My Friend the Diefby Zane Henry / 24.06.2009
Mugging someone isn’t that big a deal. Someone else has money. You don’t. Get their money. It’s a scientific imperative; financial osmosis, if you like. When I was younger, I used to hang out with a guy named Saleem. He was a good guy – unassuming, fiercely loyal to his friends and a fearsome naaier to his enemies. He had had what a British octogenarian would call ‘a hard life’ – in and out of foster homes and a couple of years in Boys Town. Saleem wasn’t a gangster but his father was a member of the Americans and, at the time of writing, is serving the tail-end of a 13-year deferred sentence for armed robbery and assault.
Saleem and I smoked a lot of weed together those days and, during those marijuana fugues, it became easy to tap into his strange, malleable morality. He never swore, he always gave his seat on the train to old ladies and routinely mugged people with more money than him.
Through a combination of circumstances (boredom, a desire for a befokte pair of takkies and a moral vacuum dug by equal amounts of gangster rap and Swazi homegrown), I found myself sitting next to Saleem on the 18:48 train from Cape Town to Simonstown, looking for someone to mug.
I learnt a lot on that cold June evening. I can’t actually remember most of it (I was really, really baked) but I’m sure it was important.
1. Follow the money. If you’re on a train, travel in first class. If you’re pick-pocketing, do it outside the high-end stores at the Waterfront.
2. Dress well and speak well. Rich people are less suspicious of a non-rhotic guy in well-pressed chinos.
3. Avoid targeting your own people. Coloured people should be left alone as they generally don’t have money and may know your aunt (true story).
4. White people are easy to scare. You don’t need to stab them. Just speak in a low, soft growl while standing really close to them and they’ll hand their iPods over without making a scene. Also, you’ve probably made their day as now they have something awesome to blog about.
5. Carry a weapon. Knives are probably best. Get something discreet but intimidating. Don’t stab anyone unless they scream.
6. Stay close to the exits. Quick getaways are good.
7. Don’t be a cliché. Don’t sidle up to someone and ask for the time. There’s no use in wasting everyone’s time. Get to the point.
8. Pick a good time. The last Friday of the month is best as everyone’s been paid.
9. Don’t kid yourself. You aren’t a noble aspirant to a re-tweaking of the South African Dream, stealing from the rich and keeping for yourself. You’re a skelm. Accept that and you’ll sleep better.
10. Give some money to your mother when you get home. You aren’t a bad guy.
Saleem told me all this stuff in a modulated tone at normal volume. He then stood up, jerked his head for me to follow him and went to stand next to a tall, long-haired guy standing with his hand on the bar at the train door. The guy looked a bit like John Turturro, if John Turturro was a virgin who played too much World of Warcraft.
Saleem signalled for me to stand behind John and to not talk. Saleem reached his hand out, took John’s white earphone’s from his ears, pulled out a steel butterfly knife, smiled, put his forefinger to his lips and pressed the point against the guy’s ribs just under the C of his Children of Bodom T-shirt. Saleem held his other hand out and John’s eyes went bug-eyed. He froze for about 20 seconds, then handed over his iPod. He looked around wildly but there was nobody there to catch his eye. Saleem handed the iPod to me (wow! 20GB!) and stuck his hand back out at John, who handed his phone and wallet to me as the train pulled in at Wynberg station.
Saleem patted the guy on the back and slipped out of the train with me following after.
*Illustration: Jason Bronkhorst