Previously, on Leigh´s blog...
Buoyed by neighborhood pride and surrounded by all things edible, I invited a friend over for dinner.
I hadn´t seen this particular friend in a while, so I kind of went all out. I spent the afternoon chopping, frying, boiling and seasoning. I set up my stereo speakers in the dining room and rolled my gas heater in to warm the area up. I cleaned.
My friend was scheduled to arrive between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. At some point during this interval, I dropped my cell phone in the toilet for the second time in as many months. Seconds later, there was a knock at my front door. As I scuttled toward the foyer with my keys, the pounding grew more insistent.
While I turned the key in the lock, I arrived at the conclusion that my friend, who always calls instead of knocking, must have called me while my cell phone was on its diving adventure.
Leigh: Hi, sorry. Did you call? I dropped my phone in the toilet.
Leigh´s friend: No. I couldn´t call because someone just stole my cell phone.
Great, yet another person taking a swipe at my neighborhood.
Leigh: Quit messing around.
Leigh´s friend: I´m not. A group of like 15 kids just pulled a knife on me and stole all my stuff.
I didn´t believe him until he opened his backpack, which was completely empty except for the carton of peach juice he had brought for dinner. All that was left in his pockets were his keys.
I was floored. My friend had been robbed by an adolescent mob just steps from my house before 8:00 p.m. While walking, just as I had instructed him, along the most well-lit streets in the area. Could it be that all those people who had spoken negatively about my neighborhood had been right?
I´m still not convinced. Of course, no neighborhood is perfect, and mine suffers from certain difficulties that aren´t as present in wealthier areas. But people get robbed all over this city, even in its most exclusive corners. The difference is that when it happens there, people assume it´s because thieves from other areas have astutely zeroed in on the places where the most profit is to be made. When it happens here, though, it´s because the neighborhood is bad. Period. Regardless of how kind its residents are or how awesome its street market is. I prefer to focus on the latter characteristics.
Still, the fact remains that this group of kids chose to carry out their activities in my neighborhood (we came to the conclusion that they may very well not be from around here, since if you rob one of your neighbors, you run the risk of him/her and his/her entire family knowing where to track you down**). And they chose to target my friend. It sickened me to envision someone pulling a knife on him and enraged me to think about how much time he´s going to have to spend standing in line to get new ID cards and a new student transportation pass. It also enfuriated me to think that the same guys who robbed him probably intended to do the same to my neighbors, who, in general, are people who work their asses off for what little they have.
So it was that I made my second call to the Chilean police. Unlike the first, this was not a 133 (911) call, but rather a ring to the nearest police station. Like the first call, however, this one led to consequences that deserve their own blog post. So stay tuned...
**Case in point: A coworker once was held up at gunpoint by a group of would-be thieves who apologized profusely and ran away when she told them she lived in the neighborhood.