A little after 7 o’clock this morning I was up the street buying carrots for our breakfast juice.
‘How are you?’ I asked, as the owner weighed the carrots.
‘Good so far,’ he said.
‘Too early in the day for things to have gone too wrong?’
And we were launched into a conversation about things that can go wrong in a small supermarket like his. In particular, he said, it can be five minutes from closing time and a couple of drunks will come in and wreck the place, or steal something. But thieves are a big problem at any time of the day. (This is Annandale, remember, whose public schools’ rankings on the Sydney Morning Herald’s League Table established it as a nice middle class suburb.) Talking about ways of dealing with thieves, he said, with an apologetic shrug:
I know this is racist, but they’re mostly Australian1, and Australians think you should do things by the rules. So when I catch them they expect me to call the police. Then the police take twenty minutes to come, and the thieves just swear at me and walk away. But I don’t give a f*** about the rules, I push them to the ground and search them, then I tell them to get out of my shop and not come back.
You can’t do that with women, of course, especially if you’ve seen them put stuff down the front of their jeans, and the ‘girls’ who work behind the tills won’t do it because they shrink from violence. He does ban people from the shop if he checks the CCTV after their visit and sees that they’ve lifted something – he’ll walk up to them out in the street, tell them they’ve been sprung, and warn them off. He’ll also send a copy of their image to his brother-in-law who has a shop down the road.
(I forgot to mention, the shopkeeper is originally from Lebanon, and I expect he has an Australian passport.)
* My blog had a huge surge of hits when I gave a post a provocatively sexist-sounding title a while back, so I’m experimenting to see if racism has the same pulling power.
1 He probably would have said ‘Skips’ if we knew each other better, but we both knew who he meant by Australians.