Life in Gauteng: Alarms

When I moved back from the UK about twelve years ago it was quite an adjustment getting used to the additional security measures that were being put in place both in homes and at the workplace. Our cars had already been through the process of upgraded anti-theft measures — from immobilisers, steering-wheel and gear locks, kill switches, alarms and tracking devices… Big business!

When I moved into my current home about ten years ago I inherited the existing alarm system which is linked to an armed response provider. As you do, with each break in (yes, there were a few), we upped security just a little bit more – electric fence… more sensors… more sensors… and yet more sensors. 

The thing with more sensors is that they increase the chance of a false alarm. It doesn’t happen all that often, but last night I was ripped out of a wonderfully deep slumber by my wailing alarm. Heart pounding, mouth dry and still half asleep I answer the call from the armed response company while traipsing to the front of the house to get a better ‘view’ of things. Probably a false alarm, maybe a cat? Can’t take a chance now though can we, so they agree to do a drive-by. Having said that, where’s Poppy? I eventually find my brave cat – big-eyed, flat-bodied and hidden under the bed from whence I eventually manage to  coax her out… We lie awake together, listening – I’m not sure for what as I’m sure burglars won’t be announcing their intentions like the purpose-driven singing Seven Dwarves… Eventually about two hours later after hearing only the peaceful sound of crickets, the wind and a frog, I fall asleep.

A friend of mine has totally rebelled against this sense of security, or insecurity, we are embracing. He leaves his car unlocked, with the keys inside. He leaves his security gate unlocked and ajar, and he doesn’t even bother locking the kitchen door… It’s all a bit risky for me, but I do have to say that part of me admires that… I love that he is taking ownership of his liberty, and showing a little of the middle finger to those faceless people who sometimes choose to infiltrate our homes.

Last year I house-sat for some friends for six wonderful weeks in Wilderness. Before they departed town, to my shame, I made them get in their ‘alarm people’ to make sure the alarm and panic button was in working order… Yes, some of us Gautengers do not take security lightly, although admittedly the biggest threat  there was probably from the wild boar rummaging through the bins, rather than the phantom monsters lurking behind them… 

I am amazed as to how my alarm used to rule my life. If we were in the theatre, or out in a restaurant, away on holiday or visiting friends, if the alarm went off at home and we got a call, it would result in a mini meltdown on my part. My peace of mind would flee, and I would no longer be mentally present where my physical body was at…

Twelve years on and I’ve relaxed. The alarms in my neighbourhood sound every now and again, and though I am sure some of them are the real deal, I can gage that often it’s someone coming home or someone forgetting to de-activate when they wake up at six in the morning (if my neighbour happens to read this, yes I am referring to you and yes you are so guilty of this!). 

Nowadays if I get an alarm call while out, I’ll ask for a drive-by but won’t let the fact that the alarm has gone off at home spoil my evening. I am not that bound to any of my material belongings in the house, however, my hope and prayer is that no one will enter my home when I am there – I would definitely prefer not to have to deal with that. 

Isn’t it amazing what one can get used to in life? I’m really not sure that this is a sign of growth, trying to live in harmony with alarms and burglars, but it is certainly part of the price South Africans are paying to live in this beautiful country. It makes me a little sad, but it could be the sleep deprivation talking. 

I’m hoping for a good nights sleep tonight, and if anyone reading is concerned that I skipped my Friday morning date with Emmanuel this morning due to fatigue… fear not, I made it, and it was just as awesome as the week before!

 

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