By Mordechai Schmutter

I find that I’ve written a lot of dumb criminal articles over the years. (Meaning that the criminals were dumb. The articles weren’t great either.)

If that’s what this article was, I would, for example, write about the story of the guy in Virginia who dressed as a cow, walked into a supermarket on all fours, and stole 26 gallons of milk. Or I would write about the people in London who stole several thousand bees from a research facility (assuming they did it on purpose).

So I’d present these stories, and we’d all laugh, because seriously, there have got to be better things to steal than milk or a horde of bees. But if any of the criminals who steal ridiculous things are reading these articles (such as whoever has been stealing your copy of the paper), they have got to be offended by now. We judge these people because we think their job is so easy, but it’s not. Everything worth stealing is pretty heavily guarded. You can’t just, for example, walk into a bank and steal money.

Take the story of a man who walked into a bank in suburban New York and handed the teller a note that said, “Money in bag.” The teller passed the note back and said, “No.” Then she activated the alarm and turned away from the window, and the guy ran out the door in embarrassment.

This wasn’t a one-time thing. The same exact thing happened in Minnesota about two years ago, and then again in Florida, last year.

I’m just saying that if you think it’s easy to just rob a bank, it’s not. There’s some pretty heavy security. Sometimes the teller says no. Flat out. What are you supposed to do?

And it’s not easy to rob a store either, thanks to the obesity problem. In Indiana, a guy wanted to rob a grocery, but he also wanted to avoid the security cameras that were pointed at the door. So he climbed onto the roof, removed an exhaust fan from the vent, and climbed in. Seems easy, right? Those vents always look big enough to crawl through, and not at all like they’re mainly used to move really hot air around the store. Anyway, he got stuck. He screamed for help, but unluckily for him, no one was around to hear him, because, obviously, it was the middle of the night.

Eventually, the store employees came in to work and noticed a pair of legs hanging down from the ceiling, and they were nice enough to help him out. Four men got up on the roof with a rope and tried pulling him up, but he was really good and stuck. So then someone came up with the idea of taking a bottle of vegetable oil off the store shelf and pouring it down the vent on top of the guy. Once they did that, they were able to pull him right out, and he didn’t even try to run away, because he was covered in oil and standing on a roof with four other people.

So even stealing from a store isn’t that easy, because you could get caught. In a vent.

Nor is it easy to steal from a restaurant. Last month in Pittsburgh, a man tried to break into a drive-through coffee shop while it was open. Yes, there are drive-through coffee shops. In other words, every morning, they have tired people driving around their lot with hot cups of coffee. Anyway, the man drove a minivan up to the window and climbed from the driver’s seat right into the shop, holding a tire iron.

“You can’t come in through the front door?”

“No. There’s a security camera. I’m coming in this way. Here, hold my tire iron.”

The workers, who were standing right there, weren’t sure what was happening at first. (“Whoa! That’s more than enough coffee for you, sir!”) So they threw some towels at him. When that didn’t slow him down, one of the workers hit him over the head with a glass coffee pot, followed by a pitcher of milk. The guy basically fell back out into his van, with a whole line of angry drivers who hadn’t had their coffee yet honking behind him. (“Can you believe this? I always get stuck behind the guy who climbs in!”)

So there’s really nothing good to steal. That’s why people are stealing things like bridges. A little while back, police were baffled by the disappearance of a 50-by-20-foot steel bridge in western Pennsylvania. Who would steal a bridge, right?

It was worth $100,000!

OK, but not unless you can sell it. Who’s gonna buy a bridge?

Random Guy on the Street: “I have something to sell you. Very fancy, very valuable.”

You: “What is it?”

Random Guy: “It’s a bridge.”

You: “Oh. No thanks.”

So police are baffled: “Wait. Where’s the bridge? It was here a minute ago.”

According to investigators, the bridge was taken down sometime between September 27 and October 5, 2011. It must not have been a commonly used bridge. You can’t steal the George Washington Bridge like that, and if you did, police would have a much smaller window than “sometime between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”

The strange thing is that it’s actually easier to steal a bridge than to steal what you’d think people would be stealing, which is a car. People lock cars. The only place you can go where people don’t lock cars is the mechanic. And that’s where someone stole one from in California. A man broke into an auto-body shop and drove off with a car. But he didn’t get very far, because the steering wheel came off in his hands. Also, the car had no windshield. And the seats were not attached.

“Hey!” you’re saying. “I once had a car like that!”

I am a little worried, though, about the customer who didn’t bring his car to the mechanic until the seats were loose, the windshield was gone, and the steering wheel came off. He was driving around with two of these problems for a while, going, “If anything else falls off, I’m taking this car to the mechanic. It’s bad enough the doors don’t lock.”

So thieves have no choice but to steal weird things. Like when, in Iowa, someone stole a truck containing $50,000 worth of margarine. Police said they found the truck 500 miles away, but the margarine was gone. That reminds me of the joke about the guy who puts an ad in the paper. “If you lost $700 in cash with a red rubber band around it, please call. I found the rubber band.”

It’s not a great joke, but it’s funnier with cops and margarine. They found the truck. Obviously, the thief didn’t want the truck. He wanted the margarine, and he needed a way to transport it. What are you gonna do with a truck?

Police say this was actually the latest in a series of trailer thefts, which included a truck of beef jerky, a truck of dog food, and a truck of dental hygiene products. Police are on the lookout for a dog with really good breath.

OK, so like we said, it’s hard to steal things. You steal a truck; you don’t know what’s in it. Then you stop somewhere and open it. “Oh. It’s margarine.”

But what are you going to do with that much margarine? Fill a pool? Maybe he’s selling it to other burglars to carry along with them in case they get stuck in a vent. Or maybe he’s greasing something really big. Like he’s trying to move a bridge from one place to another, and it’s too big for the truck.

Or maybe we’re reading too much into this. Think about it. People are stealing milk, coffee, bees, margarine . . . Maybe they’re baking something. v

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of three books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to


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