Petty Impersonators

17 03 2010
Police Tape by freefotouk
Police Tape, a photo by freefotouk on Flickr.

I don’t understand how criminals can’t think of better schemes in which to perpetrate their crimes this day and age.  I mean all they have to do is google the sort of crime they want to commit and they’ll find a ton of creative ideas.  At least they can make it challenging to the general public or make people even admire their creative criminal mind.  I don’t agree to crime in any way, unfortunately I have to deal with it in my profession sporadically, I do however have a weird sense of respect to the intellect of some fraudsters who are behind elaborate fraud schemes.

Today I was stopped on a main busy road in London by an Italian tourist asking the whereabouts of Victoria Station.  He was on the other side of town and explained that he was lost  We agreed to show him where he was on his tourist map and try to get him on his way to the station.  He started small talk wanting to know if we were tourists or students.  He really wanted to establish that we are not residents of London.  It was kind of weird, so I went along and didn’t mention that I am quite familiar with London and I have been coming here since I was a tiny embryo in my mother womb.

Suddenly, two other guys come along showing their personal ID’s through a plastic card holder inside their old, dirty fake leather wallets yelling “police!”.  They were wearing cheap black leather jackets from the 80s and dirty out of style jeans.  They demanded in extremely bad English that we show them our passports.  Even an alien life form would figure out they were Italian from the way they spoke.  I wanted to grab his ID and the moment I touched it he  quickly pulled it back and said “no touch!”  Needless to say, I told him I am going to call the real police for you now so they scattered including their tourist friend.

It was comical on several levels.  Physically, we were bigger than them so I hope for their sake that the were not pondering forcefully getting some cash out of us without the use of  heavy artillery.  I’m a relatively big guy (read fat), but one of my friends is over 2 meters tall and could probably alone take all three of them.  Their appearance in no way reflects that of a policeman neither did their language.  It got even funnier when one of them started walking briskly away and saying “call police number is 142” which is not the emergency number in the UK (nor in Italy, I checked).  I mean are you trying to trick me into calling the wrong number for crying out loud! Please don’t push your insult to my intelligence to that level.  How hard it would have been to wear decent clothes, a high visibility shirt and use any weird looking card instead of your personal ID to impersonate a police officer?  At least then, it would take people 5 seconds to spot you are fake.  By that time, you could have came even closer to snatch their wallet or something during the confusion.

I didn’t call the police because the impersonators would have been gone by the time the police reached us.  I went about the rest of my day hoping that none actually falls for that lousy act.

I have later learned that some Italian football club was playing in London yesterday so maybe those guys were some of the fans that traveled to watch the game and thought maybe they could make a couple of quids while they were here.  Either way, I felt sad for them.


Vienna Airport Experience

7 03 2010

Photo By Ahmad Alfahad

I went through Vienna’s airport recently a couple of times.  The last time I’ve been to Austria was probably like 15 years ago.  I don’t remember how the airport was back then, but it sure seems like it didn’t change much.  For a major airport in the center of europe I was expecting something better than what I saw.  There’s a lot of construction happening around the airport, so at least they are trying to make some improvements.  Parking doesn’t seem adequate and the terminal I went through (terminal 2 IIRC) is a joke on all levels.  The check in counters are not well organized and the lines not well placed.  It seems that there was always passengers standing in lines blocking your way where ever you wanted to go.  This made the terminal check in area seem small compared to the number of passengers.  In the check in area, seating was virtually none exsistant.  You’d have to go to the food court on the upper level to sit down on a decent chair.  I was flying out on british airways Club Europe, so lucky the line was free and their staff were friendly.  I couldn’t say the same about the staff of passport control nor the business lounge in the terminal, they were terrible.  In today’s airports it seems that the security check staff single role is to be terrible to passengers, I’d have to say they did a mighty fine job.  I don’t understand why words like please, madam and sir are out of their dictionary.  The way they instruct passengers are on par with a first sergeant drilling his cadets.

Now boarding the plane was a complete different story.  To my surprise, there were enough cold steel benches around the gate for passengers to rest after their brutal restless journey through the unfriendly airport.  After presenting your boarding pass to the staff, you gaze down upon a narrow concrete set of long stairs that they probably recycled from an old prison.  After enjoying the aroma of cold concrete, passengers were herded into an already cramped single bus.  The bus driver was actually a good driver and surprisingly didn’t play the game of sudden brakes to see how many passengers are startled or better yet fell down.

Now I am not comparing it to say London Heathrow Airport, which has it’s own set of problems. I am actually comparing it to Kuwait’s airport which is frequently bashed for the level of service they provide.   The only good thing about Vienna’s airport is that it gave me a new sense of appreciation for Kuwait’s Airport.

Thank you Vienna Airport for giving me that 🙂

In GPS Navigation, thou shalt not trust.

27 02 2010

Over lunch today, me and a friend were discussing how to take our third friend to the train station instead of letting him take a taxi as he planned.  When you are relaxed and have basically nothing on your mind, even the smallest of problems seems worthy of discussion in the united nation’s security council.  Since none of the three of us knew exactly where the station was, we discussed our options.  I was basically pro technology and said I’ll just look it up in my trusty garmin navigation, it never had let me down.  My friend, who is the driver btw, doesn’t trust technology and said we should just ask for directions from the reception at the hotel since he doesn’t like or trust technology.  Then he said we should just jump into the taxi with him them go back to the hotel to avoid the headache.

I looked up the station on my garmin screen and showed it to the reception lady, since there were many stations, who confirmed that it is the station we want.  We were kind of late so I go out to our designated driver who went out to start the car and I was blocked at the hotel door with a couple of guys clearly in disagreement over something.  They stopped me and ask a travel related religious question solely based on my appearance.  I hate when that happen but ironically I did know the answer to their question and basically told them they were both right.  I finally make my way out of the door to see our designated driver arguing with a couple of police officers over the parking ticket they gave him inside the parking lot of the hotel.  They told him he can pay it right now in cash, he basically refused and said I will give it to the hotel it is their problem not mine.

Anyway, he drives and I navigate and all of the sudden the “smart lane assist” equipped navigation wants us to drive right into incoming traffic.  Luckily, there was a police car at the instruction, so our driver friend falls back to his original plan “ask for directions”.  He parks and asks the cops who were very nice and gave him detailed directions.  We drive to the train station which was like only a kilometer away from our hotel.  It took us 10 minutes by car because of the roads layout but we could have walked there much faster.

Moral of the story, technology complicates life.

Hello Universe!

25 02 2010
Photo by Cult Gigolo

By Cult Gigolo

In a hotel room, talking to the housekeeping in English plus sign language.  It is quite interesting the communication abilities you discover once you realize that there is no common language.  I talk in a weird noise to her, she replies in what sounds like a broken diesel engine to me, and yet we understand each other. Oh the fun I am having.

The weather is sunny and amazing today so I wonder why I am here, in this room, with this eccentric house keeping lady running around.  She is actually physically honestly running, does she know I have an 10 euros in my pocket that I intend to give to her?  I usually have a hard time tipping housekeeping staff.  You are usually not around when they are around.  So I’d rather just leave a piece of paper with a thank you note on the table with the tip before I leave the room in the morning.  But it doesn’t work since she can’t read English.  So she ran towards the door to bring back a couple of light bulbs that I requested and came back in less than a minute.  She screwed in the light bulbs and ran out the door.  I managed to stop her, thank her and give her the tip.  This was the moment I decided to start my own blog.  So there you go..

P.S. This comment is strictly for one person (you know who you are).  She’s old enough to be my mother!