James Lileks
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Minneapolis is No. 3 in packages stolen from the porch, according to patch.com. We are possibly No. 4 in purloined patches, according to porch.com, but I don't have the exact numbers. If this makes you clutch your children to your bosom in fear for what our world is becoming, there's good news.

You ask: What could it possibly be, this good news? The people who steal are eventually overcome with shame, renounce their ways and go to poor countries to dig wells? And then fall down the wells because it serves them right for stealing my box of 36 mocha-almond K-Cups?

(Let us now pause to allow people to scurry off to write a letter protesting the use of K-Cups, which add too much plastic to the world and make awful coffee. You should hand-shave your beans with a drop-forged chisel, steep the grounds over a creme brulee torch and strain them through 800-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets; otherwise, you might as well drink that inky swill that comes out of the vending machines with powdered creamer that's probably asbestos.)

No. The good news concerns the study's methodology, as I like to say when I want to make people grow drowsy and stop reading. Turns out we're not third in package stealing. We're third in people Googling for information about package stealing.

This could mean we have a curious criminal class. People eager for new tips and strategies. It's possible that people were Googling how to steal packages. There's probably some chatty fellow on YouTube with tips 'n' hints:

"Hi, everyone, it's me with some great ideas for porch harvesting! Here's a new one: Wear brown clothing like the delivery guys, and walk backwards to the porch, then backwards to your car. If anyone yells at you, say it's a reverse delivery. Maybe paint SPU or XeDef on your car or something. But make sure you don't paint SPSU, because impersonating the USPS is a federal crime."

Or people are Googling for things like, "It is legal to put a box of poisonous snakes on my porch?" Or, "Can I be sued if a thief injures their back trying to pick up a box that contains a sack of concrete?"

(Pause while someone writes an e-mail to tell me I mean a sack of cement, which is used to make concrete. The two terms are not interchangeable. Pause while I send back a letter saying the imaginary person I just invented made the Google search, not me. )

Or perhaps we're No. 3 because people are Googling prevention strategies for package theft. Surveillance cameras don't seem to help, because the internet abounds with comical videos of thieves tripping over garden hoses.

(Pause for someone to make a comment worrying about the surveillance state and Big Brother, but it turns out we have volunteered to become the thing we feared. Do we really want a world where every move we make is captured on tape?)

(Pause for someone to note that "tape" is no longer used, but it's interesting how old terms persist, like saying "dial" to make a phone call. No one uses rotary phones any more.)

(Pause for someone to say they still have a rotary phone and it works great, and you can have your snoopy cellphones that track your motions, I'll take the good ol' Bell System. That will be followed by someone who says that one anecdotal instance does not contradict the overall adoption of digital technology.)

OK, it's obvious I've lost control of the column. It's impossible to say anything these days without someone pointing out your errors. The other day I tweeted out something familiar to all new empty-nesters: "We're now in the half-a-jar-of-pasta-sauce phase of our lives."

Immediately strangers expressed dismay I was using store-bought pasta sauce. This is what we've come to: absolute strangers tut-tutting because you don't hand-smush heritage tomatoes you raised from seeds and then stand over a pot for six hours stirring the goop while singing songs from the Old Country about Sicilian vendettas.

The internet was not invented so you could attempt to shame someone for buying pre-made pasta sauce. The internet was invented so you could have access to 10,945 varieties of pre-made pasta sauce and have your choice delivered to your front door.

Where someone steals it.

james.lileks@startribune.com 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks