Sunday, August 29, 2010

Smooth Criminal

This is the first time in my life I get mistaken for a criminal.  Such is life in sunny, petrified Caracas. Here's the story.
We arrive home almost at midnight to find that the electronic garage door opener of the apartment doesn't work.  Luckily, a neighbor shows up in their car, so I get out of the car to ask them if they can open the gate for us, ours is broken, yadda, yadda. They don't open their windows, and like every car in Caracas, their windows are tinted black, so I can't see them.  This is all very confusing to me.  I ask them with hand signals to roll down their windows. Nothing happens. I go back to the car and report that they won't talk to me. Not only that, they seem to be retreating. Finally, the driver rolls down his window. It's a couple in their thirties. I ask him if they can please open the gate since our thingy is broken. I tell them the apartment number where we live.  They look at me as if they were constipated and mute and I am some sort of evil alien. She is shaking her head. So I lose patience and I ask what's the problem. "The problem is we don't know you and we don't want to open the gate". But you can see that I'm not gonna mug you, I say. A middle aged goldilocks with glasses, for crying out loud.
I go back to the car, retrieve the opener and bring it so they can see it. They get really upset and start screaming at me, "You don't understand the reality of this country and you have the wrong attitude".
My appearance and my story do not reassure them in the least.
Somehow finally they open the gate. Now I realize that what I saw in their faces was naked fear. They were afraid of me. And every single thing I did, did nothing but reinforce their fears. Who knows, I could be part of an elaborate ruse to deprive them of their possessions and perhaps their lives, probably with unspeakable violence. It has happened before, with the most outlandish scenarios.
Shit is so bad in this place, people can't even trust their instincts any more.  Civility is gone.
Common sense has left the building.                        

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