Smash and grab

I was a woman with a plan.

If some asshole was going to hijack me or smash my car window I was going to go medieval on his ass.

I was going to be a hardcore Ninja assassin.

I was going to scream and shout and let it all out. I was going to stab him in the eye and punch him in the face.

I was going to floor the accelerator and drive off with him clinging helplessly to the car door.

Only, as it turns out, I didn’t.

I just sat there.

I think I made a sound that could only be described as an eep.

I was sitting in traffic, minding my own business, complacent in my daily route and listening to a podcast about crop circles. Just another trip to work.

Until my quiet solitude was rudely broken by the loud bang of shattering glass. It rained over me. But before I could comprehend that, the entire upper torso of a human being launched into the car and grabbed my cellphone. Just as suddenly he withdrew and ‘poof’ was gone. It took seconds.

I didn’t scream.

I didn’t fight.

I didn’t do anything kickass at all.

As a result of my inertia I am equally as annoyed with the thief (may he have a shitty Christmas) as I am with myself. I should have done something. Not sat there stricken dumb.

And there are the waves of self-recrimination.

What if I had another cup of tea before leaving the house?

What if I had taken the earlier off ramp?

What if I hadn’t had used Google Maps?

What if…?

Shocked panic gave way to intense rage which has simmered down into exasperation leaving me irked. I’ve never really had cause to use that word before, ‘irked’, but it seems to fit this situation quite aptly.

Dealing with the administrative aftermath was almost as taxing and traumatic as the smash and grab. I had to come to terms with the utter incomprehensible way in which our police service barely functions.

I went to a police station.

I was directed back to my cell provider for a blacklist number, which they didn’t want to give me because 3% of their revenues come from resold stolen phones.

I went back to another police station.

This time I could report it, but the forms would have to be sent in the mail to the first police station, which could take anything from 2 weeks to never.

Only then would I get a case number.

And then…

Everything is on paper. Labouriously written out by hand. Assigned a number in the big book and left to gather to duct in a filing cabinet somewhere.

How crimes are ever solved here is an utter mystery. It’s like the dark ages. Forget CSI, this is anarchy.

Not that I’m expecting anyone to solve the crime of the daylight robbery, but what if was far more serious? If a serial rapist rapes a different woman in a different neighbourhood every day, the cases will never be connected. This is because there is no national database or searchable record keeping.

And, here’s the rub. You see, even if someone programmed a simple interface where the cops could input the case data on a national scale, with searchable keywords, and even if that person went to the head of the police and gave it to them for free, it still wouldn’t be deployed because of the bureaucratic red tape, tender fraud and the fact that someone’s uncle’s cousin twice removed didn’t get the kick back.

I can’t solve this endemic problem, but I am going to take another shot at solving mine by going back to the police station this morning for another try.

I am somewhat resigned to the fact that my car will be windowless until the new year and that I will have to muddle my way through a digital world without a cellphone.

I feel better now that I’ve had a rant.

So, thanks for that.

The night the Boogiemen came

boogie man

Where I live getting robbed isn’t a big deal, not really.

It only counts if someone gets raped or killed in the process, otherwise it’s just another day in the city of gold.

I have armed response, two dogs, a wall and bars on every window.

That’s normal here too.

In Manchester, which is apparently the UK’s home invasion capital, 1 in 1 000 people experience a burglary. Every one of them makes it into the newspaper.

In South Africa a woman is 4% more likely to be raped than to be able to read and write her own name. Look online and you’ll see article after article about how crime rates are falling to acceptable levels. How is that acceptable?

It’s not a big deal.

My house was broken into.

Some stuff was stolen.

It’s just stuff.

We’re all okay and we have insurance – so, it’s all good.

Only it isn’t. All good.

My kids are terrified.

The fact that “bad men” watched them sleep has given life to a monster far scarier than the Boogie Man. Mommy can kill the Boogie Man, but she can’t stop the “bad men”.

Next time we might not be so lucky.

Next time they might not let us sleep.

The policemen who came told us that if someone wants to get in, nothing will keep them out. All we can hope to do is slow them down long enough for armed response to arrive.

Armed response took 12 minutes.

A lot can happen in 12 minutes.

I am very grateful to the men and women from the South African Police who came out to my house, took fingerprints, even though we all know it won’t make any difference, and spent an hour helping us upgrade our security.

Most of all I am grateful to the lady who called us the following day to offer counseling services to my children.

Thank you for realizing that just because something happens all the time doesn’t make it normal.

My husband said, “Its our fault. We become too relaxed.”

No, it is not our fault.

Yes, for the last little while we became less scared and starting living like normal people, having a glass of wine before bed sitting outside and watching the stars.

I hate that they stole that simple pleasure from me, it’s something insurance can’t get back.

That simple feeling of being safe in your own home.

My father-in-law spent the war in Dachau and what he said made me step back and evaluate what my life has become.

He said, “The way I am living now? It is worse than it was when the Nazis came.”

I am sick and tired of pretending that is all okay.

It is not f@$cking okay.

It is miles and miles away from okay.


K is for Kidding. You must be kidding? Right?



After my bizarre parking lot accident a week or so back, you’d think I’d have met my quota. You can read about that crash with calamity if you feel like it later.

Today was one of those days when I should have stuck with routine. Just the same thing I do every day and not messed with the system.  Of course, I didn’t and so now here I sit bemoaning the fact. 20/20 hindsight and all that.

siameseThe first stupid choice I made was leaving work early, due to having left two small people in my mother’s small house with a hyperactive Golden Retriever, a skittish Siamese kitten and the cleaning service. I was concerned that the summation of the first three items of that list would result in chaos greater than the sum of its parts.

The second mistake was deciding on a whim to take a different route home. Why today of all days I chose to vary this, I have no idea. It was not a choice that ended well.

RobotHappily pulling up at the red robot (traffic light in every other country) I found myself behind a taxi and two other cars I paid no attention to.

I wouldn’t paid attention to the taxi either had it not been the catalyst for the disaster that followed.

Let me tell you about South African taxis.

They are not the yellow cabs of New York City.

They are not the black cabs of London.

If you ever need to catch a taxi here you will need these.
If you ever need to catch a taxi here you will need these.

They are minibuses in varying stages of disrepair and near to total unroadworthiness that form the spinal column of our public transport system.

The roads are their domain. This means they can and will stop at anytime, anywhere with no warning (because 90% of the time the brake lights don’t work anyway).

And that is exactly what this one did.

Why he did not disgorge his passengers at the red traffic light, I have no idea.

Instead he waited until the light turned green and we all happily accelerated to be on our merry ways.

And then he stopped. Dead.

The car behind him stopped.

The car behind him stopped.

I stopped.

Then I chanced a glance in my rear view mirror and saw the future looking backwards.

mercThe future was a shiny, black Mercedes that on any other day, in any other circumstance I would have paused to admire.

Instead I thought, “Oh shit.”

Because the shiny, black Mercedes in question was blithely unaware we had all come to a screaming halt.

There was nothing to do and nowhere to go.

“Brace yourselves chaps!” I called out to Miss Diva and the Young Padawan.

And that was that.

With a screech of brakes and that horrid silence that seems to stretch forever I watched the shiny, black Mercedes close in on my not-so-shiny grey Ford Fiesta. And then he made first contact.

Regardless of having been forewarned the crash still felt like a charging rhino just head butted the centre of my back.

In real time this whole scenario probably unfolded in milliseconds.

I was very calm and Mr. Merc can thank my doctor for that (he prescribed me Xanax for insomnia and anxiety the day before). We exchanged the requisite numbers and he was terribly nice and concerned about all of us.

star trekIn all honesty, there wasn’t a hell of a lot he could have done to avoid the accident anyway.

Needless to mention, the taxi driver disappeared faster than Captain Kirk in the Starship Enterprise’s transporter.

As we drove away I noticed his shiny, black Mercedes wasn’t so shiny anymore. Feeling petty, I took some comfort in this fact.

The right thing to do after a Motor Vehicle Accident or as I discovered what “they” call an MVA, is to go to the police and fill out a report.

So, off we went.

How hard could this possibly be?

You have no idea.

sapsPolice Station 1 in my area of residence told me I had to go to Police Station B where the accident occurred.

Police Station B had a queue stretching into the parking lot.

Thirty minutes later I was very relieved when the Constable allowed me to complete the form myself without the lengthy dictation that usually takes place and the writing down of that dictation during which entire continents shift.

Ten minutes later I was back in the queue. At this point my children were not so quietly going insane. I might have told them that if they were naughty the scary policeman in the corner would put in a jail cell to chill out. They shut up.

Twenty minutes after that I handed my completed form to a different police officer who informed me that I had to go back to Police Station A.

At this point I ignored what I had told my offspring and let my mild indignation heat up to full steam. He stamped my form and sent me down a darkened corridor to the first door on the right.

The smell emanating from this room was so strong it had actual shape and colour. A sort of putrid algae green cloud of cabbage, boiled chicken and chakalaka hit my nostrils like an H-Bomb blast.

I then had to yell over about 8000 decibels of badly tuned radio to make myself heard to a distinctly disinterested young lady who eventually handed me a scrap of paper with my case number.

The case number is vital for my insurance claim. Otherwise it serves no purpose whatsoever and chances are high that my meticulously filled in form will end up in a landfill somewhere within the next 48 hours. It is an awful lot of bother for very little outcome.

Someone should write an app.

Of course, the next step was calling my husband. I flaked out a bit here.

I sent an SMS.

“Had accident. Not my fault. All okay. At police station.”

He rang back in about 0.2 of a millisecond.

At least he wasn’t mad at me. He even offered to come past the police station and give me a hug. In retrospect that was probably why he called me the night of the flat tyre (see I is for I have a Flat Tyre).

The damage report is not heartening. The boot/trunk does not open. The bumper is hanging on by a thread. Great chips of paint have fallen off the body. All-in-all a bit of a mess, with the result that I will be carless for some time, unless my insurance springs for a rental. Please not a Kia Picanto.

On a more personal level, my two passengers have minor whiplash, thank you God for safety belts, and I have to go for x-rays on my back.

It turns out titanium doesn’t have a lot of give and my replacement lumbar disk (see: Farting for Food) might have been knocked out of kilter. Something I hope with all my heart an anti-inflammatory can cure because I am in no hurry to be cut open again anytime soon.

The moral of the story?

Sometimes routine can kill you with boredom.

Sometimes it can just save your life.

It’s a toss up really.