So, last night I caught someone trying to break into our car.
It was a weird set of circumstances.
I deviated from my normal routine* in so many ways and the odds so low that at the moment the young guy should be walking up our drive (half twelve), in the rain and me, on the way to bed looking out through just-open shutters.
It was sort of, cosmic, I guess you might call it.
I am not trying to read more into this than there is – yet.
I opened our bedroom window, shouted down, ‘Oy, what are you doing!’** – the guy, jumping out of his skin, lurched down the drive shouting back at me, ‘Nothing!’
It was unusual because I have never caught someone in flagrante – in the act of attacking my property and, beyond that the interpersonal connection, the brief second of our communication.
Later on, mulling this over, I considered what he was after.
I do not imagine it would have been to steal the car – ten-year-old VW’s can’t fetch that much on the open market (and there is the immobiliser, the alarm); nor, was it to get the radio – built-in (I remember twice in 2001 having my car radio stolen in Sheffield – is this still something that happens?); what could he have been up to?
Part of me felt sorry for him, after all, he did look young, it was late, and he was out in the rain by himself on a Friday night.
About six months ago we had two young guys call round to the house selling cleaning products, all of which were tat. I felt sorry for them too. I remember one, the taller of the pair had a hickey on the left side of his neck.
I gave them a fiver and took some specialist rags, my thought being, if they are sizing up my house to break-in, this might help, and if they aren’t, if they have decided to raise a few drachmas by trawling round my defensive neighbours, good luck to them.
Most of my life exists within a comfortable middle-class bubble. Sure, through work I encounter all sorts of people, but after hours, when I am home, that connection breaks.
After all, my trainee vagabond last night is still part of our society, I owe him as much as he owes me, it is just that he presumably imagined that I owe him more.
After a brief discussion, I called 101, eventually giving-up – being on hold to report a possible crime is not an inducement to wait. I then logged-on and reported my experience. I am sure it will slip into a digital crime database and contribute infinitesimally to the next Chief Constable’s report.
Why write about this?
Well, it was odd, drifting to sleep after the event, I ran through the ‘theft’ encounters of my life – the first when my mum and dad travelled to Netanya for their Silver-Wedding Anniversary; there, my mum woke in the night to find a strange guy in her room, who, telling her not to move, cleared out their belongings, mum’s jewellery, dad’s camera.***
Then, fast forward to probably 1990, mum in hospital, recovering from neurosurgery and me at home with dad.
Dad didn’t lock the storm-doors in our ground-floor tenement – this was before the now ubiquitous buzzer systems which hide the tiles; someone kicked-in the door, rifled through our stuff and stole what they could find. Not much I hazard. Although they did take a broken fob-watch that had belonged to my grandfather.
These thoughts whirring though my mind and a consideration of how lucky we have been never to have been robbed.
Yet, what I find most intriguing about all of these happenings, for, you can’t really call them experiences, were my relationship to events.
Last night, I really did want to talk with the guy and find-out what was going on with him; perhaps he had no bad intention, and this is how he routinely spends his nights, peering into darkened car windows; I wondered where he headed afterwards, what he was thinking, feeling.
I want to find out how the guy outside John Lewis, selling the Big Issue**** acquired his black eye, I want to understand the life experiences of a person on the journey up or down; I find all this so much more interesting, so richer, than the lives of some. I feel closer to the guy last night than the woman driving her oversized Range Rover past my house.
Will I always feel like this? Is this the way it has always been? Did the guy last night consider the repercussions of his action? Is he asleep now? At work? Reading this?
Time to think.
*This is the first Passover reference – ‘Why is this night different from all others?’
**It only came to me later – I could have shouted down, ‘What do you think you’re doing? This is the first night of Passover… Shame on you.’
****Not suggesting this guy has broken the law in any way.