Friday, August 04, 2006

Safe as houses, as long as you lock the door

A few years back I woke up on a bright Monday morning to a nice breeze coming through my room, which was most pleasant but rather unexpected. I sat up to realise the balcony doors were wide open. I scratched my head wondering had I foolishly left the doors like that all night. Possible as from time to time, my housemate and I would stand outside there in the evening, drink a beer or smoke a cigarette, while complaining about our other housemate, of course.

But I disremembered doing that the night before, in fact, I recalled, burnt out from the weekend’s indulgences, I went straight to bed and straight to sleep. So I climbed out of bed and ventured out to the balcony to investigate, perhaps, instinctively knowing what had happened but not wanting to even contemplate it.

Sure enough, outside there was a large empty envelope on the ground. It was an envelope I recognised. An envelope that hitherto I had known as “the big, fat envelope”, christened so, as it contained a month and a half’s salary, a lump sum I planned on spending on little old me on a Thai beach when school was out for the summer.

The cash was obviously gone; a veritable jackpot for whoever swiped it, and unlike jewellery or a CD player, completely untraceable. Shocked rather than upset, later on I told my neighbours, a couple of foreigners, as much to warn them to be careful (as in, don’t be naive like me and make sure you lock up at night, even hard-to-get-to-balcony doors).
“Oh yeah, we’ve been robbed lots of times,” said one, admitting that presuming the other to still be out they kept going to bed leaving their front door closed but unlocked.

On the last occasion one of them woke up as a shadowy hand hovered over the bedside table searching for a mobile phone or a wallet. He jumped up and chased him out of the house but the intruder was like a cat – up and over the gate and gone.
“I couldn’t chase him any further as I didn’t have any clothes on,” admitted the victim.

Of course, most urban Vietnamese houses have high gates, padlocks, and even barred windows. It’s pretty hard to get in, so those who try are probably well-practiced. At first I kept thinking about how amazing it was that the one time I hadn’t locked the balcony door I’d been burgled, until someone pointed put it mightn’t have been the first time they tried to get in.

Plus, even with locked doors, leaving windows open can be dangerous. Another friend told me how once he woke up to a spooky image – levitating trousers. He rubbed his eyes and looked again and watched as the trousers floated across the room. It took him a second to realise there was a man standing on his balcony with a large stick with which he’d plucked the trousers, through the bars, off my friend’s floor. My friend pounced towards the window and snatched the trousers back inside but the thief had already slipped out the wallet and – once again – instantly vanished into the night.

Of course, some of us are clearly more careless than others. Once, I ran out of the house late for a date and when I returned six hours later I discovered my keys dangling invitingly from the padlock. I might as well have put out a welcome mat and left drinks on the coffee table, says you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Somone once stole $500 from the coffee stable not three feet from the front door that was alway open to the alley where hundreds of people walked passed every minute. The audacity!