Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Eighth Commandment

Poor Keefie and MamaDuck have been victims again. It makes me realise how fortunate I’ve been so far. I was only ever robbed once in Spain. Having been directed by the Law to park in the Back of Beyond in Puerto Banus, my mates and I locked and left the rental car and went sighteeing. The car was of course ripped off in our absence. Plod was completely uninterested, so we carried out our own investigation.

A nearby cinema-cum-disco was surrounded by a kind of dry moat, in which we discovered dozens of opened suitcases, clothing, holiday snaps and empty wallets. Clearly this was where the local sticky-fingered brigade brought tourists’ bags and rifled them for cash, passports and other valuables. And in my case, driving documents, camera, lenses and travellers’ cheques. Policing this obvious den of criminality was clearly beyond the wit of the local Constabulary, who were too busy directing traffic around the car park.

I think there’s a fundamental problem with making rental cars so obvious. The occasional ‘Hertz’ sticker might imply long-term lease rather than tourists, but a system whereby the rental status of the vehicle is advertised to everyone might tempt the weak-willed and easily-tempted. Four obviously sunburned blokes piling out of a Seat Panda (with crappy door locks, as we’d just learned) shouts “Tourists!” almost as much as knotted handkies and Union Flag shorts.

That was Spain. Rental cars in Cyprus have black-on-red number plates. OK, this tells everyone else on the road that the car is full of tourists who probably don’t know where they’re going and will probably stop unexpectedly or drive on the wrong side of the road, but the red plate is also a potential thief magnet. An unattended rental car is probably full of cameras, passports and money.

Similar problem in Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles. In that ‘diving paradise’, the rental vehicle of choice is a crew-cab pickup with a lockable load bed for the dive kit. Unfortunately the local villains have realised that a parked pickup on the roadside near a dive site is likely to be unattended for up to an hour, and is therefore a very easy target. You can’t take your wallet and passport with you when you go diving. Robbery is such an issue that we were warned of it by the rental company. My friends and I resolved the problem when we were there by diving in two buddy pairs, with the dry pair minding the car and the children.

Bear in mind the above, and then appreciate the relatively low levels of theft here in the UAE. Perhaps low crime is encouraged by a penal system that, for example, earns some thief three months in Al Slammah (plus deportation, plus loss of end-of-service benefits, etc) for nicking a - presumably used - tube of toothpaste. Oh, and a camera handle (whatever that is), a phone and a couple of SIM cards. However, given that I’d want to string up thieves by their gonads perhaps the official legal system is effective enough.

That’s not to say crime doesn’t occur. My car, a rented Lancer at the time, was once broken into at Dibba harbour while I was diving on a Mussandam day trip. The evidence was all over the windows: juvenile paw-prints showed that they’d pried one of the windows down a quarter of an inch, opened a door with a long stick and helped themselves to my car-park change. In a busy fishing harbour, no-one had seen a thing, and reporting the incident to the Royal Oman Police at 7pm on a Friday? Forget it. Put it down to Gringo/Gaijin/Gora tax. As Keefie noted, “…you are rich, so it doesn’t matter to you.” I rather think not!

To end on a happier note, here's a story about a burglar who climbs over a wall with intent to rob a house.

A voice says, “Jesus is watching you.”

The burglar looks around, and notices only a goat in the garden. He sneaks up to the house and starts to jimmy a window.

“Jesus is watching you,” says the goat.

The astonished burglar asks, “Who are you?”

“Clarence,” replies the goat.

“What kind of a moron calls his pet goat Clarence?”

“The same kind who calls his pet rottweiler Jesus.”



Keefieboy said...

We're getting fed up of always being targets. We're pretty savvy now, but this latest incident was unbelievable: teaching a class in a private school, MamaDuck had just popped out to pick up some photocopying. The perp walked into a classroom full of kids and lifted the handbag.

Mme Cyn said...

it wasn't one of the kids?


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