I subscribe to a weekly small business e-mail written by Peter Carruthers called Petesweekly.com. Peter runs a training business for entrepreneurs, and is best known for his "Crashproof Your Business" seminars aimed at helping small business owners to structure their businesses correctly, market their services, and manage their business finances.
However, this week's mail prompted me to post it on my blog, since no doubt countless others have found themselves in a similar situation. I have added a few bits in brackets to place the mail in its context.
I was sitting at a restaurant in the V&A Waterfront [in Cape Town] on Sunday. It was good to be home. My daughter found a wonderful man to marry, and that was a great excuse to be back in paradise.
Until, that is, I had to pay the bill. Some entrepreneurial person had skillfully abducted my PC backpack.
I will miss the bag. It was the best I have found in 25 years of travel. I will miss the Apple laptop inside it. As well as my wallet with my insulin, blood test kit, credit cards, and cash in three languages, which is also gone. As is my 3G card, new mouse, in-earphones, and Cross sterling silver pencil (which even survived a few abduction efforts by Sheriffs back in the early nineties). Even the key to the AVIS rental car went walkabout.
All of which is not a problem. Almost everything I do is online, so the data loss is almost insignificant. Getting copies of the seminar and arranging another Mac for the presentation on Monday was easy, courtesy of a few wonderful friends and clients. (Thanks Donald and Liezl of C&S Audio.) Finding a tiny PC to access the Web - fairly simple.
The problem: The loss of my SA (and only) passport. Suddenly, going home as planned is impossible [Peter currently lives in the UK] . The UK does not accept temporary SA passports any longer. It will take another few days before my ID Book arrives via DHL and I can start the process of applying for a new passport.
This means I am stuck in town for a while. Anything from three days to ten weeks, depending who is speaking.
Of course, if there is a good place to be stranded for almost three months, Cape Town would be close to the top of my list. I have children, siblings and a parent stretched across the peninsula.
But I want to be at home for Christmas, with my wife, some mulled wine, maybe a little snow, and my kids wrecking the inside of my home and using the trifle as finger paint. Sleigh bells ringing, and a few malamutes towing Santa. (No reindeer since the last blue tongue scare, while the camels they used in his pageant last year apparently made an unseasonal mess.)
One reads that crime is commonplace in SA at this time, but on the wane. However, I appear to be the only person in the known universe who has had this kind of challenge. I say this because Mall Security were quite relaxed about my challenges. It seems that the cameras where I was seated were non-functional - something to do with renovations that were completed a while back.
My requests to secure the AVIS vehicle to prevent its theft were greeted with the kind of tsk tsk I give my Mom when she gets a little anxious about the sprinkler still being on at 10 at night. I contrast this approach with the effortless way that AVIS arranged a locksmith to get my luggage out and replace the vehicle within 90 minutes.
The Police arrived to take my statement. They promptly issued a case reference number, and gave me all the documentation without actually keeping any details for their own records. They seemed less interested in my plight than in my lack of Xhosa or Zulu linguistic skill.
While I was there a fellow was dragged in. He had eaten a R40 meal and could not pay. They did a heck of a lot more documentation as they charged him. I was a little embarrassed by my mere R75,000 loss.
When I queried the process, I was asked to rewrite my statement on a blank piece of paper. This would, I was assured, be entered into the official ledger at a later stage. My case number reflects a mere 26 incidents at the centre for the month. At least three of which were within this same Sunday morning.
I am not hopeful that they will find any of my stuff. And if they do, I doubt they will be able to find me.
So, there I was, wandering through South Africa's premier shopping mall and tourist destination, having just lost everything I need to be functional in SA (with the exception of a mobile phone). No offer of any resources to gather the bits of my life together again. Somewhere to sit and get transport, arrange card cancellation, etc would have really helped, for example.
Maybe it was that I sounded like a South African and should know that Africa is not for sissies. Not that I expected much, but it sure seems to me that if this does happen as often as we read about, then Mall Management should have a process to help out us folk who develop a sudden case of poverty while relaxing over a cappuccino. Of course, as we all know, the reported crime rates are steadily dropping, so I guess that such a process won't be needed much longer.
It takes a few days to hit home. Last night I tried to change my ticket with Iberia. Without a credit card (in the name of the passenger) to pay for the change, no change is possible and the ticket is forfeited. Despite what I said last week about travel agents, maybe there is a case for them after all?
Now I just need to find a nice beach to work on while I catch a tan. I too can multitask.
I end with a simple question: How prepared are you for something like this, because I feel like the world's biggest wally?
My question is this: Are we prepared for occurences such as this? Secondly, if this should happen to one of the members of our congregations, do we have the capacity, the know-how, and the compassion to help that person in a meaningful way?
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