The Tribburglar

Cartoon of Burglar

I love my Chicago Tribune.  My favorite columnists and writers  include Mary Schmich, Eric Zorn, John Kass, Clarence Page, Amy Dickinson, and Michael Phillips.  I enjoy the comics, the Saturday political cartoons, and the crossword puzzle (mostly on Mondays though, when I can actually finish it).


I look forward every morning to picking up my daily paper, scanning it quickly when there’s no time to read it (usually during the work week), and then anticipating reading it in the evening upon my return home.

So, when somebody swipes my Trib, I’m not pleased.  I’m incredulous.  Indignant.  Incensed.

A few weeks ago, I was walking out of my building on my way to work, prepared to fetch the paper from the front walkway.  It was shortly after 7am.  Nothing there.  I looked all around to see it the carrier had made an errant toss into the bushes or the groundcover.  I walked several steps in both directions on the sidewalk.  Nothing.  Perhaps it was on its way.  Regardless, I couldn’t wait, and headed to work, disappointed.

Upon my return home later that day, there was still no paper.  I did not call to report it missing, figuring this was a single-time glitch in service.

The paper arrived per the usual early-morning delivery time for the next several days.

Then it happened again.  I walked out the front door of the building to find nothing there.  This time couldn’t have been an error in service, as no paper was to be found at the end of the day.  Someone was taking my paper.  A dawn opportunist, I thought, too cheap to buy his or her own copy.  I called the Tribune, and requested the paper be placed inside the front door of the building rather than the walkway.

The next morning, to my delight, the paper was lying right inside the front door.  I swiped it up smugly,  trotting to my car with my paper pressed under my arm.  Problem solved.

On my way out the next morning,  there was nothing there.  You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought.  This individual has the gall to actually walk through the door to take someone’s newspaper?  Talk about cheap.  Talk about gonads.

This was war.  All day long at work, I envisioned the diverse ways I would confront the Paper Thief who was robbing me of my beloved Mary Schmich and Amy Dickinson columns, my moderate crossword success, my grudging appreciation for John Kass.   This person had thrown me into Tribune withdrawal .

Yes, I admit that I was convinced the thief was a dude.  I readily admit to my immediate assumptions and gender stereotyping.  The latent investigator in me theorized he walking to the train, snatching a free read on the way to work.

I began galumphing my way downstairs each morning right before 6am, to beat the thief to the punch, grabbing my Trib in the pre-dawn blackness.   This upended my tightly choreographed morning routine, but desperate situations call for desperate measures.

Now back to my confrontation visions.

I would post a guilt-inducing sign on the front door of the building, appealing to the thief’s moral code.

Video Surveillance Sign

Silly me!  What an oxymoron.

I would transform myself into a taut and sexy ninja, crouching on the ledge above the front door, pouncing on the perpetrator the very second his hand was made contact with the door handle.    I would triple-flip through the air, screeching and swooping, kicking his posterior so hard he would land across the street in front of the antique shop, cartoon birds circling  above his head.

Female Ninja

Or I would string an invisible electric shock barrier across the walkway, timed for the arrival of the Dawn Opportunist.  The effects would make it the last time he ever considered taking my Trib again.

Skeleton in Electric Shock

In truth, though, I came up with a different, somewhat more practical solution.  I called the Tribune customer service line again, explaining my predicament, requesting that the carrier hide the paper in a special spot in the building foyer.

The next morning, the paper was lying right inside the door.  Hmm.  This was simply incidental success.  The problem was not yet solved.

I would have to forgo modesty and pride to make this work.

The following morning, I threw a jacket on over my pajamas and walked downstairs to the foyer to await the arrival of the paper carrier.  Alternately sitting in the chair and leaning against the wall, I assumed my best nonchalant stance, as if to convey that this was a typical morning routine.  My nonchalant stance usually involves pacing, pursing my lips, and covering my mouth  with my hand.

I had determined that the paper arrived somewhere between 5:45 and 6am, and that the Tribburglar was showing up anywhere between 6 and 7am.

It was difficult to see outside, given the brightness of the interior lights and the darkness of the early morning.

The moments ticked by.  I was feeling a little exposed standing there in my pajamas.   Patience, like brevity, has never been my strong suit.  This was taking forever.

Then I heard the rumble of a car engine, and a white van pulled up in front of the building.  A woman jumped out and came to the front door, a Chicago Tribune in her hand, in its usual clear plastic bag.  I greeted her and explained my situation.  She was very concerned about the theft, and readily agreed to place the paper in the special hiding spot I showed her.  I thanked her and walked back upstairs, confident that this plan would work.

The next morning, just before 6am, I ran downstairs, opening the door to the foyer.  There, in its newly-established hiding place, lay my Chicago Tribune, like a little paper treasure.  Rays of gold light  shot from the plastic bag.  A chorus of angels sang.  I am not kidding.

Rubbing my eyes, I skipped through the door like a little girl at her birthday party, holding my Tribune above my head with both hands, humming and twirling and prancing on my tippy toes.

Ha ha!  I won!  Take that, Tribburglar!  You’ll never steal my paper again!

Late that evening, I taped a thank-you note with a tip in the hiding spot for the paper carrier.  She did not take it.  She may not have seen it in her rush to meet her delivery deadlines, or perhaps she simply chose not to take it.

My paper has arrived it its special hiding place every day since then.  I am able to avoid the early morning race down the steps, picking it up on my way out the door to work each morning.

I thank my Tribune paper carrier for partnering with me to  solve my the early morning thievery.  Her friendly willingness to take an extra moment made all the difference.  Those little kindnesses are, in truth, rather grand in the scheme of things.

The realist in me, though, knows that it’s over – for now.   I shall continue to monitor the daily arrival of my Tribune.

And should the Tribburglar get any ideas again, I must reveal that there is one rather fetching Ninja costume hanging in my closet.


OK, Dear Readers – it’s your turn!  What theft experiences have you had that got on your last nerve?  Share!

6 thoughts on “The Tribburglar”

  1. I resent your assumption that the Tribburglar is male and think you should post a public apology for doing so. Otherwise I found it a cute
    article and very fun to read. If I was the thief I would accept your challenge and hide in the bushes in an attempt to identify your secret
    location. Maybe take a telephoto of you in your jammies to post on my own blog. With all due respect to Mary and Eric, it would be more fun to play the game than read the paper…

  2. I should have known better than to encourage you to read this essay, Amazzing Bob. May I remind you that I admitted therein my gender bias. No apology forthcoming.

  3. I think the unspoken message of your post is that your’re still reading the paper version of the Trib – not the electronic version. If you were reading on your electronic device of choice, no one could steal it from you, which is a benefit to the online world of journalism that I think no one has really focused on.

    I do not hold myself up as very plugged in: I do the same thing with the Miami Herald and the New York Times: every day – drop son at school, stop at the nearby S-bucks, read paper version of newspapers, get gray stuff on my fingertips, drink coffee for 20 minutes, then on to work.

    So, like you, I am vulnerable to theft as well though I have not experienced it yet.

    I can’t really say why I am still committed to paper when it comes to daily news; I have a fear that somehow there is an important story printed in the old paper technology that will be missing in the online version and I will never know it. I admit that this is absurd but haven’t been able to overcome it. I read a ton of other stuff online, in fact almost everything else that I follow – but not newspapers. Why can’t I release my self into the online world when it comes to that?

  4. Mike, I do indeed love my print version of the paper. I use the print version of my college catalog when advising students. I only have a few literary selections on my Nook and Ipad. I still use the old green grade book for my classes too (don’t tell anyone), but I am about to finally learn the grade post feature in my on line course shell (students only receive print versions of the syllabus and outline on the first day of class). I think I still love the feel of the paper in my hands … and I enjoy that crossword puzzle. And I complete it in ink — how’s that for confidence?!

    I have the same goofy concern that you mentioned — possibly missing an article if I read the on line version of the paper.

    Today in class the computer was laboriously slow, and the IT folks had to come up to provide assistance (ongoing problem). I probably could have had some notes up on the white board in the time it took for the computer to reboot and for me to upload my Power Point. Technology is not always more efficient.

    I shall cross the Bridge of On Line News someday. For now, I remain a stubborn Tech Immigrant.

  5. Is it Luddite to say that with every step forward in technology some wonderful things are lost? I love my iPad but the feeling of the paperback in your hand and the smell of the paper are pretty wonderful too – and everyone gets to see what you are reading (don’t carry the Danielle Steele…). The way the paper flips in those nicely made Penguin paperbacks is OK isn’t it? Also, you have to keep cleaning the fingerprints off of the iPad screen all of the time…

  6. Amen. I think it takes me twice as long to set up each class session, now, too, as I’d noted previously: boot up computer, set up Power Point, upload documents and any applicable videos. Goodness. I look forward to picking up my copy of Philip Pullman’s Once Upon a Time in the North.

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