Regular readers may be wondering if they missed Crime Story 1. Well, no. And the title could more aptly have been Crime Story 9234, but seeing as I can’t really confirm 9234 incidencts of crime in my life (let’s see, four stolen cars, two encounters with armed assailants at home. House breakins, hmm, tough to remember them all. Cellphone thefts? Even hazier. 9234 is probably close in total.) But in the interests of accuracy and a short headline I thought I’d limit it to the two this month. The first was a car radio stolen. The second, today, saw my wallet stolen.
It came on top of a really crap day. One of those hot, unproductive days with a deadline where I sit aimlessly in front of the computer trying to work, getting nowhere. I become annoyed, do the washing, get cross about doing the washing because I should be working. Take lots of food breaks. Play some FreeCiv, getting more annoyed at the waste of time. The kind of day I should just have written off and spent on the beach. So I decided to take a break in the afternoon, and go to the Garden Centre.
Feel bad enough to have 2 mocha smoothies (the first time I’ve had coffee since realising it gave me migraines about 2 years ago), while sitting and reading the latest Tectonic and Cape Times. All the time I’m feeling out of sorts, disconnected, keep looking for my cellphone and wallet next to me. Perhaps it was caffeine poisoning, but I prefer to see it as a warning sense of what was to come. At the time I just blamed the mood. I went shopping at Woolworths, uncharacteristically buying junk food, probably confusing the cashier’s attempt to profile me when organic granadillos appear next to chocolate puddings, organic baby tomatoes followed by prawn chips. I change queues. Start unpacking, and leave my trolley for a second to get some chocolates that were so enticing from the other aisle. Getting back, everything is packed, and I need to pay. Except my wallet is gone. It could have been taken from the counter, or more likely from the trolley as I was shopping in my dozy state.
R100 gone, but more annoyingly, all my cards. The first card to be missed is the parking card, and I get to search the basement for the after hours parking office, fill out a form swearing on my children’s blood that I did arrive an hour or so earlier, and hadn’t parked my car there all week and was now attempting to pull a fast one. I get to provide all sorts of personal details most people in other countries would never dream of handing over to anyone, much less scawling on a piece of paper in a dingy office. Does anyone else get annoyed that you need your ID number to do absolutely anything in this country? All in all today I got to hand over my ID number 3 times, once in the dingy parking office, once when organising a letting agent for a flat, and once when cancelling one of the cards. Just a normal day doing business in South Africa. Barcodes embedded in the forehead, anyone, freeing up everyone’s brain from remembering the ubiquitous 13 digits. Inserted by some robot mouthing 666 while laughing demonically I’m sure.
Finally I get home, only to spend the next 15 minutes on the phone cancelling my credit card and two debit cards. Quite impressive really – I was expecting a Telkom-like evening of grief, hours on the phone, having to burst into tears or scream hysterically before the ogre on the end of the phone (who’s actually an untrained newbie experiencing some karmic pennance for working as a concentration camp guard in a previous life) shows signs of letting me do what I phoned for. But, if there’s one bit of infrastructure South African’s have mastered it’s handling stolen cards. With Nedbank I cancel two cards in 10 minutes, and in the 5 minutes it takes to do the second cancellation, the reference number has shifted along by 7. Hopefully not all stolen cards.
Unfortunately the person can’t find either the St Georges Mall or Garden Centre branches on his system, where I’d like to receive my replacement card, and insists that the George branch is the closest match. Since it’s only 5 hours drive away, I politely decline and choose the option of standing in a queue to try and get another card.
Now, let’s hope the caffeine kicks in, I stop any further procrastinating and actually make some progress in tackling my overdue deadline.