The wheelchair observation

At the bus station, an old bum rolled himself around in a wheelchair, and as he rolled past me and onward, I could see the lettering on the back of his chair. It said, ALASKA AIRLINES, GATE ONLY, DO NOT REMOVE FROM TERMINAL.

It's a courtesy wheelchair, provided by the airline for weary travelers — very helpful, when grandpa is frail and can't walk too far, and the airport concourse seems six miles long. Like the lettering says, though, a courtesy wheelchair is not supposed to be wheeled out of the airport.

Nobody called a cop. There was already a policeman at the transfer center (which is unusual), and he didn't care either.

You already know why: An able-bodied teenager might enjoy tootling around in a wheelchair for a few minutes and a few laughs, but this was no teenager. And nobody chooses to ride in a wheelchair all over the city unless they truly need a wheelchair. That old man at the bus station needed his wheelchair.

For poor people, obtaining a wheelchair through 'proper means' requires money they don't have, or a great deal of effort against a slow bureaucracy they might be unable to defeat.

That's a problem you can only imagine, until you need a wheelchair and don't have one. The solution is so obvious it seems silly saying it out loud:

If you need a wheelchair and don't have one, steal one — and especially steal one from a giant corporation. The cost of a wheelchair will do no damage to Alaska Airlines' bottom line. 

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The wheelchair observation leaves me on the verge of saying more, so why not say it? 

Ordinary morality does not apply, when you're dealing with a giant corporation.


Take Kroger, for example. 

If you walk into a Kroger-owned grocery store, load your shopping cart until it's entirely full, and walk out without paying — and if you do that twice weekly all year, eating for free and never purchasing even a pack of gum — your actions will have no effect on Kroger's profits. Zilch.

If an entire Kroger grocery store and everything in it burns to the ground, it would have such a slight impact on the company's bottom line, it rounds off to zero. That's how unfathomably huge The Kroger Company is.

In revenue, it's the 21st largest corporation in America, and worth about $41½ billion. That's a few million less than Phillips 66, a few million more than Kimberly-Clark.

I have no personal grudge against Kroger. I shop there — and pay, because I don't want to be arrested. But Kroger is not part of the same morality or society as you and I.

You're not even a gnat to them. 'Shoplifting' at Kroger is immeasurably petty. It's not even jaywalking. It's more like pocketing one single grain of rice, from a train carrying fifty tons of it.

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We live by some commonly-accepted rules, and should. It's what makes society work, and "Thou shalt not steal" is a cornerstone of that. If you steal from a person, or from a person's business, you're scum. 

Corporations don't obey such simple rules. They break laws constantly, usually get away with it, or very rarely a small fine is negotiated, and even if the fine is millions of dollars, to a giant corporation, that's not much.

All giant corporations contaminate the earth, poison the air, treat customers poorly, lay workers off on a whim, and give millions of dollars to political campaigns and candidates that call for more of the same. They're cannibals of society, never part of it.

The ordinary rules don't apply to corporations, and we're suckers if we play by ordinary rules.

That's why 'shoplifting' from Kroger, 'robbing' a Bank of America branch, 'stealing' cable TV from Xfinity, 'pirating' movies or music from Columbia or Universal, or yeah, riding a wheelchair 'stolen' from Alaska Airlines, is not morally wrong. Quite the opposite, it's the right thing to do.



  1. Claude Propeller-head ReignsDecember 28, 2022 at 4:21 PM

    It's astonishing how much worse this has gotten since you wrote this sort of thing in PL 25 years ago. Anyone with eyes and a nervous system back then could see where it was headed, surely, but we seemed to have turned a corner and fallen off a cliff, and that "25 years ago" might as well have been 125 years ago.

    Never have individual human lives meant less, or been more powerless. I'm not idealizing that time, but there at least existed a sort of naïve hope, the possibility of change or upward mobility, even if only in small communities. I don't give much credit to 9/11 as a world-scale event - that sort of thing happens all the time in the Middle East or Africa - but it really seems to have done a number on the US psyche.

    Dude, more stories about shaving ass or eating cat food, please, those were the GOOD TIMES.

    1. Most of the giant conglomerates of Then are still with us Now, plus a few new ones that have exploited technology to find new avenues of evil. And yet, yeah, even though Then was a terrible time, it still feels better than Now.

      Except for the internet and easily pirated movies. That's definitely an improvement.

      There was only one ass-shaving, but Izzy's big sack of dry Purina has intrigued me. The label says, "with Real Salmon," and I can't remember the last time I had a salmon dinner.

  2. Have you read "Steal This Book" by Abbie Hoffman? I think you'd enjoy it.

    1. It's one of the hundreds of books I should've read but haven't. Added it to the list, but it's a long list.


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