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The checkers always remind you to remove valuables when you drop the car off, so I duly emptied the coin tray and packed myself off home, clinking merrily. Paying the taxi, I realised I'd left my wallet in the car. I called the girl at the service centre and headed back to Al Habtoor. I was laughing and joking with her as we got to the car together and I picked up my wallet, which had been relieved of its cash contents, about Dhs400 in all.
It didn't sink in at all until later. Someone had actually taken money from my car. To those of you living elsewhere, this will come as no surprise, you're probably sitting there thinking, 'Like, obviously, duh' and I appreciate why you would. But I live in one of the safest places in the world. We're all of us on the hog's back here, from labourers through to CEOs we're all in the UAE because we're better off than we would be back at home. Any criminal conviction, once you've done your time in El Slammer, means getting sent home and so crime, for the vast majority of us, doesn't pay.
The service centre manager was, I was told, investigating. After a while, he'd drawn a blank and, well, that was sort of that, really. I asked him to call the police. He said they wouldn't do anything, he'd had experience of this sort of thing before. I insisted. He refused. I pointed out it was his secure area, his employee and his responsibility. He said they had internal procedures and he couldn't call the police. I asked him to escalate to someone who could call the police and he ignored me. It all got a little heated. It wasn't really about Dhs400 by now, but about someone who had chosen to steal from me. I called the police myself. After ringing out twice, the 999 number answered. I had tried calling police HQ, but they didn't answer at all. You do wonder sometimes.
The CID chap turned up, a young chap in a baseball cap and dishdash. The service centre manager and I explained (he had no English) and he nodded sagely and took my ID, borrowing a pen and piece of paper from the manager to write down my details. Watching him, I was strongly reminded of our friend captain Mohammed filling out Paul's charge sheet in Olives, his tongue stuck out in concentration...
At this point one of the service staff popped in and put a wad of money on the manager's desk and murmered a name. I got the impression the staff had taken matters into their own hands - nobody really wants CID snooping around their workplace asking awkward questions. The culprit was called for - the most stupid thief imaginable - the man whose job it was to drive the cars around to the storage area prior to work commencing. He had already been through 20 minutes of questioning with the manager before the police were called and had professed his innocence. Now he broke down and pleaded for mercy.
The CID guy's first question to the thief was an incredulous, "You're a Muslim?"
So I got my money back and the thief was sacked and will be sent home. I asked the CID guy if he could leave matters at that, which he indeed could - in fact, I'd have to go down to the copshop and file a case against the man if I wanted it taken further.
Of course, later today I'll just have to hand the money over to Al Habtoor anyway. But I suppose at least they extract it with my (grudging) acquiescence...