Sunday, 23 December 2018

Unusual Friends - #12 - Thieves

Thieves come in various guises. The corrupt politician, the scheming banks and large companies all have the respectable face of thieving. Then ordinary citizens when given half a chance are likely to succumb to this temptation. In the seventies when I lived in London, we occasionally came across people who needed to do this to survive. But there were also those who may be classified as seasoned kleptomaniacs. There was one young lady who almost killed the budding friendship between me and Marisol. I had just met Marisol and a couple of months later I invited her to dinner at a restaurant that both of us knew.
I showed up all spruced up and waited for Marisol to arrive. An hour went by and Marisol was still a no-show. Well I had dinner alone and went home wondering why? There were no mobile phones and I knew that Marisol had no way to contact me. Later in the week I saw Marisol again at our regular bar where jazz played. She was most apologetic (thank god) and told me why she did not make it to our date.
Some girls (friends of friends) were visiting from Spain, and she had shown them around town. The evening of the dinner date, she received a call from the local police station, and the officer told Marisol that he had some ladies in detention who spoke little english, and that they had given them her name and address as a local reference. The girls had been picked up stealing at a local store, (Biba in Kensington if my memory serves me) and were going to be held until Marisol could go over and help them.

Marisol was very concerned and ignoring all else, made her way to the police station. Here she spent the next several hours being the interpreter and negotiator. The girls came from well to do backgrounds and need not have stolen at all. By the time the girls had handed over all their funds to the police and got their freedom back, it was two hours past our agreed time for the dinner. Needless to say all was forgiven, we pooled resources to get the girls back to Spain, and we made a new attempt to get together soon after, this time with some success.
I am sorry to have to say that people trying to steal your belongings is more noticeable in Spain then anywhere else that I have been (there are a few exceptions like Mexico and Nigeria). Many of our friends and family have lost wallets and iPads and coats etc when not being vigilant. I was once accosted in Barcelona in daylight when a well dressed man walked upto me, tugged at my bag, failed to get it off and then coolly walked off as if nothing had happened. I was with my mouth open, frozen to the spot yet relieved that I still had my bag.
In Venezuela and before that in Ghana too, you had to protect yourselves against violent crime as well as robbery. In Maracaibo it was popular to steal a car or to steal the wheels and leave the car on bricks. My boss had his driver's seat stolen once from a rare car (Barracuda I think it was called) and we were all ROTF laughing when he showed up the next day with a dining chair held up with ropes in which he sat while driving. 
The Plymouth Barracuda 
In Africa once a policeman showed up at my Dad's house, where we were selling some items in a garage sale before moving house. He liked a transistor radio, but had no money on him. My Dad told him how much it was worth making it clear that he was not going to get it for nothing. 'OK, just a minute' he said. We saw him go out to the street and stop two cars, both drivers were made to hand over some cash, and he returned and paid for the radio. 
When I was younger a story used to do the rounds in India about a rich man with an American car who had one of his shiny wheel hub caps stolen. Now these were not obtainable in India, and someone suggested he try the local Chor Bazaar (Thieves Market) where they could find you anything. You all probably know this story but sure enough someone at the bazaar agreed to find him the missing wheel hub cap if he could wait a few minutes. After a while the lad came back and surprise, surprise, he had the very item needed. A large sum of money changed hands, the cap put on, and the content car owner drove off. The next day he discovered that he was still missing one hub cap, this time from the other side of his car!

There were thieves at our offices in London too and I had my wallet stolen from my jacket from my office. I would like to believe that these were outsiders but still you can't but help thinking that one of your colleagues was the culprit. Expense account stories were popular among the frequent travellers, and this involved what was permitted (or not) in a travel expense account. One such tale had it that the boss informed one employee that he could not charge for buying an umbrella on his company expenses. Disgruntled, off he went and came back the next day with his 'new' claim, which was for the same amount as the previous day, but with a handwritten message 'Now try and find the umbrella'!
As I said, there are many different ways to steal.

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