Monday, February 14, 2011
Observe & Report (aka The Bag of Justice)
If ever I doubted my ability to fight crime, it was while watching footage of a 71-year-old grandmother run up, pick a fight with six armed men, and shock them into retreat using nothing but a handbag. Those boys are going to get hell in jail – and they thought losing to a girl in primary school was tough on the reputation, try losing to a granny in crime.
Retiree 1. Thuggish armed robbers 0.
I was also once a witness to a smash and grab, with far less heroic, or even remotely noble results. Not only did Nanny Mayhem shame me with her athleticism, I couldn’t even compete with her as a reliable witness.
I was ambling up Martin Place on my way to work a touch before 3am when a car drove past me, down the promenade. As Martin Place is not actually vehicular friendly (or indeed legally vehicular) I found this fact passing odd, but as I had only rolled out of bed bleary-eyed 15 minutes and one bridge-crossing earlier I shrugged it off as bizarre choice of shortcut and continued walking. When the car then proceeded to reverse back up Martin Place I momentarily assumed the driver had realized he was breaking the road rules and was simply trying to undo the act. I paused to give the group the smugly judgmental look they deserved.
That was when the car stopped beside me, three men jumped out and one of them took to the glass doors of a Prada store with a sledgehammer. Needless to say my presence felt both awkward and invasive during what was clearly a very private retail moment.
My first real mental struggle regarded whether this would be considered an emergency. I didn’t want to be one of those thoughtless types clogging up phone lines to report petty criminals with high end tastes.
My second struggle involved what was probably one of the single worst acts of witnessing in recorded police history. The 000 call went something like this…
Operator: How many men are there?
Painefull: 3… I think.
O: What colour is the car?
P: Um… blue-ish…
O: What are the men wearing?
P: Pants and shirts… with long sleeves.
O: Can you see the number plate?
P: Not really… wait… maybe I should put on my glasses. Should I put on my glasses?
O: (admirably calm) Yes.
P: Just… getting my glasses… out… bare with me, they’re somewhere… here they are, my glasses are on. Oh shit, the boot’s up, they’re putting stuff in – I can’t see the number plate anymore. Sorry.
O: What are they putting in the boot?
P: I’m not really familiar with Prada merchandise… looks like bags.
My attempts at witnessing only got worse when I gave an official statement. Cars and colours are just not my thing.
Interviewer: What kind of car was it?
P: I don’t know…
I: (encouraging, almost hopeful) Was the car a hatchback? Or a sedan?
P: I don’t really know what those things mean… I own a Toyota Corolla, and it looked nothing like that.
I: You say the car was blue… what kind of blue.
(pause while I squint thoughtfully)
I: Was it… cobalt?
P: I… don’t actually know what that colour is. ‘Cobalt’ is one of those words I often hear, and know I’m meant to know, but don’t, but pretend I do. Kind of like ‘sedan’. And ‘hatchback’.
My witnessing was actually so bad, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cops tailed me for a while just to check if I was a criminal mastermind who was playing dumb. Kaiser Soze I am not.
Now imagine you’ve just witnessed a crime. Badly. Then imagine you work in a media organisation where you will be expected to narrate your bad witnessing of a crime on camera. Then imagine it’s such a slow news day your horrible, incompetent witnessing manages to make it in to the 6pm news. You would think somewhere between 3am and 6pm a more substantial crime would have occurred.
Clearly I have much to learn from Bag Woman. She’s better than the A-Team and Charlie’s Angels combined – she doesn’t require a remake, because she’s still kicking. And swinging the Bag Of Justice.
Wonder if she needs a side-kick.