Monday, October 30, 2006

Don't Panic!

Okay, so you know from my stories about Stephen and stuff that we have security. The gates to my driveway are always closed and aren't opened without permission. I have razor wire on my 8 foot cement block wall, and spikes set into the tops of the walls.

This is to deter people with sticky fingers. Honestly. We feel safer here than we do most places in the U.S. Violent crime is really not the issue. Considering something that I have left carelessly laying around inside my house to be "up for grabs", is. In a country where a tip can be a nickel or a dime, we are unbelievably wealthy- even though most of what we have was left in storage in the U.S., what we have here is still more than the average African will acquire in a lifetime.

So anyway, because of the possibility of sticky fingers, we have 24 hour security with live people on the premises at all times. Stephen doesn't leave until the night guards show up, they don't leave until he comes back. They all have walkie talkies that link them to the InterCon office, they have a log book that details all the mundane comings and goings around here, and we all have a panic button.

Well, the guards have one, and we have one in the house. So two panic buttons.

If you press and hold it, nothing obvious will happen. A small light will come on and then nothing. But soon, a Rapid Response Team will show up at your house ready to do battle for you.

I have always known this. I have seen other companies' RR Teams zooming around the city since we first got here. They all have snappy names- "React Squad" and stuff like that, and they are very serious and have big muscles and generally look very much scarier than our ordinary guards.

So yesterday I see a couple of Storm Troopers out the front window, wandering my yard. They are easily identified by their starched navy blue uniforms (the regular guards have tan shirts and navy slacks), their riot gear (big round helmets with face plates) and four foot billy clubs.

I figured it was just a spot check- the supervisors show up twice a day to check on the guards and make sure they are on their toes, and occasionally a herd of them show up with Storm Troopers in tow and I ignore them, assuming Stephen will let me know if my input is needed.

Well, Friday, it was.

I answered a knock on the door about ten minutes after seeing them in my driveway. They had secured the outdoor area and were now checking with me because the panic button had been activated. Stephen hadn't pressed it, and he knew I wouldn't just do it without reason, or telling him or SOMETHING, and they had to check with me.

Ummm. Nope. Wasn't me. (meanwhile the dog is row-row-rowfing his head off on the other side of the door, certain it's a trick to get me outside and steal all the rawhide chips).

On the driveway just off the porch there are three Storm Troopers standing with their pants tucked military style into their calf high leather boots, clubs ready.

I fail to resist the urge to say "Cool!" and give them two big thumbs up. Dork.

The Supervisor and Stephen are on the porch with me, as I shout to the dog to shut up, and I assure them I didn't push the button, although I appreciate the response just the same. Stephen and I speculate that the generator guys may have spiked the current enough earlier when they were doing regular maintenance to set off the main box in the Guard house (which is rigged to trigger if it's tampered with).

The Supervisor keeps asking me if everything is all right and I'm reminded of my years at the bank when we were being robbed at gunpoint and I was at my desk pushing THAT panic button for all I was worth and then answering the phone when the police called and having them say, "Your silent alarm was triggered. Are you in trouble?"

Uh, YEAH. That's a good bet. Would you like me to describe them over the phone as much as I can before they SHOOT ME????

Three times in two years I had to say, "Gosh yes! We have LOTS of that. You should come to the branch anytime and we'll get it taken care of. 'Bye now!" while some hopped up junkie waved his gun at the tellers and I tried to slide under my desk...(n.b. hopped up junkies get real nuts if you don't answer a ringing phone, so we always picked up promptly!)

I tell the Supervisor that things are dandy, but seriously, if they weren't, what would I say to him? My son happened to be inside just then and he could have been a good conduct hostage.

Which prompted the Supe to ask again if things were really okay.

Perhaps Stephen and I will have to work out a code. Or at least I will have to make sure he knows that if my lips are saying "Just fine." and my eyes are rolling into the back of my head, there's a problem.

But it is good to know that I have my own squad of serious muscle-y guys ready to pop in any time to crack some heads if I need any heads cracked.