I just got home from a short evening visit with my mother, who lives almost next door. We chatted about several things – her day, my day at the office, village gossip, etc. Just when I was about to leave she said: “By the way, I have to ask you something. Is it possible to phone from a public telephone box using a 5 euro banknote?” Her question surprised me … for two reasons: 1) the last public telephone box in our village was removed five years ago, and 2) I’ve never heard of a phone box taking banknotes (not in Belgium anyway)!
To make a long story short, it turns out that, on her way home from the hairdresser’s this afternoon – which by the way is less than 100 metres from her home – she was approached by what she described as a ‘well-groomed/dressed and good-looking young man in his late twenties’ who, in dodgy Flemish/Dutch, asked whether she had a five euro banknote change for the coins he was holding in his hand.
Luckily my mother only had a 10 euro note and some coins in a small purse and wasn’t carrying her usual handbag with her bankcard and larger notes! Because, without thinking, she showed the purse to the man, explaining she couldn’t help him. Then she enquired why he needed the money. And he – boldly taking advantage of her age – explained that he had to make a call from a public telephone box!!!!???
When my mother suggested he could try and change the coins at the hairdresser’s across the road or the petrol station 200 metres further up the road (that's my mum - always trying to help!), the man hurriedly said goodbye and ran towards a car that was parked nearby. Two seconds later – the driver had clearly been waiting – the car sped off in the direction of Brussels…
I think my mother had a very narrow escape. If she had been carrying her usual handbag and had opened her wallet in an attempt to find a five euro note, and at the same time involuntary showing how much money she might have had on her + her bankcard, the ‘well-groomed and good-looking’ young man might have pushed her, making her fall while he grabbed the handbag with its full content!
I’m furious! On the one hand, people who smoke a cigarette in a café or pub are fined 250 euro, on the other hand, criminals who attack innocent people, are – under the new Salduz law, imposed by Europe - no longer arrested, even when they are caught red-handed!! The police can just take down their name and invite them to come to the police station within 10 days to be questioned and make a deposition! What is this world coming to???
Following this incident, I have given my mother very clear instructions. I can only hope that she will keep them in mind the next time she is approached by one of these ‘characters’! However, as she is a very caring and ‘always-ready-to-help’ person I’m afraid that her kindness may be stronger than her suspicion! I think her guardian angel is in for some extra-time!
P.S. Sorry, no photo this time ... I'm just too upset and needed to get this off my chest!