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Human face of crime


Its implications are uncertain and Jeremy is in the most awkward of moments for mustering defence. But all is well

Long, long, ago journo Jeremy Shepherd Smith was on the scene of a drama in a Durban street. He leapt out of his car. He rushed to the rescue. He did what needed to be done.

Somewhere in the middle he vaguely registers that somewhere out of sight his car door is hanging open, engine running. Returning, Jeremy is not hugely surprised that the vehicle is absent. He reports that.

An hour or two later the police contact him. His car has been found and so has the person who took it – a youngster of humble circumstances.

All indications point to an attitude of “wow, Fate’s inviting me to have some fun” rather than any plan for permanent possession. Jeremy is for letting it go but the police come on heavy.

In criminal court the kid is convicted and given a fine that makes Jeremy wince.

But, so it goes. Part of the law’s job is deterrence, and this kid ain’t driving off any time soon in anybody else’s invitingly available car.

Jeremy expresses regret and goodwill to the criminal, and it’s over. Some 10 years later, Jeremy is in a hotel’s Men’s Room when a voice rings out from above the urinal alongside: “Hey, you’re the guy whose car I stole!”

The information is not welcome.

Its implications are uncertain and Jeremy is in the most awkward of moments for mustering defence. But all is well.

After due decorum-delays the human connection is consolidated. Memories are shared and so are beers, and the two part as friends. Jeremy enjoyed the lesson on how the human face can make a showing there at the intersection between crime and motoring. It lived with him.

Long, long later and 600km away, crime and motoring intersect again. Last week, Jeremy’s son, Jasper, was driving into downtown Joburg, his window open.

Stationary at the Smit Street M1 robot, sudden gunmetal chills his cheekbone while a voice suggests he hands over his wallet and phone.

The phone changes hands. The wallet is in a briefcase on the floor of the back.

Jasper displays his empty jacket pocket. The gunman says “you can go. Just close your window”. Jasper survives the experience, not greatly traumatised and rather inspired by the robber who worries that his victim’s security systems are too lax.

How nice the internet is, forever delivering new bon mots for columnists and the like to pick up free with no idea who deserves the credit.

Some recent questions:

Why is “abbreviated” such a long word?

Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

Why is dishwashing fluid made with lemons while lemon juice is made with chemicals?

To which the Stoep might add a question of its own, a rather painfully real one.

Office personnel in the medical industry are excellent at making the phone call that goes, “We’re checking that you remember your appointment at 10.30 tomorrow”.

Why can’t they manage the same excellence with the call that should go, “In case you are endangering yourself and your nation, to say nothing of that tin can in which you are travelling, by hurtling through crowded roads at dangerous and unlawful speeds to be here for your 10.30 appointment, we courteously advise you that we are running thirty minutes late”?

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