February 28, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

From the Mailbag: The Thieving Lawmaker

soft drinks


Since The Nerve began soliciting stories about government waste and official misbehavior a few weeks ago, we’ve received a surprisingly large – and scary – number of stories. Many of these stories are by turns hilarious and appalling; most bear re-telling. One of them, however, stands out among the rest, at least in our opinion. It was told to us in person by Martin, who works for a car repair shop in Columbia. (So it’s not, technically, from a “mailbag.” But then neither are emails; it’s figure of speech, okay.)

“We get a fair number of State House people,” Martin says. “Generally they’re real nice, although like anywhere else you get the occasional pain in the tail.”

Martin says there’s a large waiting room at the shop, and in the waiting room there is an “old style cooler” full of soft drinks. Next to the cooler is a rack of cookie and cracker packs.

“The price of a drink is a dollar, and crackers are 75 cents,” he says. “You can’t miss the sign. If somebody wants a drink or a pack of nabs, they take one and bring it to the register to pay. I’ve never had any problem with people taking stuff without paying.” (Note: “pack of nabs” is what an older generation calls packs of cookies or crackers.)

That is, until about a month ago.

“So this legislator walks in.”

We interrupt Martin: Which legislator? He doesn’t want to say. After repeated attempts to get him to reveal the name of the legislator in question – or just to say which party the legislators belongs to – we give up. But Martin assures us that (a) the legislator is a man, and (b) he is current a member of the General Assembly.

Back to the story. The legislator walks in, Martin says, “and for whatever reason I just kept my eye on him. I was standing in the back office, but I could see out into the waiting room, and I’m just looking at him. Well, he takes a Coke from the cooler, and he gets a pack of nabs and sits down.

The legislator then consumed the Coke and “nabs,” according to Martin, with no indication that he planned to pay for them.

“Eventually his car was ready, and I made d*** sure I was there to ring him up. He comes up to pay, and I ask him, before giving him the whole price: ‘Is that all, sir?’ I was kind of giving him a chance to ‘remember’ the Coke and nabs.”

He never remembered? “Nope. I thought about saying to him, ‘Did you want to pay for the drink and crackers?’ But I thought that might cause a stink, and I didn’t need my boss hearing about a state legislator getting put out because of something I said to him. So I just let it go.”

Just to clarify, we ask Martin if he’s saying a state lawmaker stole a soft drink and pack of crackers from the business where he works?

“Yep, I guess so,” he says. “I mean, it’s not a big deal. It wasn’t but a dollar seventy-five. But just the attitude of the guy – that he didn’t have to pay for it like everybody else – that’s what really bothered me.”

It bothers us, too.

If you have a story you’d like to share, send it to us at news@thenerve.org or call us at 803-254-4411.

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