What happened to Susan Erasmus on Wednesday afternoon left her temporarily speechless. But now her voice is back.
My cellphone rings. "Are you Susan Erasmus?" Right. This is not a good start. My instincts tell me that I am about to listen to a futile sales attempt for life insurance, or another cellphone contract.
How wrong I was.
"We've got your hosepipe. We found the person who stole it. Would you like to lay charges?"
It's the police, presumably from Lansdowne police station. Blow me down. And people say they're not efficient?
It's crunchtime at work, I'd been here for eight hours and had no idea that my hosepipe and I had parted company some time during the day.
We had. With the help of a hooded 15-year-old, who no doubt swiftly negotiated my six-foot fence to lay hands on the invaluable green treasure lying in my front garden. Bonus: it had a R10 sprinkler attached to it. The hosepipe, no longer in the bloom of youth, might fetch all of R5 from some unsuspecting passerby, who doesn't know it leaks. Badly.
What would I like to do? I am asked by the policeman. I don't want to know how he found out where it came from. Traffic and a train roar past in the background.
"So would I like to lay a charge?"
While I am extremely impressed with the Lansdowne police, who, while on patrol, spotted a suspicious adolescent schlepping said hosepipe down the road, I do not want to lay a charge.
A small part of me tells me that I am encouraging lawless behaviour. Today a hosepipe, tomorrow a Kreepy Krauly. Who knows what he might graduate to by the time he is eighteen? Garden furniture or a murder? But I don't think the probable punishment meted out for the hosepipe theft is going to stop this descent into a life of crime. But the motives for my decision are not entirely unselfish.
I do not want to make an enemy out of an unpredictable teenaged wanderer lurking in my neighbourhood. Neither do I want to spend a day or two sitting around in the Wynberg magistrate's court defending the honour and rightful ownership of my hosepipe.
I can just see it.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I present the court with Exhibit A."
OK, maybe I have been watching too much TV.
That's the thing about this country: there's a moral dilemma lurking around each corner. If I lay a charge, I could be turning myself into a target. If I don't, it could be interpreted that I condone hosepipe thefts, which I don't.
Back to the Lansdowne police station. If this is the kind of service they can provide, with the police station in the state it's in, I can only hope that they will be given some of the missing R3.2bn set aside (and presumably missing in action) for the sprucing up of these institutions. Imagine what they'll manage to achieve if they have marble and plush carpets and downlighters?
I am again in possession of my hosepipe and have now followed the route of the rest of suburban South Africa. Soon I will be gazing at the world through wall spikes by the light of motion-sensing search lights. Maybe I should decorate the garden hose with barbed wire, just to match.
Now all I need is mustard gas and a trench, and it will feel just like the Battle of the Somme.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, May 2010)