Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cops and Robbers

My predilection for being robbed or losing valuables every time I take a trip has been well documented in my blogs. After a month away, first in the UK and then in New York, I can this time report that my travels were almost incident free.
I was parted from my iPhone just once, after leaving it on the subway, but it was picked up and, thanks to Find My iPhone on my computer, I was able to trace it and retrieve it.
For the first time ever, baggage security staff resisted going through my bags and rifling anything they could sell on eBay, and I made it back to my LA apartment with everything I had taken away, apart from my iPhone earphones.
In fact, this trip started to bring me closer to items stolen in the past. Suddenly, the messages “Jaci Stephen’s iPad has been found” and “Jaci Stephen’s Airbook has been found” appeared on my computer. These related to the items I had in my hand baggage that was stolen from LAX when I returned from Miami in January. The messages show up when the items are connected to the internet, and would also have flashed up a message from me, saying that they have been lost and giving a number to reach me on. No one has.
Trying to get anyone to do something about this is as stressful as losing the valuables. When the same thing happened in Miami, the Miami police were on it in an instant, racing to the house within half an hour, where, alas, they were still unable to locate the thief. Los Angeles’ Burbank police are showing no such enthusiasm. They say it’s not their case and I have to go back to the airport police, who will then pass it on to them.
I have decided against going to the house myself. While never having had so much as a parking ticket (I was brought up to be terrified of the law, which may explain my obsession with that profession), I am unlucky when it comes to law enforcement, having a propensity to over-react.
When in Paris for Six Nations France vs Wales rugby match last year, I saved an entire bar from almost certain attack when I yelled at everyone to get down on the floor when a sinister figure in a motorcycle helmet tore in, brandishing what appeared to be a gun. When I, the only person lying prostrate on the ground, finally stood up, it was to be greeted with howls of laughter – the man was a friend of the owner and had been “joking”. Ha bloody ha.
A similar incident, also in Paris, took place several years before, when I saved the city from almost certain terrorist annihilation. On that occasion, it had been prompted by a man reading an Arab newspaper, refusing to move his bag from his seat because he said it was a bomb.
One emergency cord, one halted train and a dozen armed men later, the centre of Paris was at a standstill. As I sat in a cafĂ© with my glass of wine, watching the gendarmerie tear down the steps of the rue de Bac metro (naturally, I had waited until my stop before pulling the cord), I pondered whether the “terrorist” had actually said that his bag was on the seat. I only hope that the poodle, yanked at breakneck speed from the train by its screaming owner, survived.
I have been just as much a law-abiding liability in my own country. When I lived in Bath, women’s greatest fear was a rapist who had been on the loose for over a decade. Finally, though, it seemed as if the police were moving in, and there were posters all over town of a possible suspect, whose hunting ground was local night clubs.
I was having lunch at the Garrick’s Head, a city pub in which one side of the bar was largely occupied by gay men. On the other side, as the afternoon wore on, the man who had joined us from out of town began to look suspiciously like the man on the poster. When he asked me and my friend if we would like to go to a night-club later, that was it: I was sure I had my man. I went round to the gay side of the bar and asked the guys if they thought the interloper looked anything like the man on the poster. 

Asking a gay man not to dramatise a situation is like expecting the Pope to give you directions to a sperm bank: it ain’t gonna happen. Yes, they insisted, the man was the spitting image of the poster suspect.
I called 999, which gave the event an air of urgency it did not perhaps warrant, but asked the police to tread lightly and just question the man. Too late. Within seconds, three armed cops were in the bar, frogmarching the bloke out onto the street for questioning. I really hope he made it to the Verdi concert he was in town for, in which he was going to be a starring tenor.
So, no, I don’t think I will be heading to Burbank to rescue my items, and I only hope that the LAPD start to act a bit more like they do on the telly, or, at the very least, like the cops do in Miami.
In the meantime, it’s back to the Apple Store to replace my earphones. 

The inevitability of that journey after every trip back home is something I have learned to live with.


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