Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Whole lotta trouble...

I had to take time out for a day to reflect on the horrible and surreal event we went through yesterday, and just how insane this country is. How different our realities are here from a lot of people's in terms of safety and security. And how desensitized one becomes in a way just to survive the psychological onslaught of the perception of constant threat of some sort.

If you're out on the roads, it's the threat of hijacking. If you're out walking, it's muggings. If you're in a mall, it's shootouts by gangs of robbers. If you're in your home, it's armed robberies.

Thank God, we got off easy yesterday, but it didn't make it any less scary.

Here's what happened:
Yesterday (Monday) morning, hubby and I had an errand to run fairly early, so we set out and got it done. On the way back, I got a feeling that we should pop in for tea at my parents' house. I called my mom to make sure they were there. She had been napping, as she hadn't been feeling well and my call had woken her up. My dad was out.

We went over anyway and were sitting in the lounge drinking tea when my mom said: "I think I just saw someone in the garden, but it must be my imagination because the dogs haven't responded."
I froze because just as my mom said that, the dogs ran to the backyard and started barking viciously.

I just had the feeling that if there was someone there (which the dogs were clearly telling us there was) and the person(s) were trapped behind the secondary security fence my dad had just recently finished putting up, that we had a limited time to get out of the house and into the car on the sidewalk (which we usually pulled-into my parents driveway). Otherwise, should the intruders make it over the fence and past the dogs, we'd be trapped in the house with our only option being 10111 (which we all know is notoriously dodgey, if the line is even working, you have to ask will the cops respond in time or even at all?)

So hubby grabbed the keys and I grabbed my mom and we ran to the car, storming to the local community policing site to report what we saw. And man, was that a good idea!

By the time we got back to the house, four cars from private security companies and local suburb crime watchers were there to aid us. More arrived as the word spread and we sat on the pavement as they jumped into surrounding houses to check the yard. To cut a long story shorter, they initially couldn't see anything, so they started leaving, and we were shakily going back into the house.

Just then, one of the cars screeched back and said that someone did a perimeter drive-by behind the houses and three guys had just jumped back into my parents' yard, and that there was a bicycle hanging over my parents' neighbour's fence. I freaked and went screaming into the house to fetch my mom back out, while all the cars arrived back out front again.

Brave guys with guns again jumped over the walls and managed to apprehend one of the guys in the other neighbour's yard. They handcuffed him and called the cops. A while later, another thief was apprehended a few houses down, which was discovered to have been broken into and ransacked (thus, they were systematically working there way over the walls house-to-house).

The Police arrived with sirens blaring about twenty minutes later to arrest them and take in the bicycle as evidence. It was then that my mom registered that the guy she had seen was wearing a blue and white shirt, and none of the guys already apprehended were wearing that colour.

The Police and community forum fanned out and, miraculously, managed to apprehend the third guy.

To say that we were grateful for a sucessful outcome to this in the understatement of the century. For those of us living in SA, we know the horror stories in the media and, for many, personally experienced.

My parents were burgled last year; my dad has been robbed at an ATM; my brother has been held-up, with a gun stuck into his face, while out training for the Comrades marathon; my mom went through an attempted smash-and-grab; and I went through an attempted hijacking. I believe that God protected us through all of these things and I definitely believe in guardian angels!

So, shaken and freaked-out, we returned to the house where we retold the story, had a cup of tea and continued on with the business of living (surviving) in SA, grateful for the happy conclusion to the morning's (yes, mid-morning) events.

The height of irony? Just that morning I had bought a book:
"The art of happiness in a troubled world" (by H.H. The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler).

Troubled doesn't even begin to describe the state our nation and our world is in. But in the interminable words of Gladys Knight and The Pips:

"I've really got to use my imagination
To think of good reasons to keep on, keepin' on
Got to make the best of a bad situation..."

Amen to that, Ms. Knight!


LenoreNeverM♡re said...

Goodness-gracious...must be scary!
My heart was even racing just by reading this.
I agree, sad to say the world is getting desensitized by the horror somehow. The latest news on tv was abt 150 murders this year alone- happening not so far from where I live & the no. is increasing! Let's hope the angels continue to protect us always~ take care dear!

Juanita said...

Hi Lenore,

I think I maxed out my adrenaline quota yesterday, so I've been avoiding the news entirely!

Amen to those angels and you take care (always) too!

russell said...

Holy cow, that stinks. Glad everyone is OK. I'm always of two minds for how it shakes out after an arrest like that. On one hand, I hope the bad guys learn their lesson before they hurt anyone, and move on to other employment. On the other hand, I kind of hope that they turn out to be the perpetrators of lots of other terrible crimes, for which they'll be prosecuted and put away for a very, very long time. As long as there are terrible crimes, I'd rather they were as few actual criminals as possible. I never feel completely good about hoping for either, because reality always seems end up somewhere in between, and so hoping for either one has a dram of something not exactly ethical mixed into it.

Here in the US, the problem is that crime is steadily falling, especially violent crime, but *fear* of violent crime ratchets up a bit every year. It leads to really perverse personal and public decision making. Especially by parents.

The crime wave we had in the late 1970s and 1980s suddenly petered out and ended in the early 1990s, and no one really knows why. I've read several theories, but none of them are very convincing. I suppose it must be a bit like when a room full of people suddenly stops talking because everyone else has stopped talking, and then everyone looks around to figure out what what caused it. There isn't really a cause, it's just a thing that happened.

Crime has been declining for close to twenty years, and people are still too freaked out to notice (the evening news doesn't help). People will vote for some pretty scary things when law and order breaks down -- or if they believe it has broken down.

I wish the best to all of you.

Anonymous said...

I know a number of SA's living in New Zealand who have moved here due to similar stories and having had enough.