I am reminded today, as I trawl town pleading with various shop owners to give me old boxes to pack my computer in since am hoping to persuade pilot to allow hard drive to travel with cats, of the many occassions I have had my car broken into whilst here. Outpost is – husband assures me – less fraught with petty theft. I hope he’s right.
My first experience of a theft from my car whilst shopping occurred when Ben was tiny. I darted into the central fruit and veg market in town armed with a basket, leaving Ben in the car with the ‘ayah’ (nanny). On my return the ayah was standing outside the car looking somewhat distraught.
What’s happened? I asked her.
Somebody has stolen your bag, she said on the verge of tears. It wasn’t a special bag, it wasn’t a Prada, it didn’t even have any money in it: it was my nappy bag and held only a change of nappy and bottle of juice for Ben.
How could it have been stolen, I wanted to know, with both you and Ben sitting in the car with it.
Well, she explained, a man came to the car (I was driving Anthony’s very large, heavy Landcruiser) and told me we had a puncture. So I got out. He got in. And stole the bag and ran away.
Quite what the ayah planned to do if we had had a puncture (we didn’t, needless to say), I’m not sure. Certainly not change it.
No matter. I was furious. Not with her, but at the cheek of it. I stomped back into the market, rallying support and by infecting stall holders with my indignation – ‘how dare somebody steal from the mouth of my babe’ – I had soon gathered quite a crowd.
Amongst them was somebody who had seen the thief (who must have been terribly disappionted to discover his efforts yielded only a Pampers and a baby’s bottle full of apple juice) duck into a shop. And even more astonishingly, the bag was retrieved, Ben’s thirst quenched and the ayah stopped her hand-wringing.
More recently, and just before Christmas one year, I was double parking and diving in and out of shops in haste leaving the (by now) much older Ben and his two sisters in the car since did not want them to witness what ‘Santa’ was buying (not sure why I bothered, I knew that they knew that no such thing but seems important to preserve some magic?).
As I raced out of one shop back to the car, the kids calmly told me that the man had come to get Dad’s beers (I had a crate in the back which I had just bought).
That man, they said, and pointed across the street to a man who had been nonchalantly striding along with my crate of beer on his head but who began to run when he noticed me.
Are you all completely stupid, I roared at the kids, how could you let somebody get into the car and help himself to my shopping?
But he said Dad had sent him to collect his beers, they said tearfully.
I went mad, not with the kids (I was hugely relieved nobody had touched them) but at the blatant theft. And – I suppose – at the plausible story.
I drove around the block four times hoping to catch the culprit and retrieve my beers. To no avail. To alleviate my frustration and anger, I roared and screamed and swore at every pedestrian I encountered – whilst simultaneously holding hand on horn – who all stared back in utter disbelief at mad white woman with three children cringing in back of her car.