How not to steal cable TV

In 1992 I moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and found a cheap apartment a couple blocks from the beach. I had 4 roommates and they were young guys, just like me, and always seemed to be getting into some kind of trouble and there was always crazy drama happening. Like when one guy got pulled over for speeding and ended up getting arrested for some reason, so we all pooled in our money to bail him out, only to find out that he actually had a different name than we knew and he’d been using some other guy’s drivers license to live under. Or the time one guy burst into my room in the middle of the night to show me that he’d stolen the fortune telling machine from Subway and needed me to help him get all the quarters out of it.

Somehow we ended up with a TV in our living room. I forget where it came from – probably from someone’s trash since it was one of those giant wooden console TVs. We were sitting around the living room and trying to tune in shows, but having very little luck. We briefly talked about splitting the cost of cable, but that didn’t do anything for our need of television right now. $5.00 each was probably out of our budget ranges anyway. So that conversation turned into ways that we could steal cable.

Our apartment didn’t even seem to have any cable wires running into our building. But the building across the street did. We found a few people who we guessed had active cable in their apartments, so we started making plans. My idea was to hook up a splitter to their cable line and run a new wire underground up to our building. We would have to go buy a splitter and a bunch of coax, which would cost maybe $20 or $30.

But my roommates weren’t as patient as me. They wanted to watch cable TV tonight. So instead of being stealthy about it, they walked over to this other building and started ripping down their coax cable from the wall. They yanked on it until the cable came loose and we had the end that plugged into the TV. Then they pulled it from the other direction and I believe they ripped some of it from the telephone pole. In the end, we had just barely enough cable to reach over to our building, into the window and hook it up to our TV.

We had to pull the TV right up to the window and there was no slack at all left on the cable. In fact, outside the cable was at a very tight angle from the ground to our 2nd story window, probably obstructing people from walking by on the sidewalk. I can just envision a guy on a bike not seeing it and getting clotheslined. There was no connection on the end of the cable since we’d apparently ripped it off while pulling the wire off the side of the building, so I used my wire cutters to lengthen the leads and get them hooked up to the TV.

So we turned it on and it worked great! After the 1 minute warmup period that giant wooden consoles take to turn on, we were sitting around and happily enjoying Doogie Howser, M.D. or whatever the hell people watched in 1992.

After a few hours, somebody begins knocking on our door. Guess who it was. Yeah, it’s the guy we stole cable from. Literally, stole cable from. Stealing in the sense that we actually deprived him of cable TV because we took it from him. Not only did we end up stealing his cable, but when they yanked his cable off the side of his apartment building and pulled on it until it came out of the wall, it actually pulled his TV off the shelf and it fell to the floor. There was no mention of his TV being broken, but he wasn’t a happy man. We apologized to him and handed his mangled cable TV wire back to him. I don’t remember much of the actual exchange between us and our angry neighbor that night, but I do remember that it ended with him giving us a very weak, “Well, uh, don’t do it again!”

I guess we got our fix of cable that we needed, because we didn’t buy or steal any more cable for the rest of the summer.


  • Most of your mis-adventure stories would probably have different outcomes these days.

    Thats why your nostalgia is more interesting then not…

  • My dad did this before, back when my mom and dad were dating. My mom ripped the cable out and threw the splitter away because she didn’t want them to get arrested.

  • frickin hilarialiliirriouss!

    But everybody in this story ends up being wimps!

    The guys whose cable got stolen should have beat you all with a baseball bat. And you guys hsould never have apologized. I mean, if you are going to steal cable that way you should have greeted him at the door dressed like pirates and shouted that you’d steal his cable if you wanted, AAAAARG!!!, and if you felt hungry later you might just come and raid his fridge and hold his women for ransom. Then you should have thrown his scury carcass into the nearest sewer and laughed all the while. And if he called the police you could just deny it all.

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