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Eddie Dean (“Stuck Inside Bethesda With the D.C. Blues Again,” 12/27/96) unwittingly missed the best reason for choosing to live in the District rather than Bethesda, when he failed to appreciate that the thief who defecated on the seat of his ’74 Gremlin was practicing an ancient tradition. In his essay “The Scatological Rites of Burglars” (Western Folklore, July 1968), Albert B. Friedman of the Claremont Graduate School explains this little-known ritual, and Paul Goodman devotes a chapter of his novel Making Do (1964) to burglaries of this kind.

According to Friedman, thieves in Germany, Holland, France, and Sicily refer to their calling cards as “Wachter,” “Schildwacht,” “sentinelle,” and “uomini di notte,” all translated roughly as “watchman” or “lookout.” The act is thought to protect the burglar as long as the stuff stays warm. My conclusion is that District burglars are more literate and have a better sense of historical tradition than their suburban peers. I’ve lived in the District for 27 years and am pleased to know that I’ve been shit on by pros.

Capitol Hill

via the Internet