisible into units, I should probably call it a crimertainment ‘limb’ or ‘fraction’.)
An event three weeks ago turned me on the trend. A neighbour of mine came home to find his fridge empty—the soymilk tetra-pak, the jar of pickled onions, the beer, the half-turned butter, the wilting lettuce, all gone. (Meanwhile, his laptop sat untouched on the dining room table where he had left it.) The garden doors showed signs of having been forced open.
The (partial) sergeant tells me that this sort of thing often occurs in neighbourhoods populated by young rich people. Only a few cases ever reach the courts, but police arrest the thieves fairly regularly. One arrestee was a Bay Street lawyer earning nearly half a million dollars a year. He specialized in cleaning out the contents of his neighbour’s fridges. He would use his haul to improvise gourmet dinners for his wife, who never found out about her husband’s hobby until the police caught him. Apparently corporate lawyers must not be as busy as they pretend to be.
Other crimertainment sprees in my part of town featured the phenomenon of ‘negative theft’, in which the criminals plant diverse items in the victim’s home. The gifts have included dirty underwear (placed beneath the bed), pornographic materials, and, in one case, a large gift hamper of organic deodorants and soaps in the bathroom (those responsible for the latter B&E turned out to be two of the victim/recipient’s co-workers).
For four months last year, a local crimertainment gang stole beat-up trucks and cars by breaking into their owners’ houses to pinch the keys. The vehicles would be parked in the garages of wealthy neighbours, with the keys in the ignition.
I found the rich burglars endearing until the sergeant told me that part of the story. They steal someone's car but never go to jail because we all understand they were being sarcastic? Lock those bastards up.
Or actually, no. Perhaps ironic crimes deserve ironic punishments. For instance, we are far too tolerant and liberal a society to actually approve of public whippings and stonings, so we can safely subject an accused yuppie to such treatment without expecting to be called on it. After all, we can't have meant it literally.
A violent, tasteless punishment for those engaging in crimertainment would also satisfy another requirement of the justice system—that it help the criminal as well as the victim. Clearly, urban capitalists are so rapacious towards anything vital and meaningful in society that they cannot leave even petty thefts to the underclasses. That's the untold suffering of the upwardly mobile; they fit the economic machine so seamlessly that they may as well be considered part of the machine itself, rather than independent, chaotic human beings. Crimertainment must be these people's desperate protest against society's cowtowing acceptance of them. Only by a public demonstration of scorn and contempt can we fully restore the yuppie's sense of self-worth, the kind of worth that comes from being misunderstood.
In short, let's decide it's our duty not to get the joke.
Tom Howell is in brodcasting.