“I HOPE you don’t mind my taking this,” said the gentleman, stowing away the in-flight magazine “Swagat” into his briefcase. Naturally, my status as a fellow passenger only permitted my saying “Sure, go ahead, be my guest…..”.
Settling his bulky figure behind the seat belt, he explained that his sons had a particular fascination for the Airlines magazine and collected them! As they were not sold in the newsstands, the only alternative available was to “take” them from the aircraft.
I tentatively pointed out that it was more “stealing” than “taking”, but he brushed this aside with an “Oh! not at all – anyway the Indian Airlines swindles us so they can afford to lose a mere magazine.”
Just then the airhostess brought the usual sweets and the portly gentleman picked up a handful – “My sons collect the Airlines sweets too…” he explained, and I muttered, “Sure, why not?” He didn’t like the tone of my, “What else do you pilfer – sorry collect?”
They say, all’s fair in a collectors’ world. The rules of the game permit you to beg, borrow or steal (why buy!!) as long as you display the necessary zeal and enthusiasm that put you above a common thief.
A friend of mine has an enviable collection of table napkins. She calls them “souvenirs” to remind her of the delicious food she has eaten in various hotels and restaurants. She raises her eyebrows in a holier than-thou horror and gushes, “How can you call it pilfering? I’ve paid for the dinner my dear – just my taking an ordinary napkin can’t impoverish the hotel!” Who can fight this logic?
Then there is that top-notch executive who “collects” shower caps, hotel stationery and shampoo sachets from the five-star hotels he stays in. “they are mementos for my old age” he says. His wife “collects” the laundry bags of these hotels.
Slightly better than the “menu card” maniac who collects an assortment of menu cards from all the restaurants he dines in. he doesn’t stop there. A fork and spoon soon go with the lot. He has a special showcase in which he displays all this!
Our neighbour delights in “collecting” flowers every morning and he can be seen plucking off roses and jasmine, from the nieghbourhood gardens, stealthily!
Just as there is the invisible line between genius and madness, there is that delicate difference between collecting and pilfering! What’s in a name? It’s the action that counts!