Advertising

The Seattle Times Company

NWjobs | NWautos | NWhomes | NWsource | Free Classifieds | seattletimes.com

Columnists


Our network sites seattletimes.com | Advanced

Originally published July 12, 2010 at 10:18 PM | Page modified July 12, 2010 at 10:18 PM

Comments (0)     E-mail E-mail article      Print Print      Share Share

Nicole Brodeur

How the 'Bandit' stole our attention

Turns out they aren't as laid-back in the Bahamas as the brochures say.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Turns out they aren't as laid-back in the Bahamas as the brochures say.

Some punk lands a plane down there, breaks into a bar, steals a boat and bam! The Bahamian police shoot out the engine on Colton Harris-Moore's stolen boat and haul him into custody, besting not only the police here and in eight other states, but also the FBI.

So ends the run of the "Barefoot Bandit," the little pain in the butt who grew into a 6-foot-5 media-fueled menace.

And we feel ... what?

Well, they're cheering up on Camano Island and in the San Juans, where Harris-Moore cut his teeth on breaking locks, hot-wiring cars and allegedly helping himself to everything from sandwiches to Cessnas.

In doing so, he altered the culture of the place; people started locking doors where they never had before.

We all know where it started: Harris-Moore was a troubled kid whose dad left when he was 2, and whose mother reportedly gave interviews in exchange for Pall Malls and beer.

I can't blame the kid for running from a situation like that.

But many people are sad to see the story end. It was a little Billy the Kid, a little "Catch Me If You Can." Nobody got hurt, and whatever was stolen, well, the insurance folks can sort that out.

That no one died may be what kept Harris-Moore's story alive.

People got caught up in the romance of it all, in watching him get away with things that their consciences and sensibilities would never allow them to try.

He taught himself to fly! He stole a plane from some rich guy! He crash-landed and survived!

advertising

"We like stories that make us feel aroused by proxy; we get this little dopamine high," said Dr. Laura Kastner, a Seattle psychologist who has worked with adolescents and teens for 35 years. "And sometimes, against our better reason, we start to crusade for the iconographic tale out there.

"The Barefoot Bandit did that for us."

Consider: We wouldn't cheat on our spouses, Kastner said, but we sure ate up everything with Tiger Woods' name in it.

"We're one step removed from the excitement," Kastner said. "We're safe, but exhilarated as we egg him on."

Said one commenter at seattletimes.com: "This guy's simply amazing, evading an entire nation. Keep going, man."

That might also explain Harris-Moore's mother, who has been made famous by her son's exploits.

It all makes Kastner sad. "Pathetic," is how she put it.

Kastner, who also teaches at the University of Washington and has written books about parenting, has a pretty strong sense of what made Harris-Moore run.

"He sounds fairly common for the kids who don't get enough of what they need along the way and aren't thriving," she said.

His history indicates that he wasn't developing socially or academically, which would have allowed him to seek rewards in conventional ways like soccer trophies and good grades.

"Whatever keeps us on the straight and narrow," Kastner said.

So, Harris-Moore did what made sense to him and went for the easy rewards that come from committing crimes.

But that punk from Camano Island turned into something much bigger once he allegedly stole a plane and took to the sky.

"That's where he captured people's imaginations," Kastner said.

Now that he's been captured, well, the "Barefoot Bandit" will likely become "The Boy Who Fell to Earth" and join the rest of us in our search for the next vicarious thrill.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

She'll bring the beer if the mom will talk.

E-mail E-mail article      Print Print      Share Share

More Nicole Brodeur

UPDATE - 8:10 PM
Nicole Brodeur: Possibilities replace prisoners in island's future

Nicole Brodeur: She never lost moral compass

More Nicole Brodeur headlines...

Comments
No comments have been posted to this article.


Get home delivery today!

About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

Video

Advertising

AP Video

Entertainment | Top Video | World | Offbeat Video | Sci-Tech

Marketplace

Advertising