Image: Getty
Crime WeekWelcome to Crime Week, where Splinter is running stories about all manner of criminal actions and punishable offenses.   

First up: a run-down of the first things we ever did wrong in the eyes of the law.

Long before I smoked my first joint, or got irrationally drunk at a high school basement party, I had my first taste of the criminal lifestyle on a hill outside Cooper Elementary School in South Minneapolis.

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I, all of five years old, had joined David, my older neighbor (I think he was six) at the playground down the street from both our houses. Usually we’d run around like idiots, throwing clumps of sand at each other and generally acting the way shitty grade schoolers do when left alone on a playground. It was a blast.

That afternoon, however, David (again, older, I assumed wiser, and most importantly—much bigger than I was) had something else in mind. As we left the playground, and started walking back to our houses, he stopped on the top of a hill, turned to me, and said “watch this.” Then, with his hands cupped around his mouth like an alpine yodeler, he shouted “VAGINA!!!” as loud as he could.

I freaked directly the fuck out.

“You can’t DO that!” I remember telling David (he just yelled “Vagina” again. And then yelled “Damn” for good measure.)

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“Your turn,” he told me.

Honestly, I don’t remember exactly how the ensuing argument unfolded. It essentially ended with him threatening to beat the hell out of me (remember: much bigger than I was) and my half-hearted shout of “v...vagina?” from the top of the hill. Then I hauled ass back to my house, hid in my room, and I waited for the cops to kick down the door, drag me to jail, and—worst of all—tell my mom what I’d done. Of course, none of that came to pass.

Since that fateful day, I’ve enjoyed a much more fulfilling—if relatively mundane—life of crime: Drink, drugs, occasionally shoplifting, and once, in 8th grade, almost burning my friend’s garage down after we spread a mixture of gasoline and caulk across his driveway and lit it on fire in order to recreate an Evel Knievel stunt on our 10-speeds. Still, I can’t help but peg that afternoon with David as where it all began.

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As for the rest of Splinter, here’s where they all got their criminal starts.


Isha Aran

When I was maybe 16, I committed the extremely suburban crime of trespassing onto a local apartment complex with my friends and hopping in the pool. Other than that I was pretty boring so I think my only other early crimes were parking violations.

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Katherine Krueger

Because I was the oldest, favored child from parents who made me go to bed RIGHT after The West Wing aired on Sunday nights (it was appointment viewing, people!!), I was also a rule-follower and insufferable kiss-ass until sometime around freshman year of high school. That’s when I started dating my Cool Older Boyfriend (this part of the story of course ends horribly) who smoked pot, making me Cool by extension.

While I certainly don’t consider doing weed a crime—at 16 or otherwise—my first graspings at some kind of “weed subculture” absolutely were: It was a time that involved a lot of vaguely political anger fueled by Rage Against the Machine, wearing a hemp necklace, liking pages like “Free Mumia” on Facebook, and a heightened interest in Buddhism.

And then in college I stole an ugly pair of earrings from Urban Outfitters during my freshman year of college and felt so bad I never wore them. The end!

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Clio Chang

If I’m honest, the first time I remember doing a crime was when I was a kid in the supermarket eating yogurt covered almonds without paying for them. My second crime was logging onto Twitter. I’m a big badass today.

Jack Mirkinson

I think probably my parents took me along to some civil disobedience thing or other when I was a baby, but as for the first crime I can remember doing of my own volition: stealing stuff from the corner store.

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Molly Osberg

Okay so I was generally a pretty shitty kid but my first masterminded rule-breaking effort was calling into my school, pretending that I was my mom, and getting myself out of class. I did it for two years before anyone caught on. Jokes on me though, I still don’t know a thing about algebra.

Hamilton Nolan

I don’t really remember but once when I was a kid me and my friend brian were ripping pages out of a magazine and filling them with sand and throwing them at this kid burton. And then burton threw the top of a metal fencepost at me and busted open my forehead and that’s how I learned crime is wrong

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Aleks Chan

I worked at a bookstore in high school and stole a lot of books and lip balm

Libby Watson

My first memory of doing something i knew to be illegal was stealing a pick-n-mix sweet from the local video rental store in my nana’s town, not sure how old i was but probably 7-8. i knew it was wrong and i did it anyway, and it was a RUSH. i’m not sure if that’s prosecutable, though, so probably the next illegal thing I did was the first time i drank alcohol without my parents’ permission, which I did under a tree in my village with my best friend, our older friend and i think some slightly scummy friend of hers. she had sneaked some port from her parents’ house. yes, port. i was 11, i think the port stealer was 15. i had an overwhelming sense that i was getting in over my head, which in hindsight is so incredibly lame.

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Paul Blest

The sandwich ordering system at Wawa when I was a teen was basically an honor system, where you got a ticket, paid, and then picked up the sandwich. I would order sandwiches and get my ticket, but I often did not pay, because I have no honor.

Nona Aronowitz

The first illegal thing I did was to steal from a waitress (or my babysitter, depending on how you look at it). I was 7. My sitter told me to leave some money on the table after we’d eaten at a restaurant, but she didn’t really explain what a tip was. I thought that sounded bizarre—she can’t mean just leave it there!—so I pocketed the money. I later showed her the bills and she got pissed at me. I don’t feel bad, though: even back then I knew the tipping economy was a racket.

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Dave Uberti

My friends and I had to devise a creative way to buy booze during a camping trip in northern Michigan when we were 18. Plan A: Two of my buddies would bring cases of beer to the register of a small, carefully selected store in the middle of nowhere. They would point at an item on the shelf behind the store clerk, and then—when the employee turned around—throw cash on the counter and sprint out with the beer. I would drive getaway in a minivan borrowed from my mom. It wouldn’t *technically* be stealing, we told ourselves.

I left the car in drive as my friends strolled inside said store. After a few tense minutes, they reappeared. There was no running. There was no beer in hand. They chickened out. Turns out it *did* feel like stealing.

So we turned to Plan B: Paying $20 to the next 21+ person we saw to go in and buy beer for us. It worked like a charm. Always remember to use every tool at your disposal.

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How did you launch your career as a scofflaw? Sound off in the comments.