Spreading the News

Whenever I read a newspaper article that begs to become the basis of my next humor column, I cut it out and save it.  Then I forget where I put it.  (I also do that with car titles, birth certificates, and my life insurance policy.)  But here’s one rich article I did find on my desktop…

In Boise, Idaho, police thought they might have solved a year-long condiment spree. Authorities say a 74-year-old woman was arrested after pouring mayonnaise in a library book drop box. She may be connected to nine other condiment-related crimes.

I should have sent the Boise police a thank-you note for practically writing my column for me. You could watch every old Twilight Zone episode, read every Sherlock Holmes short story ever written and see every Coen Brothers movie, and I’m tellin’ you, the words “condiment-related crimes” are not going to pop up.

I’m basically an honest guy, so I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I would do if circumstances had led me to a life of crime. However, I’ve seen enough bad-guy movies to know that when you’re looking for shifty ways to make a living, the answer does not lie in a select variety of sauces.

I resisted a childhood influence to be a crook.  My mother was an unrepentant Sweet ’n Low thief, so I saw firsthand (and with sleight of hand) how easy it was to score big at White Castle or Steak ’n Shake. Mom seemed like a very nice person to some people, but those close to her knew that her sweet disposition was artificial.

The woman who defiled the books walked around with a backpack that concealed her two sandwich spreads of choice. The police could not legally stop and search her without a warrant or they would have violated her fourth condiment rights. It’s a pretty sad day when it’s legal to own a Glock, but a squeezy bottle of mayonnaise is suspect. The woman accused the police of profiling her, but when she left a trail of Gulden’s Mustard packets behind her, it served as probable cause. She was once detained at an airport for having more than two ounces of vinaigrette in her carry-on.  She tried to avoid trouble by flirting with the TIA agents, but she was then arrested for being too saucy.

Pouring mayo down a book slot at a library is a serious offense, but judges should be able to use discretion in sentencing. Hellmann’s on Hemingway is clearly a punishable crime, but mustard on Mein Kampf? Any judge worth his salt should overlook that breach.

Other than mayo in the return slot, the police were reluctant to reveal the other nine condiment capers she committed—for fear, I suppose, that a wave of food-topping, copy-cat crimes would sprinkle the country. The woman did not use Worcestershire sauce during the commission of any felonies.  The folks at Lea & Perrins could capitalize on this.  Since their product is high in sodium, they could brag about how low it is in crime rates.

The woman was released and put on probation. The judge thought she might be a flight risk, and sure enough, at last report she was on the lam. I bet she had some mint jelly in her purse.

– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@