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I Am Not a Booster

by Delana Lewis

A “Booster” may refer to electric power, a pendulum ride manufactured by Fabbri or KMG. A “Booster” may be an upper which intensifies your high or something that increases your size. A “Booster” may also refer to a shoplifter, a thief.

Always early no later then 8a.m. Groggy, hungry, driving. Driving for hours never knowing exactly where to, just a better neighborhood. Better neighborhoods, with better cars and houses, containing better people. Better people require less security. “Do you smell the difference in the air, Karen, the initiator, usually asked.

I am not a booster, I just like nice things.

Karen drove and directed us, she made sure we were organized. As organized as we could have been for a store and setup we will never see until the time comes. She was always the first one in and the first one out; she never really got her hands dirty. My favorite disguise on her is the matted salt-and-pepper wig. She should have been called the gatherer because that’s what she did, gathered items

Booster seat, Booster pump, Booster engine, Booster shot, Booster pack, Booster bag, Booster girl.

When a company gives bags without a purchase that enables the booster. Like Macys biggest plastic shopping bag, it holds so much. And there’s no need to remove hangers, they actually help folding and bagging the massive amounts of clothes.

The gatherer gathers the goods, (whatever they might be) usually clothes. She finds a blind spot and places the items there. They are hidden from cameras, staff, and other consumers. She makes her way back to the car to the three getters, younglings who retrieve the items (there are always three). They wait (usually an hour or more) for the gatherer to return, and each one takes a turn at the different spots, always bringing a bag.  Once the gatherer gets in, a getter gets out and immediately phones the gatherer who directs the getter to the hidden location. Almost always are you able to fit into the blind spot completely hidden. Items are retrieved and bagged. The exit is like a finish line you must cross. It is the most terrifying thrilling experience.

***

For a fee Checkpoint helps retailers grow profitable combating ORC (Organized Retail Crime). In the four years I’ve boosted, I have never heard of you suckers.  In the last two years there has been an increase in ORC related thefts. I wonder if this has anything to do with the economy.

A veteran at getting, you’re ruthless and wicked. It’s bad enough you’re boosting but to do more damage, you take someone else to our spot. It belonged to us, Karen didn’t even know about it. I call that a triple threat. It was Christmas season, Macy’s was decked. It was a slow day, a Sunday. I can imagine the calmness near the jewelry exit, carols playing on the radio. I can imagine the disturbance you cause when you’re apprehended and you attack the men with your heavy brush. I can imagine them dragging you across the floor, buttocks exposed. I can imagine all of this as you tells me on your one call from Rikers.

I am not a booster; I am just someone who boosts.

The veteran told me to try this, she had done it and it actually worked. If the time came to it I was never sure I had the balls to do it. Until one day an older white woman and a teenage girl noticed me stuffing my bag. They stood there staring blankly. I stopped and gave a stern look. And like you said without hesitation I asked them “You want me to put your shit in here too?  I can meet you outside?”

In those better neighborhoods with the less secured stores I have set off the alarms upon exiting at least 50 times (maybe more). Of those 50 times suspicions were only aroused three times. Try that in a NYC store.

On plastic alarms there is a hump that sticks out and the rest is flat. Right under the hump on the right side (the side that sticks out the most) take a lighter to it. Wait. Wait for the plastic to soften. Burnt plastic has a loud, bad stench. Take a knife and poke it through the soft plastic, move it up and down until you here it click. The needle pin falls out. You have to make sure you burn it enough; you have to poke the right spot, if you mess it up it will be hell getting it off. After doing enough pieces your thumbs are numb and the smell overwhelms you.

I am not a booster; I just carry a booster bag.

In a store’s blind spot, removing alarms we see an under cover fiend. He is on the floor rolling around under clothes racks; obviously he’s on to us. Stop, drop everything, he’s coming. As we make our way to the restroom we try to get rid of the stuff already in our possession. We cross the alarms at the bathroom’s entrance, before we even make it in, the UC fiend yells “freeze”. He was nervous and shaking his bald head sweating (they acted like we were armed). “Put your hands up; show us the device you’re using to remove the alarms”. We managed to never disclose our method. Though that bust was the most frightening, I smiled when my total was $972. That’s about$30 away from a felony. The fiend gloated, I’m sure it was his biggest bust.

***

There are only certain people who meet the criteria. These things make you the perfect booster. Are you a lower class minority, are you young? The younger the better, ages range between 12-19, and it depends on your looks. Do you look young, are you short? Tall girls look old. Are you pretty, well groomed? I can’t have a dirty girl in high end stores.  Does your mom let you do what you want? Is she around often? Would you lie to her?  Yeah but you like nice things, right? They don’t press charges if you’re sixteen or younger, they can’t, they just call your mom. I’ll be your mom.

Macys Herald Square, the flagship store. The world’s largest department store from1924 until 2009. They host the Flower show, the Thanksgiving Day parade, and Santa’s Land. It is truly beautiful, but that the magic of Macy’s right? Believe. In the basement where no one is permitted, they have (at least) 10 jail cells for the criminal, the shoplifter, the thief, the booster. Down there, there is no sense of flowers, thanksgiving, or Santa. Just a lonely booster, tired, overwhelmed with regret.

I am not a booster; I just like free shit.

I am not a booster; I’m just young and dumb.

I am not a booster, I’m just someone who used to boost.