Since I live in the country with
the most murders with a firearm per capita, I am understandably a little paranoid.
Actually, that’s a huge understatement. I’m a raving paranoiac. So is my partner, Warren.
At home, we have four dogs well known for their ferocity on guard who sleep in the house. We also have razor wire around the perimeter, flood lights mounted on the roof and an alarm system (with sensors in the roof space as well) linked to an armed response company.
This, I must point out, is quite normal for Joburg.
On the road, one keeps a wary eye out at all times for other vehicles and snaps to attention when the car is stopped at a robot or a stop sign. Anyone approaching is subject to a thorough analysis as to their intentions – is he selling newspapers or is he a beggar, or gods forfend a smash-and-grab artist?
When walking in the mall, be sure to have your wallet stowed away in a front pocket or, should you insist on carrying a handbag, make certain that it can only be separated from your person by maximum brute force. This means hanging it across your shoulders so that it lies in front of you, and even then keeping a hand on it at all times. Better to just leave the bag at home actually.
We have had it drummed into us that our moments of most serious exposure are those when we are feeling most at ease- approaching the home or leaving work for example.
Thus we develop senses like a hawk on steroids and neck and eye muscles like an owl on a turntable in the presence of any other people at all, eventually.
I count myself as one of the most alert…err…paranoid people around. You won’t sneak up on me easily. Thus it shocked the living daylights out of me last weekend when, getting to our car parked underground at the mall, I was suddenly very close to a couple of youths who I could have sworn were nowhere near us the previous second.
One of them was reaching under his T-shirt. I didn’t stop at the car door, but kept walking around the vehicle to the other side with Warren. At least there was a car between me and them now.
Apparently, under his shirt is where this youngster keeps his car keys. He opened the boot of the vehicle next to us with them.
No, I didn’t feel like a Pratt.But I did feel surprised. It’s been a long time since I’ve been shocked by fear of anyone. Perhaps I needed the lesson.