Monday, May 28, 2007

Remember that crime spree I mentioned?

It caught up to me. Yes indeed, dear readers, I have been the victim of a vicious gang of master criminals.

Actually, I left my cell phone in the ladies’ room at the Blantyre Shoprite. But at the time it was quite distressing.

I spent last week in Nsanje, which is the Southernmost district in Malawi, surrounded on three sides by Mozambique. It’s a lovely, quiet, rural place, and any other time of the year would be desperately hot and mosquito-ridden. But as it’s winter here, it was actually very comfortable.

The disadvantage of going to Nsanje is that it’s about 8 hours away by car. That’s a lot of bathroom breaks, if you’re me. About halfway back home on Saturday, we stopped at a shopping mall in Blantyre for lunch, and to use the facilities. Unfortunately, power was down, as it has been so frequently lately, and the window-less restroom was pitch dark. I used the LCD display on my phone as a lamp and located the toilet.

When I got back to the car I realized I had left my phone. A coworker, who had been just behind me, told me she heard a woman saying to the toilet attendant “Someone has left something here…” as she left the room. So I felt confident that the guards would still have my phone as I hurried back to collect it.

Only they didn’t have it. The female attendant was nowhere to be found, so I waited as the guards located her. She also claimed to know nothing about the phone. I went to a nearby Celtel outlet (our service provider) and asked them to call my phone. It had been switched off. So at that point I knew that in the 3 minutes I had left it, someone had pocketed my cell phone. Dangit. And I knew it was either the woman who found it, or the attendant. Neither one was handing over the phone anytime soon.

Defeated I went back to the car and told my coworkers. But “Aunt” Alice, the matronly dowager of the group, was not letting me go out without a fight. Her own cell phone was stolen not long ago, and perhaps her righteous anger was linked to a need to redress past wrongs. Whatever the case, thank heavens for tough little old ladies, huh?

She went back and confronted the restroom attendant, who finally agreed to “help” find it. She went away for about 5 minutes, then sheepishly returned with my phone. It turns out all of the guards were in on it, and were planning to split the proceeds of the sale, earning about 3 dollars each.

I graciously thanked the guards for “finding” my phone, and went to leave. And you know what those little thieves had the nerve to do next? They asked me for a reward!


Miriam said...

You have got to love Africa. Glad you got your phone back!