Month: November 2010

What goes on behind your back…

Yesterday I went to the relatively new Auchan hypermarket in the Okabé centre, in Kremlin-Bicêtre. Now this is an expedition we usually do, preferring to order our shopping online, but so it was. We had decided to go. It was still the early morning when we were in the car, driving down into their pristine underground parking lot with my wife by my side and our baby sleeping on the back seat.

Because the little one was sleeping, my wife had decided to shop first and I would wait in the car with a book till he woke up. When he did, perhaps 20 minutes later, we went in only to discover that mobile phones did not work deep into this new shopping mall. Undeterred, I sat down strategically at a cafe in the mall, with a cup of coffee in my hand and Junior playing around with a spoon at my feet. There are shops all around me, including a jewellery store which was opposite of where we were seated with shoppers walking passed in a constant stream of activity. Luck was on our side, as my wife came walking by a few minutes later. It must have been almost 10:30. So we go into the Auchan all together and stock up on things we think we need. We come out half an hour or so later, and the Jewellery shop -in front of where I was seated- is completely bashed up, with policemen sealing off the alleyway and staring into the shop in disbelief. There is glass everywhere.

Apparently, at the moment that we walked into the Auchan, behind us three men dressed up as cops had burst into that Jewellery shop and smashed as many glass cases as they could to grab all the jewels they could carry. They then dropped a canister of tear gas as a smoke screen and made a run for it. A mall security guard (I have never noticed one, but that is what it said in the newspaper this morning) had tackled one of them, and slowed him down long enough for the oncoming policemen to catch him. The police tracked down the other two later on. Besides a bruised guard, nobody got hurt. The shop staff and a woman in the shop (with a baby!) were fine, although the latter were taken to the hospital just in case. Now, it all ends pretty well, but the thought which follows after sympathy, is that, obviously, it could have been us.

Usually close calls don’t impact me very much, but probably because I was there with the little one, it really set me think. It was such a string of coincidences which had me there, just as it was such a string of coincidences which had me just out of the action when it happened. And then there was the train of events which unfolded behind us – you never know how such an aggression degenerates. And if I had been there, my little kid would have been there. He would have been walking around, perhaps banging on a shop window or smiling at passer-bys as he usually does.

But what would have happened? And what effect would that have had on us? Our psychological stability depends on what exactly? Maybe having been there would have had little impact on us (besides stingy eyes from the gas), or it might have traumatised me or Junior. Every life is a bubble of a certain sense, in which you are confronted with whatever you are coincidentally confronted with. And then there are our reactions to it. A Marcus Aurelius would tell you not to worry about that which you can not control (outside the bubble), and to concentrate on dealing with your reaction to those events. Good stoic advice, if you can take it. But advice which can only be given to adults, which is no doubt why the “what-if” could spin around your head endlessly if you are a parent. But either way, our reactions to events which are thrown at us (making us perhaps fearful or distrustful) can only be guessed at, until it happens. And that is where we all stand alike in our fragility, as our strength or our weakness in dealing with the world outside our bubble, is unknown.

(Article about the event in Le Parisien)