Well, I dallied too long today in the morning and missed the bank. They opened at 8:30 AM but closed at noon. And I got there about fifteen minutes later. So no ATM card for me today.
While I’m there, I bump into Donna at the Pick & Pay. I buy a bag of apples. Did I tell you about the 1 kilogram bag of super tasty apples they sell here for just 10 rand? That is super cool.
Later in the day I hang out at the trailer with Alan, Donna, and Zenzo. Alan tells us an interesting story about last night. I don’t remember all the details, but it revolves around a friend of Thabani’s getting arrested.
When Alan got involved, the kid was already being held at the police office. The kid’s parents were apparently out of town, so he was stuck there. Thabani and another friend were very upset and wanted to help. So Alan and Zenzo visited the police with them. The boy was accused of shoplifting, and there was obviously some animosity between the police and the boys. There was even an accusation that the police had roughed the boy up. And the stories about the shoplifting were a bit confused. So Alan went over things with them.
Apparently the three boys went to the market to buy some ham. One of them bought some from the deli, but before they checked out up front they realized it was the wrong kind and the wrong amount. So the boy stuffed it on one of the shelves and went back to the deli to pick up the right kind in the right amount.
Apparently the store personnel were keeping an eye on them, because when they tried to check out with only the one package, the cashier called them on shoplifting. They denied any wrongdoing, and some drama ensued, including some harsh words and the calling of the police. Eventually the boy confessed that he had ditched the ham in one of the shelves, and showed them where. Then the police took him away.
Though certainly not a nice thing to do, Alan wasn’t sure that qualified as shoplifting, and he got the police to admit as much. But the police weren’t sure if the story was true in the first place, so they wouldn’t release him. Alan convinced the police that if he could get the store owner to confirm the story, that the boy should be released. So then Alan, Thabani, and the other friend went to the store to talk to the owner while their friend waited in the jail.
There was still some irritation between the store owner and the boys, but after a bit of talking he agreed that the boys hadn’t actually shoplifted anything, they had just dumped the ham in the shelf. He tried to smooth things over too, getting the boys to understand why the store owner had been so upset. Alan then got the store owner to call the police and set the report straight.
They went back to pick the boy up at the station, but before going in Alan prepped them: he knew tensions were still high, and that with an apparent victory the boys might say something irritating to the police that could blow it. “So what’s our goal going in there?” he asked them, “is it to get your friend out, or is it to make a point?” He explained that they could do either, that they could argue and get arrested if they wished, but if the goal was to get their friend out then they probably had to play it cool.
The boys agreed that was the way to go, so they went in, the police released the boy, and they calmly accepted this. Except just as they were walking out the door, one of the boys shouted something in Zulu about telling their parents what the police had done. Alan hurried them out before it could escalate.
After the other boys took off, Alan had a little talk with the one who got arrested, something he promised the store owner he would do. He asked the boy if he knew he had done something wrong, and he kid said he did. Then he said that the police had slapped him around when they had him alone in the car. Alan said that was wrong too, and they shouldn’t have done that to him. Then he said goodbye.
We’re all sitting around the trailer as Alan wraps up the story. “Do you think the police really did slap him around?” I ask. Zenzo nods, “yeah, I think so. When we got there I could see in his eyes that something had happened.” The kid was only around 16.
“I’m assuming the police were white?” I say. “No,” says Alan, “one Zulu and one Indian. They said it was the Indian guy who roughed him up.”
But after that story we continue to talk for a couple hours, the four of us. We have dinner, and then we decide to watch Vendetta. I had requested Sophie to bring a DVD copy, and so we set up the laptop and watch both episodes and the special features. Alan and Donna had seen it a long time ago, but they seemed to enjoy it again, and Zenzo seemed absolutely amazed. “Wow,” he said several times, and playfully commented that he felt very lucky to have met movie stars like Sophie and I. I explain that not many people have seen the movie (though it is surely in the thousands), but he said that didn’t matter: We were in a movie, and that made us movie stars. I give him the DVD. He says he will try to get it on South African TV.
We continue talking into the night, and Alan and I note later how naturally this young man from another world fits right in with us despite what might be huge generational and cultural gaps. It’s hard not to be impressed by his warm good humor and openness. I really do like Zenzo.