Very few 14-year-olds earn a paycheck by standing on a street corner all day. Even fewer patrol that corner while apprehending would-be criminals and guarding the thin barrier between order and lawlessness.

This 14-year-old got to do both – busting old people for stealing shopping carts.

When the summer of 1988 arrived, my mother decided I had to get a job. Evidently, my favorite habits of reading books and practicing chords on my cheap, unamplified guitar had gotten out of control. After 10 months of reporting to school five days a week, and before the next 10 months of reporting to school five days a week, I needed some structure and discipline.

I forget which well-meaning, horrible person saw that our local Pathmark was hiring, but within days, I was bagging groceries and dashing off to return unwanted dairy products to their rightful shelves. Before long, I was led outside and told about my new assignment. Shopping carts are expensive to replace, my manager explained. (He was right. One can run you 200 bucks these days). Certain customers would pay for their groceries and simply wheel the cargo to their houses, ignoring the signs that such a move was illegal.