There are two types of people at the Sunshine Home for the Elderly. Those well enough to ride the activities bus and those that are not. The ones that are not well enough to leave are done. Finished. It is all over for them. The ones that can still participate in the daily excursions have some hope left.
They call themselves “The Rolling Oldies” and they are an organized band of thieves. They love going to the Zoo and to the Indian Casino, but the only thing you can steal from those places are trinkets in the gift shop. A refrigerator magnet or novelty pen will do if you have to scratch an itch, but the Rolling Oldies are into stealing the good stuff. Stuff like brand name stool softener and Metamucil are valued items. Liquor and lube are also popular. If it is expensive, name-brand and helps you use the toilet, it is better than money. They steal reader glasses by the shipment. If you could pay for prescriptions with stolen readers, the Rolling Oldies would be like the geriatric version of El Chapo.
Most old people steal kids stuff like candy and batteries. The Home gives them plenty of candy and nobody needs batteries these days. Except they do need hearing-aid batteries; those buggers are expensive and can be traded for anything like plush toilet paper and even sex. Cash is rarely used in The Home because everyone is trying not to out live their bank roll. The barter system rules the hallways. Drugs and booze are naturally worth the most. Chocolate laxatives, hemorrhoid cushions and creams are also prized. Porn was huge before the internet.
Every day, the Rolling Oldies have contests to see who can steal the best stuff. Value, size and uniqueness all score points. They use or barter the stuff they steal, but the thrill of the theft and winning the game means the most to them. Earl Weaver once stole a kitten. That was a ten out of a possible ten. A perfect score, which is rarely achieved. He took it out of a box in the window of a shop next to Walgreens. He pretended he was petting it and then he shoved the little fellow into the pocket of his heavy rain coat. It’s still at The Home. They call the cat “Jailbreak.”
The Rolling Oldies are crafty thieves. They hide things everywhere. William Langley hollowed out an arm rest of his wheel chair. Once, he fit three different shades of women’s hair color in there. He later traded the dye for some vape pen cartridges made out of marijuana that the stylist in The Home’s beauty parlor sells. Bernice Jones invented the “purse muffler.” She made it out of crochet scraps and Depends. She was having trouble stealing Ibuprofen and anything else that rattled and came up with the idea. What she created was doubly brilliant because the purse muffler also serves as a deterrent. If a security guard or snooping employee asks to see in your bag, as soon as they see an adult diaper in there they decide not to investigate further.
Everyone that hears the story of the Rolling Oldies wonders the same thing: do they ever get caught? Hell yes they get caught. Getting arrested is all part of the fun and adventure. The general rule is, if you are in a wheel chair, you get a slap on the wrist. Cops don’t want to bother schlepping some invalid to jail over petty larceny. If you can walk and look healthy enough, they’ll arrest you and take you to jail. Jail, court dates and meetings with probation officers are all things to do. Earl is currently on probation and he is loving every minute of it. No judge is sentencing a ninety-year-old woman to jail, especially not when they are already in one. If a case goes all the way to court, the judge releases the Oldie into the custody of the Home, sentences them to probation and then rests its case. Even when they are caught, they can’t be caught; they have more freedom of consequence than Tony Soprano.
The hardest trick for the Oldies to pull off is getting their loot past Mrs. Marylin, the activities supervisor. She checks receipts.
“The Sunshine Home for the Elderly” will not condone criminal behavior,” Mrs. Marylin says as she pats down a suspect.
Before an interrogation, John Haight put some stuff he actually bought down his pants so she would see it and demand to go through them. Once she found the purchased items, he pulled out the receipt with a big grin on his face and gave her a wink.
If she does catch you with something stolen, she can really ruin your life. She can turn you from a Rolling Oldie into a finished nobody barred from excursions with the stroke of an email. This is not real-world hell, it is nursing-home hell, which is worse. Loneliness is how old people die. She put Evelyn McLain in the proverbial stockade after she caught her with a few Jim Beam mini bottles in her rectum. She barely made it a month before she was dead. Bill Gribbs hatched a plan one day to kill Mrs. Marylin. He was going to spike her tea with blood thinner and then trip her with his cane as she got off the activities bus. The others talked him out of the plan. The Rolling Oldies had a code and murder was a major violation.
Bed, Bath and Beyond is their favorite target. Their Eden. The secret to stealing from Bed, Bath and Beyond is to bring a 20% off coupon, buy something small and inconspicuous like a spatula and then claim to be shocked the door alarm is going off because of “that stupid cashier.” Then roll out with the loot. The challenge is this strategy only be done by one person before they catch on to the scam, so you need to chose someone special like John with his hollow wheel chair as your mule. Everyone else still steals a few things from BB&B, but the big stuff like Keurig K-cups or Soda Stream cartridges go with the mule. Then the mule gets a cut of everything he helps steal. The point system does not count here because this is a team effort.
A typical excursion begins like this: A destination is posted on the community bulletin board with a listed departure time. Everyone meets in the lobby for coffee thirty minutes before the listed time so the day’s thieving can be discussed. The plan is typically the same every day unless there’s some new blood in the group.
If someone is new, they have to be assessed to make sure they are either on board or at least willing to let the Oldies go on without snitching. If they refuse, the group makes sure they can’t make it to the bus for any excursions in the future. It’s either, be down with the Rolling Oldies or mysteriously crack a rib in your sleep. It rarely comes to that. Most new folks are just happy to get out and they’ll go along with anything.
After any new blood is vetted, they all get loaded onto the bus. Before they can leave, Mrs. Marylin has to get on and count heads. While she checks off names, the driver turns on some Lawrence Welk-type music, Mrs. Marylin finishes counting, wishes everyone a good trip and The Rolling Oldie crime syndicate is off to prey on more corporate victims.
“Driver, turn off that polka-dot bullshit, please,” Bill Jaffe says as soon as Mrs. Marylin gets off the bus. He likes AC/DC or the Stones. All of the women prefer the “Urban” stations, specifically Cardi B and Travis Scott. Many a hip has been strained doing the bump and grind on the way to Publix. On the trip home, after the score is complete, they liked to celebrate with metal. Godsmack and Disturbed do nicely as they root through and tally up the points of their loot. (They cut the driver in on the action as well. You always have to payoff the driver.) Earl makes the same joke during “Down with the Sickness;” he says, “yeah, emphysema!” If anyone from the group dies, they honor their memory with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Hard Rock and Hip-Hop is the soundtrack of their lives, not some asshole in a sweater conducting an orchestra.
The Rolling Oldies of the Sunshine Home for the Elderly cannot be stopped. They are out there right now ruining some store clerk’s inventory count with the slight of a liver-spotted hand. They are experts in their chosen field. When they die, there will be a new batch of Oldies ready to take their place. Young thieves never make it, but 80 year old criminals steal with impunity. You can’t jail a prisoner and you can’t punish a thief with nothing to lose.
If I ever find myself in the Sunshine Home for the Elderly, you better believe I’ll be with the Rolling Oldies until I’m finished.
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