Raised on robbery / Criado por robo

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

I was listening to Joni Mitchell on my walk yesterday and whenever the song “Raised on Robbery” comes up, I think of my childhood. I grew up in a solid middle-class family. These days, we would be barely scraping by. My parents were honest, hard-working people. Well, honest may be a stretch. My father would never cheat on his taxes or lie on a legal document. When a couple of relatives filed a (large) false insurance claim for a theft from the trunk of their car, my father was appalled. So was my mother. However, when Dale and I were young, my parents would take us to the local drive-in movie — and avoid paying for us. When we very small, we hid on the floor of the backseat. When Dale got too tall for that, I hid under her legs and she squatted down to look smaller and younger. Then we both had to “look small.”

In later years, my mother would go to those multiplex movie theatres with a friend. After they saw what they were there for, they would walk into other movies already in progress. “Who would question two little old ladies?” she explained. She didn’t know exactly what was going on, but “it was free. And we don’t cost them anything.”

My father regularly brought things home he got for free from his staff. My first year out of university, I got a brand-new Henry Grethel suit. As always, I was told “it fell off a truck.”

I don’t know what your parents were like, but I have a feeling you can relate to helping yourselves to hotel supplies (San Geraldo cannot). Many people take the soaps and shampoos. Dale had a cabinet filled with them. But my mother took towels, ash trays, serving pieces, trash cans (click here for that story). She had a toothpick holder in the kitchen cabinet she stole from a diner. There was a charming red and white ashtray imprinted with her name “Mimi’s.” She took that from a café (named Mimi’s). “How could I not?” she asked, “It goes perfectly in my kitchen.” The linen closet was filled with towels stamped (or embroidered) with hotel names.

Most of her sisters were exactly like her. She and my aunt Sylvie used to visit us every year. When we were renovating our bed & breakfast–style hotel, they came to Palm Springs and we put them up in the motel across the street. One day at lunch, my aunt Sylvie said, “The towels in our room are gorgeous. So soft and plush. I told your mother we should each take one and put it in our suitcase.” I grabbed her wrist, gently, across the table and begged, “Please don’t.” My mother, sitting next to me, gave me one of her judgmental, haughty looks and questioned, “Why not?!?” I said, “Well,” I began, “because we know the owners.” I took a breath. “They gave us a deal on your room.” I took another breath, “And it’s stealing!” “Well!” was my mother’s indignant response. They didn’t take the towels.

Ayer estaba escuchando a Joni Mitchell en mi caminata y cada vez que suena la canción “Raised on Robbery”, pienso en mi infancia. Crecí en una familia sólida de clase media. Hoy en día, apenas podríamos sobrevivir. Mis padres eran personas honestas y trabajadoras. Bueno, ser honesto puede ser exagerado. Mi padre nunca haría trampa en sus impuestos ni mentiría en un documento legal. Cuando un par de familiares presentaron una (gran) reclamación de seguro falsa por un robo en el maletero de su coche, mi padre quedó horrorizado. Mi madre también. Sin embargo, cuando Dale y yo éramos jóvenes, mis padres nos llevaban al autocine local y evitaban pagar por nosotros. Cuando éramos muy pequeños, nos escondíamos en el suelo del asiento trasero. Cuando Dale creció demasiado para eso, me escondí debajo de sus piernas y ella se agachó para parecer más pequeña y más joven. Entonces ambos tuvimos que “parecer pequeños”.

En años posteriores, mi madre iba a esos multicines con una amiga. Después de ver para qué estaban allí, se topaban con otras películas que ya estaban en progreso. “¿Quién interrogaría a dos viejecitas?” Ella explicó. No sabía exactamente qué estaba pasando, pero “fue gratis. Y no les costamos nada”.

Mi padre traía regularmente a casa cosas que recibía gratis de su personal. En mi primer año fuera de la universidad, recibí un traje nuevo de Henry Grethel. Como siempre me dijeron “se cayó de un camión”.

No sé cómo eran sus padres, pero tengo la sensación de que pueden identificarse con ayudarse con los suministros del hotel (San Geraldo no puede). Mucha gente toma jabones y champús. Dale tenía un armario lleno de ellos. Pero mi madre se llevó toallas, ceniceros, piezas para servir, botes de basura (haz clic aquí para ver esa historia). Tenía un palillero en el mueble de la cocina que robó en un restaurante. Había un encantador cenicero rojo y blanco con su nombre impreso “Mimi’s”. Lo tomó de un café (llamado Mimi’s). “¿Cómo no iba a hacerlo?” preguntó: “Combina perfectamente en mi cocina”. El armario de la ropa blanca estaba lleno de toallas estampadas (o bordadas) con los nombres de los hoteles.

La mayoría de sus hermanas eran exactamente como ella. Ella y mi tía Sylvie solían visitarnos todos los años. Cuando estábamos renovando nuestro hotel estilo bed & breakfast, vinieron a Palm Springs y los hospedamos en el motel al otro lado de la calle. Un día, durante el almuerzo, mi tía Sylvie dijo: “Las toallas de nuestra habitación son preciosas. Tan suave y lujoso. Le dije a tu madre que cada uno debería tomar uno y ponerlo en nuestra maleta”. Agarré su muñeca, suavemente, a través de la mesa y le rogué: “Por favor, no lo hagas”. Mi madre, sentada a mi lado, me dirigió una de sus miradas altivas y críticas y me preguntó: “¿¡¿Por qué no?!?” Dije: “Bueno”, comencé, “porque conocemos a los dueños”. Respiré. “Nos hicieron un trato por tu habitación”. Respiré de nuevo, “¡Y está robando!” “¡Bueno!” fue la respuesta indignada de mi madre. No se llevaron las toallas.

• Dudo impersonates (im-cat-ates?) an orca.
• Dudo se hace pasar por una orca.
• The lifeguards use this to haul around a jetski. I wonder if they have to reseed the grass every year.
• Los socorristas lo utilizan para arrastrar una moto de agua. Me pregunto si tendrán que resembrar el césped todos los años.
• A view yesterday afternoon. The ship is much further away than it seems. I once bought a friend a T-shirt that read: “Items under this shirt are much larger than they appear.” I don’t think she found it funny.
• Una vista ayer por la tarde. El barco está mucho más lejos de lo que parece. Una vez le compré a un amigo una camiseta que decía: “Los artículos debajo de esta camiseta son mucho más grandes de lo que parecen”. No creo que a ella le resultara gracioso.

Click the thumbnails and the images will be much larger than they appear.
Haz clic en las miniaturas y las imágenes serán mucho más grandes de lo que parecen.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

32 thoughts on “Raised on robbery / Criado por robo”

  1. When we came last time to Torremolinos, as you know we stayed at the Hotel Riu. Their towels were brown and not very pleasant. There were a lot of comments about the towels in the comments section. But it made sense to us – ‘no-one’ would ever steal them.

    1. Karen:
      Brown bath towels. Comedian Sarah Millican has a bit that talks about that. I won’t repeat it here.

    1. David:
      Only a couple? I forgot that Dale had dozens. She inherited those habits from my mother.

  2. I may be the odd man out but I have only ever taken soaps and shampoos from a hotel. The thought to take towels or robes or anything else never crossed my mind.
    Then again, after having a dinner at Smith & Woellensky on Miami Beach many years back, a friend visiting from California and I, order B&B at the bar after dinner, and took the glasses. To be fair they were enormous snifters and I loved them and we didn’t hide them, we simply walked out, sipping our drinks and then got in the car.
    Carlos was appalled.

    1. Bob:
      SG and I would be with Carlos. My mother would have had plastic bags neatly folded in her purse for you to protect them.

  3. Growing up the only time we stayed in a motel was on a trip through upstate New York (Gaslight Village, North Pole, Storyland, etc.) to Quebec but I don’t remember any amenities being brought home…actually I don’t remember any of the motels we stayed in. Now, in the sleazy motels we might stay in, (sometimes when traveling, you don’t know where you’ll be for the night) we are lucky to have enough shampoo and soap for one shower. They put three tissues in the kleenex box and maybe a couple of coffee packets. When we’ve stayed in decent hotels we are the type of guests who tidy up the room and make the bed every morning so the housekeeping staff won’t think we’re slobs. Next week we will be treating ourselves to two weeks at a very nice Air B&B in California so I can get my annual “Ocean Fix”. I will try to not obsess over spending money on such luxuries as eating at restaurants – something we rarely do at home. You may recall my “Gold Standard” for restaurants is/was the classic “Mama Leone’s” in New York where a full dinner was $5. (https://reluctantrebel.blogspot.com/2012/03/mamma-leone-my-gold-standard.html). Now, alas, you can’t get a cup of coffee for $5. A few little bottles of shampoo isn’t going to make a difference one way or another.

  4. I’ve never been a big one for nicking stuff from hotels. bars or restaurants – unlike this pair of pond-scum – we’ve often found that if you ask nicely, you can get free stuff anyhow. We got a few nice glasses, ashtrays and similar by sweet-talk alone. Good on your Mum and Auntie for pulling that “sweet little old lady wandering where they want” business at the cinema, however! Jx

  5. My parents were very honest, hardworking people too. My father was a carpenter and some lowlife stole all his tools from a job site when I was a little girl. He was so angry and Mom struggled to understand why someone would steal tools from a man who could least afford to replace them. Dad shouted, “Because there are people in this world who would steal Christ off the cross and go back for the spikes!” Neither of my parents were religious, so that answer has always stayed with me!

  6. I always thought the toiletries in a hotel bathroom were meant to be taken. They certainly can’t be re-used by the next person.

    1. Kelly:
      If they’ve been open or unwrapped, sure, but if they’re untouched, they can be used for the next guests. However, I have no trouble taking those items. They’re intended for me. It’s the garbage cans and towels that make me just a little uncomfortable. And my aunt Sylvie really embarrassed me when she tipped the entire ceramic holder of SweetNLow into her purse.

  7. Oh.. whose parents didn’t make them get in the back seat or trunk to go to the drive-in theater? My parents always made me get in the trunk with fall down seats. It was even better if they remembered to let me out after a few days.

    1. Mistress Borghese:
      SG’s parents never did anything like that. The most honest couple I ever met, which is not to say they didn’t lock the kids in the trunk just for the hell of it (no, they didn’t).

    1. Kirk:
      Joni is such a brilliant poet. I love storytellers.
      Dudo’s driving me crazy right now for second treats 2 hours early. I have other names for him.

  8. The only Joni Mitchell song I’ve ever heard is the one used in Love Actually. Will have to look up Robbery. Instead of using the hotel lotions/creams/shampoos, I used to bring them back for the seniors. Last few times, I just left them unused and I myself am way too afraid of the Karmic consequences to play fast and loose by taking something without paying for it. (Shirley)

    1. Shirley:
      Joni Mitchell, to me, is a brilliant poet. I think you’d enjoy many of her songs. Check her out on YouTube. “People’s Parties” is another unusual one that I love.

  9. My Dad was the caretaker at a police station. Over the years, he helped himself to some tea towels (beautiful Irish linen, better than you could buy in the shops!) I have two of them still. We often laugh about someone daring to steal from a police station.

    1. Anon:
      In the early years, my father was a lineman and then an installer for AT&T. He worked at the set-up of the NY World’s Fair in the ’60s and brought me an amazing bronze disc with the Unisphere on once side and the seal of the State of NY on the other. It was kept in a custom-made white leather box. He said it was a gift from an executive. I didn’t realize until years later that he had helped himself. When SG and I still lived in Boston, our apartment was broken into. The bronze was stolen. Karma.

  10. We didn’t stay in many hotels–mostly we visited with relatives and stayed in their homes. One time we had a stack of our cousin Pam’s comic books we were reading. We were aghast when we realized we hadn’t returned them and they were in our car on the way back to Kansas. We told Mother. She said not to worry about it. I realize now they wouldn’t have cost more than a few dollars. I don’t know if Pam ever knew where her comic books went. Anyway, we weren’t big on theft.


    1. janiejunebug:
      We never once stayed with relatives, except when my parents had big plans. Then Dale and I went to our grandparents or once or twice to an aunt and uncle. There was never anything good to steal.

  11. There were 5 kids in our family, and we were poor as dirt, so my Parents hid us in the trunk to go to drive-ins, and occasionally under blankets in the back seat of the car. My Mom would also take office supplies home for us for school. Was it stealing or survival? or both? I am honest to a fault. If it is not obviously there for my free consumption, I don’t take it.

    1. Sassybear,
      Stealing for survival. More understandable than doing it simply because you can. And she wasn’t embezzling. You sound like SG.

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