Manhunt in SouthPark
Searching for justice in the case of the missing TV
A few months back, I wanted to have some people over to watch football. But then I remembered I couldn’t because someone broke into my house and stole my television.
The police were already there when I arrived. Your television must have been right there, they deduced, pointing at the only spot on the TV stand without dust. They took notes and shrugged their shoulders and said they’d do their best. They investigate about 6,000 break-ins a year in Charlotte, so it’s not like this one’s going straight to the chief’s desk.
I thought the proper reaction to this would be a thirst for vengeance. I would wander the mean streets of SouthPark at night, the remote control tucked discreetly into my jeans, ready to turn my neighborhood into the set of a Sam Peckinpah movie. I’d stagger out of the darkness and into a pawn shop, smelling of Thunderbird and Marlboros. I’d pull out the remote and aim it at a TV, squeezing the power button. Nothing. Again, at another TV. Still nothing. My eye would twitch. I’d grab the owner by the collar. “Where is it?” I’d bellow. “I WAS GOING TO WATCH THE BROWNS GAME.”
Turns out, it is exceedingly hard to carry out sweet vengeance, especially after you file an insurance claim. I asked the guy at Nationwide what I should do about my TV. He drily told me to go out and buy another one and save the receipt.
Before someone stole my television, I’d thought about what I’d do if it ever happened. I’d be furious. I would stop at nothing until I had it back. I’d call the police day and night, asking about leads, asking if I could pick any possible perps out of a lineup, asking if they had a hit on the DNA. The sense of violation would eat at me. The sense of injustice would drive me.
After it happened, people told me I should feel all of those things. I didn’t. The thieves had pried open a door. The alarm had scared them off after just a few minutes. They were fairly tidy, as burglars go. It was as if the television had merely sprouted legs and walked off.
This should be more dramatic, I thought. I envisioned a plot in which I would infiltrate the burglary ring, befriend the ringleader, earn his trust by breaking into a few houses, and then sucker him in with an elaborate scheme in which I’d be given access to the crooks’ illicit warehouse, which contained my television, and then the cops would roll up with lights blazing, and I’d turn my head toward the crime boss and sneer, “Well, well, well. It looks like you’ll have plenty of time to watch the tube. BEHIND BARS.”
That, of course, did not happen. I don’t know any burglars. So I checked Craigslist. I looked under furniture. I scoured the yard. There were no clues. Real life, it seems, is a bit of a letdown.
I moved on. I bought a new television. It’s practically the same as the old one. I can watch plenty of football. I can watch my detective movies. And I can dream of a world where I’m a bit more vengeful than I really am.