Dear Karma Cleanser:
While in a Tokyo bank last year with my friend K., I noticed a little plastic plaque with Japanese writing on it. The plaque had one piece that was magnetic. It said: "blah blah (blah) blah blah," where the piece in parentheses was removable. It couldn't be an exchange rate because they would be forced to replace it every minute. Then K. said, "That would make a cute refrigerator magnet, you should take it." I'm not a thief and never have been, not even petty shoplifting. But a strange sense came over me and I found myself sliding the magnet from its perch.
Since our friend B. was in Tokyo on business, we asked her to take it to work and ask the resident translator what it said. Poor B. came home in a tizzy. She had shown it to the translator and was asked immediately, "Where did you get this?" She lied and told the translator that we had found it on the ground in a restaurant. Tokyo is an incredibly clean city, so a random plastic magnet found on the ground is an unlikely scenario.
Moreover, it turned out to be someone's name. Who would lose a magnetic name plaque in a restaurant? One of B.'s least favorite co-workers made it worse by immediately announcing that we must have stolen it. I felt horrible about stealing, but worse, I stole someone's name!
My questions are: How much bad karma did I generate? What about my friend B. who lost face for lying on my behalf? Will others be affected by bad karma when I use that magnet to hang their photo on my fridge (although that could be useful on certain annoying individuals)? Should I return it to its original residence like the Brady kids did with the cursed Hawaiian tiki?
-- Bank Robber
Normally we'd say, you stole it, so make like the Brady kids and give it back. However, in this case the Brady wisdom may not apply. Returning the magnet is no easy task. Plus, a year has passed and nothing bad has happened yet, so we suspect you can sleep soundly with no worries of Godzilla-sized consequences. If you still feel guilty about your original larceny (and you should), why not use the magnet as a happy totem for whichever friend's photo gets placed under it? For the week or two that they are held up by the charm, shower that person with positive energy. Wash their car. Pet their cat. Names have power, you know; it's your challenge to put that energy to good use.
Been bad? Sit on Santa's lap and tell him just how naughty you've been: email@example.com.