Yesterday Clemency and I drove up to Christchurch to meet and talk with Bishop Victoria Matthews. It was a pleasant conversation: Victoria and I seemed to agree on pretty much everything, so she is obviously a person of discernment, intelligence and taste. The weather was clear and still so the 4 hour drive was pleasant, though not without incident.
Two hours up the road, just north of Timaru we were passed by a couple of police cars with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Relieved that it wasn't me they were after, we pulled into Temuka to see if we could get a cup of coffee. Temuka is a three horse town, minus about two and a half of the horses, and usually, parking is not a problem. Not yesterday. The streets....sorry....street was filled with cars most of which had a zipper pattern on the side and flashing blue lights on the roof. There were burly guys in blue serge and bullet proof vests wandering around with little high tech boxes sewn onto their shirts and guns - yes, GUNS cradled in their arms. It seemed that 10 minutes before we arrived the local branch of the ANZ Bank had been robbed. The entire town was standing around, gaping. We found a cafe and the waitress told us that a young guy had held up the bank with a gun, and stolen a car to escape. The cafe was at the other end of the street, but news travels fast in Temuka. The coffee wasn't great. We left soon after, and another mile or two up the road we were passed by an elderly Mazda doing, maybe, 140 kph. A respectable distance behind was a lone zipper car, headlights on, blue lights flashing, keeping tabs on but not trying to stop the Mazda. Another 40km on and we went through Ashburton where there was a traffic jam. At the roundabout at the Southern entrance to the town there was a pile up: three very munted cars including the old Mazda, and, in pristine condition, some ambulances, more police cars and in not such great condition, a young woman with a bloodied face and handcuffs.
All these incidents were part of the same story. Some criminals are fiendishly clever, some are not. From all appearances, this seems to have been one of the latter. It's easy enough, I suppose, to walk into a bank with an imitation pistol, point it at the teller and say "give me some money." That bit requires not much thought at all. The tricky bit is knowing what to do next: when you are standing outside the bank with a bag of money in one hand, a toy gun in the other, and converging on the town are 30 highly trained, very fit, heavily armed young men and women for whom this sort of malarkey is exactly why they joined the force in the first place. The robber yesterday, apparently stole his getaway car after he performed the robbery and didn't seem to have thought strategically about his escape except to drive towards Christchurch where there would be more police, more cars, more helicopters, more dogs and more trouble waiting for him.
And so today, as the result of his lack of thinking, there are a couple of thousand citizens of Temuka all feeling slightly violated that the stuff that you read about in the newspapers has found its way into their safe little town. There is a person - and from the look of the car, a person without a lot of spare cash - wondering how to get to work or pick up the kids now that their wheels have been destroyed. There is a young man who woke today in hospital with the injuries he sustained when the robber drove at some speed into the rear of his parked car. There are two other people with fewer injuries but with similarly wrecked vehicles. There are a dozen or so bank employees still in slight shock after looking the wrong way down the barrel of a gun. And of course there is a young man, and maybe a young woman who are only my daughter Catherine's age, and who may not be free again for many long years to come. They are someone's children. Someone's grandchildren.
All this pain and destruction and cost. I read about it all this morning in the papers and on the internet with a morbid fascination; and, somehow, it doesn't seem to me to be evil so much as stupid; mind numbingly, knuckle headedly, brown stuff for brains, colossally stupid; and desperately sad.
As are most of our sins, I suppose. On a smaller scale, perhaps but maybe not all that much smaller.