Venezuelans are taking extra precautions to protect ourselves and our belongings. What are these precautions, you might ask? Well, to give you a sense, we made this short list over lunch hour … and let’s just say that we decided to skip dessert.
The saddest part of it all is that most of the things on this list are not infrequent. They are the pan nuestro de cada día.
It helps if Venezuelans are able to walk down the streets unnoticed. Since we can’t buy invisibility cloaks –you know, scarcity and inflation affects all sectors of the economy-, there are a few things that we Venezuelans can do to achieve the same effect:
- Don’t use flashy clothes in the street. Cheap earrings for the women and cheap watches for the men.
- Careful with the cell phone. It’s better to place it in the front pocket of your pants or inside the sweater or jacket of your choice. No talking on the streets. Crazy enough, keeping a close guard on our cell phones means they are turning into landlines: we pretty much only use them “inside”.
- When leaving the supermarkets, some use a made-up invisibility cloak for their purchases: black plastic bags. This way others can’t see what you bought. Is not that you don’t want to tell others what you found, but you don’t want others to try and steal your “precious”… i.e., cooking oil, or corn flour, if you’re lucky to find any.
Always have a spare
Burglars are not particularly choosy. They will always take something as long as its valuable. So it’s better if they take material stuff over your health or life –yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds. If you don’t want to lose certain possessions in the hands of thugs, here are a few tips:
- Some people carry an extra wallet with some cash and an old cell phone to have something to hand over.
- If you’re on foot, keep a close guard on your wallet, but have extra cash to be able to give to burglars. A friend also hides enough cash for a taxi in her shoe, in case she gets robbed and needs to get to a safe place.
- If you’re behind the wheel, you could/should: (1) Put your bags in the trunk. (2) Some hide their wallets and cell phones under the driver’s seat. (3) Some women put an old purse with rubble inside, to have something to give to the robbers. (4) Careful with using the cell phone, see above. It’s obvious that we shouldn’t text/talk and drive. But we have to also be careful about texting/talking while in traffic, because it’s the perfect opportunity for burglars.
- Wedding rings have become a rather popular amongst thugs. Some friends have had replicas of their wedding rings made, so they can use on then on the streets.
- Toilet paper rolls are under lock and chain in public bathrooms in some shopping malls and universities. In others, there’s simply no toilet paper, so bring your own.
- Another popular trend: people are putting locks on their car batteries.
- This is, by far, one of the most extreme cases of lock and chain we have heard: a couple took a trip, and decided to weld their apartment door to prevent invasions.
- Taxis and Mototaxis (morotcycles cabs) can be your best friend … or your worst enemy.
- If the taxi is a regular car with just what seems to be a plastic homemade sign on the roof or just a sticker that says “TAXI”, avoid at all cost. The same goes for Mototaxis, especially if the bike doesn’t have license plates.
- Venezuelans should have the number of a couple of trusted taxi driver in their contact lists. Another option is to use the EasyTaxi app.
- A new and really sad trend is what we could call bag-lifters. Taxis wait for single buyers to leave the supermarkets and offer them their services. Half way to the final destination, the driver asks the client to step out of the vehicle but to leave the bags.
The ultimate irony
In the words of Laureano Márquez, “Venezuela es el único país del mundo donde te roban lo que aún no es tuyo”… the only country in the world where people steal what isn’t yours yet. The days of walking carelessly around the supermarket are gone. Nowdays, you have to guard your potential purchases from being robbed from your shopping cart. As they would say in Venezuela: toca reír para no llorar.
We know that many of you must have even more safety measures or sad anecdotes. Share them with us on the comment section.
And may the force be with you.