sábado, 23 de junio de 2007

"Call me as soon as you get home"

Last night I went out with a few friends to celebrate the birthday of one of them. We sat at a table on the outside part of some random place to have a few beers and talk about nothing. The night went by like normal until about 2 am when we were a little bit surprised by a lot of police patrols just turning around the corner where we were sitting over and over again; until they finally stopped.Right next to us the police officers surrounded a few guys on their motorbikes and the next second, one of the policemen took his gun out and pointed it at one of the guys, a possible thief at the motorcycles. When we saw that, we all, by instinct, got up from the table and stood inside the local, a little bit farther from the whole mess.
Nothing happened: the police officers detained some of them and about 20 minutes later, the street looked as empty and calm as normal. What amazed us the most is that we were the only group who left temporally the table in the whole place; perhaps because we were at the closest table to the street or more likely, because those episodes are very normal. Since my groups of friends in particular do not go out at night too often, we are not quite used to it. Probably all the people at the other tables laughed of us.
It could have turned into a shooting, it has happened before, you never know. While the “action” remained on the street, we decided to calm down a little and with the help of some brownies, a friend of mine brought, and to sing happy birthday. “This probably has been the strangest birthday I have ever had”- My friend told me.

After tasting the brownies, we asked for the check and left. The police officers were just leaving the surrounding streets as well.
Here’s when it comes the challenge that is implied making our way back home at night, specially because of a group of like 20 people, at least last night, only two had car of their own (Yes Mr. Chavez, we are definitely rich kids). The rest were looking for taxis to get back home. “Make sure it’s a company cab, not a random one”, “Please call me or write me a message as soon as you get home”. Those last few minutes, we all feel a bit desperate to pass from the red zone, (which means the whole city of Caracas) to the orange zone; until inside our doors, in the warmth of our homes.
And it always happen the same way: while I’m eating something to pass the alcohol effects if that’s the case and getting ready for bed, I have the mobile phone right next to me, ready to receive messages or call from my friends, telling me they all made it back home and safe.
Since the delinquency has grown so high in my city, we would rather go out when the sky is still clear, or if we want to drink and dance, our houses become improvised discotheques.
Every time we go out, we know the big risks we are taking. Most of the time nothing happens but it really does not matter: the statistics and those episodes are more than enough to create an environment of fear and paranoia.Before the whole police persecution, another friend decided to go back home early.
A few minutes later, we notice that the cab he took was still parked at one side of the street. We imagine a million things that could happen: “why does the cab driver just not turn on his car and leave?” We immediately stand up and the taxi to check everything is fine. When the taxi driver sees our faces, he immediately tells us without letting us speak first “Oh… I was just changing the music” then finally leaves. The way the taxi driver noticed our fears made me trust a little. But my other friends are still paranoid “Call him - (the friend who left)- in 10 minutes, make sure he’s back home and ok”. I finally listen to my friends request and make the call.
I wonder since when just going out at night to have a fun time mean all this long list of precautions and fear. With calls and messages from the very beginning of the night, when your mom is asking you all over again how are you going to come back home, at what time, Where are you going exactly and then asks you a dozen times to take care of yourself (and this are not exactly the typical mom’ demands worried about the bad influence of your friend, sex or anything like that, I’m 22 so that’s over… Its about the country situation, only) … till the very end of the evening when you find yourself busy checking everyone came back home safe and praying that nothing happens in the road.
And yet, the government seems to like this awkward situation where it finds itself with a country paralyzed with fear. No serious politics to face delinquency and the most incredible theories to justify the killings we see everyday. Take for example the case of an actor from Venevision (a TV channel, now with a pro- government vision that always shared the rating competence with RCTV, the channel that the government closed almost one month ago). This actor was killed a few weeks ago when some guys tried to kidnap a friend of his daughter and their family. However, for some pro-government leaders such as Lina Ron, the theory is that since he is an actor from Venevision, his death is the result of a conspiracy lead by Globovision, the last opposition TV channel that remains. Another example is my classmate case.
She was certainly killed because of some passionate issues and no common delinquency or politics but the government was incredible fast to find the killers even the intellectuals and published that case to show that is not delinquency or insecurity that is the trouble, but just some crazy people combined with enemies of the government.
In the meantime, the people have lost the idea of a “red zone” in Caracas, like all cities have. Even in the fanciest places I have heard of gunshots, thief, kidnaps and so on. The only place we consider safe is at home (even if sometimes is not safe at all), so we gathered there the best we can and if we have money, we build the most incredible security systems for nothing.
The fear remains anyway and it leaves you to a state of mind that you would rather not move before taking the risk of losing everything you have. The people distrust each other so highly, they are fearful when a person simply approaches them in the streets to ask for the hour. The tension, even if we are not always thinking about it, and we are laughing, dancing and asking for another beer, is constant, and extreme.
One friend, last night, commented: “And there is this law of social responsibility for Radio and TV and what for? The children do not need to turn on the TVs to watch something not suitable for their ages. They just need to go out, to the street”.

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