Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Pointing & Discussions On Paranoia

Being on the road on your own, certainly in cities like Cebu and Manila, can lead to you getting paranoid as regards your safety. Robberies are more likely to be sneak thefts, as Filipinos are not the biggest people on the planet, rather than a violent mugging...but it's still a perspiration-producing experience to walk alone along a darkened side-street at night. I've tended to keep a spare card, excess cash and my dive computer in a pouch down my pants: briefs rather than boxer shorts, obviously. If I do get robbed, that way they'll only get a few items. I met one fellow with scratches down one arm, and asked him what had happened: while walking alone down the waterfront one evening (lunacy in Manila) he'd been jumped by 5 or 6 teenagers who ripped his watch from his arm. Nice. That's why, should you ask me the time in Manila, I have to root around in my pants first.

At times, I think I'm too paranoid...but after a robbery attempt by a gang in Baguio and two drugging attempts by sinister people in Manila last year, I'm entitled to be a bit fearful. The other week, I had a group of street kids group around me, getting too close for comfort. Their tactic is to distract you while one of them goes for your pockets. I've seen this happen before, and know how to deal with it: hands in the pockets and shoo them away. One kid of around 10 wasn't listening and continued to walk alongside me too closely, so a firm kick up the jacksey told him I didn't want to be mates. An old man across the road was highly amused by my tactics. Touch wood, nothing's happened this year. And in Malapascua, I met a kindred spirit.

I'd been sat on the beach between dives, and overheard a couple chatting behind me. The lad had a thick Yorkshire accent, and looked like Phil Tuffnell on a good day. I asked him whereabouts on the Wrong Side Of The Pennines he was from. He laughed and told me Barnsley, then introduced himself as Rich. Despite his heritage he was an Everton fan and, them being my boyhood team, we got chatting over a few beers.

He told me he'd just arrived from Cebu (jabbed a thumb over his shoulder) and that he'd recently visited his brother in Vietnam (pointed the other way up the beach), and was looking to see Bintayan island next week (finger swung in the opposite direction). I started laughing and when he frowned in puzzlement, explained "I've never met a fellow Pointer before." He chuckled. I've noticed I do it a lot, and it annoys me; I've tried to stop it, I really have. Anyone asks me where I've come from, or am off to next, and I accompany it with a directional hand-signal. It really is stupid, especially when you're probably pointing in completely the wrong direction.

The other thing we had in common was Travel Paranoia: taxi drivers taking you down side-streets in dodgy area, texting while they're driving (obviously arranging an ambush); people suddenly being your New Best Friend in the middle of nowhere and offering somewhere to stay (definitely serial killers); dodgy-looking locals eyeing you, and then making eye-contact with each other at a bus station (they're all in on it...you're going to get robbed); girls in bars wanting to go home with you (you'll wake up with a head-ache and serious arse-ache as you star in some Filipino gay-porn gang-bang). It's wise and prudent to keep yourself safe, but I know I'm overly cautious at times. Rich was one of the few people I've met who probably reads too much into things, too. So we had a right giggle about it, and I'm trying to be less cautious these days.

You just watch, I'll get a gun stuck up my nose as I exit this internet cafe now...

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