Saturday, September 24, 2005

Albert's bad day

I can’t decide if time is going fast or slow. Whatever it’s doing, it sure is hot, which makes everything seem much more languid. One could get used to this pace. How’s the weather there, where you are? Is it sunny? Warm? Dry?..........HA! Thought not. (Feel free to verbally abuse me -- I have my CD player on because the Japanese kid is practicing again -- so I can’t hear you....)

Since so many have written to express their surprise that I’m still alive (haven’t dropped dead from heat or exhaustion on the tennis court or in a pilates studio and haven’t been killed ... yet) I thought I’d take you along on a little riff about crime and security issues here.

Everyone’s heard the statistics about South Africa. Highest reported rape rate in the world. Personal safety is an area of significant concern. Massive homicide statistics. In fact, all of my friends pulled terrible faces when I told them I was going to move to South Africa.

“Ohhhhh. Well, Cape Town, then?”
“No, Jo’burg.”
“O my God, please be careful!”

Gee, thanks, I’m even more excited about going than I was before. (But at least I know you care!)

But once we did get here, things didn’t seem too bad. You could walk around a beautiful mall, eat in a lovely garden restaurant, drive your car along wide avenues, and you lived to recount your adventures. Although there was that one luncheon.....

When we came to visit here in July, for our house-hunting trip, our new friends David and Tuppence took us out for a Saturday brunch. We agreed to meet at a favorite spot of theirs, an eating place in Broadacres Centre. We entered the gloriously verdant open-air garden restaurant, and were invited to choose any table. The waitstaff came over to adjust umbrellas, pour water, fuss over us.

Tuppence said to us, “We love this place; we eat here all the time. It’s super.” and then to the waiter, “Hallo, isn’t Albert here today? He’s our usual waiter, could you send him over, please?”

The waiter looked down at the carpet of thick green grass underfoot, and said, “Oh, Madam, I’m sorry. Albert is not here today.”

“What? He’s always here on a Saturday! Does he have the day off today?” asked Tuppy.

“No Madam. I am sorry to say that Albert was shot last night.”

David and Tuppence looked at each other and you could just tell that the two of them were thinking, in unison, “Awwwww, sheeee-itttt.” Because of course, five minutes before they’d been telling us that crime was nothing to worry about, if you paid attention, weren’t stupid, and so on. “No problem to move to South Africa! If you’re smart, you’ll be safe!” Oh, the unfortunate timing of it. But this could happen to anyone.

Tuppy recovered herself. “Is he still alive? I hope?”

“Yes, Madam, he is in hospital.”

Well, whew then. Lunch could be eaten, worries could be set aside, and Albert’s wounds could heal. One would hope.

Say a prayer for Albert, won’t you?

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