Friday, 3 August 2007

Jozi crime-zone quiz: take the kids, or leave them?

Answers on postcard, please: You live in Johannesburg and have three kids, aged 8, 14 and 16. The youngest is asleep, and the oldest, who has been out on the jorl, needs to be fetched at 10 pm from a location 8 km away. Their father is out, and there is no one else on the premises, although there are beams around the garden, spikes, burglar bars, dogs, and a security guard on the street.

Do you:

1. Wake up the youngest, and drag her and the 14-year-old to the car, and drive the 16-km round trip? (Risks: hijacking as you reverse out, hijacking as you drive back in, hijacking at intersection, being mown down by a drunken driver, having an accident, etc)

2. Leave both kids at home, the older kid in charge of the younger one, in bed behind a locked trellidor with a panic button and cell phone on hand. (Risks, in rough order: intruders/armed robbery, being hijacked as you drive in and out, fire, medical emergency, earthquake, tornado, sinkhole, meteorite hit, alien invasion....oh, jeez, I have to get a grip)

I was faced with this choice and I chose the latter because statistically I reckon my kids are safer at home. What REALLY pisses me off is that I have to make this choice in the first place, and that I need to calculate the odds every time I go out.

Concern for my safety and that of my family colours every decision I make. What is safer? Go for a walk through a quiet suburb, with my feisty and loyal Staffie on a leash, or drive at morning rush hour to the gym, dodging kamikaze taxis and smash-and-grabbers as I go?

If I allow my 14-year-old to ride his bike round the neighbourhood, am I being irresponsible? Will he be mugged, like several kids in our suburb and its surrounds have been recently? If I don't let him ride his bike, am I being over-protective and paranoid and depriving him of his freedom?

Can I leave the doors onto the garden open, so that my daughter and the dogs can run freely in and out for a bit of light gambolling on the lawn? Or should I keep every door of the house locked up tight at all times, just in case some murderous thugs scale the walls, invade my home, and do unthinkable things to my family?

If my 16-year-old goes out with his friends, is it reasonable to ask him to SMS me every two hours to let me know where he is? Or is my concern for his safety ('It's just paranoia, Ma') going to cause him excruciating embarrassment that destroys his social prospects?

Can I draw cash from an open and exposed ATM, or should I be safe and go into the bank? If I go into the bank, what are the odds that a gang of gunmen will burst in?

Most unsettling thought of all? If I take all these precautions and choose the safer options (and you can be assured that I will), is this any guarantee that I won't be the victim of a crime tomorrow?

Again, answers on a postcard.

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tonypark said...

Um... move to Sydney?

Seriously, I'd be too chicken to live in Johannesburg. If I ever move to South Africa (something Mrs Blog and I discuss occasionally, usually when very drunk), we'd either have to live in the bush somewhere, or perhaps in Phalaborwa, which seems to have a lack of security fences, but a surfeit of smelting operations (or some other such industrial/mining fallout).

And, having said that, I heard about an author who was been shot dead a couple of years ago in his home in Marloth Park, near Kruger, so I guess you can't win.

Funnily enough I was talking to a friend who lives in a mansion in Zim, Bulawayo. Despite all the troubles she has not been broken into in the 27 years she's lived in her house. Every home I've lived in in Australia has been burgled (though, admittedly, no one is going to shoot/rape/stab you in your average Aussie robbery).

meggie said...

I was going to suggest you move to Aussie immediately too! Come & be our neighbours, we seem to have a nice bunch, & your life sounds very stressful.
Apart from storm damage & a sewage flood, we have had no dramas.

Juno said...

Tony, Meggie, thanks for the comments. The idea of moving to a crime-free zone is tempting, but I love living in Jo'burg, really I do. And it's not as bad as I made it out to be, really,it's not. (I'm too nervous to say I've never been the victim of a crime - apart from bit of light pilfering - because I don't want to tempt fate; oops, I've just said it). It is just sometimes so stressful to live in a constant state of heightened alert. BTW, I left the kids alone, fetched the other kid, and no one got shot. Aren't I the lucky one?

bec said...

You know what? We've been through all of this with kids in safe (despite what the Captain says) old Sydney. I'd have done exactly what you did, Juno.

And I'm willing to bet I've lived in at least double the number of homes here that Tony has, mostly in much less salubrious suburbs, and not once (touch wood) have I been burgled.
It's like he says in his comment, though: the luck of the draw.

bec said...

And Meggie's right - I'd never miss a chance to urge people to move here!

(Ha! My word verification is 'craaal' - I wish my very limited afrikaans was good enough to make a proper kraal joke for you)

tonypark said...

NB: Juno (and Muriel if you're there), I'm pleased Bec and Meggie have made it over to your side of the (virtual) Indian Ocean.

They're a couple of champion bloggers. You can find Bec's (becandcall) through mine.

Highly recommended. (Although Bec plugs my books relentlessly and never says anything bad about my sex scenes - out of politeness and friendship - she's actually very well read).

bec said...

Tony says that because I know who Abelard and Eloise are - or were, rather. Also because I like James Salter.

He's probably trying to get me to say something else nice about his books (because he has a big head) but I can't just now because
a) seriously, if I plug him any more I'll have to charge some royalties myself, and
b) I haven't read book 4 yet as my husband is on the last pages of Safari and still hoping for more sex... from the book, anyway.

I think I'd better get back to my side of the ocean now...

angel said...

gotta giggle at tonypark... i'm too scared to go to the mailbox to post a postcard, can i comment instead?
if i didn't know you better i'd say you wrote this post about me- except that i only have one child, a 16 year old hyperactive impulsive child!

Juno said...

Thanks Bec and Angel.

I haven't read any of your books, Tony, but I shall borrow them from Muriel forthwith (not despite the sex scenes, but because of them har har).

Bec, your blog looks terrific - have added it to my blogroll.

Angel, I know ALL ABOUT having a sixteen-year old.

Juno x

PS My sister and her family moved to Sydney from Jo'burg five years ago, and the scariest thing they've encountered so far was a python on their deck. (Oh, and having to do all the houswork).