The views expressed in this blog are personal and not representative of the U.S. Government, etc etc etc.
Read at your own risk.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Living in Baku [with State]: Security

A month or so, I finally went to the embassy and got my ID.  After I had my (unflattering) picture taken, I had to have my security briefing in order to get my badge.  They said something about nobody bothering to get the briefing if their IDs weren't held ransom.

While we talked about various things like driving in the left lane to leave space open if somebody tries to give you trouble, doing visual checks on your cars for bombs, and the crimes against foreigners section in the local police, the ARSO mentioned that Baku is considered a type something or other post which means that it is considered to have moderately high crime.  

In actuality, he continued, that rating was accurate up until four or five years ago but now the crime has gone down significantly, but the rating hasn't changed yet.  Which means that we have various home security devices to keep us safe.  And for you bad people who are trying to find out how to do bad things, no I'm not going to talk about them.  

One of the things the post has to keep us safe is Mobile Patrol.  I'm pretty sure all posts have mobile patrol; Brandon occasionally had to answer calls from mobile patrol while he was consular duty officer in Cairo.  But since Baku is high-crime and small, mobile patrol does more than just drives around our neighborhoods, being available for help like they did in Cairo.  

Part of their rounds involve checking every single house to make sure they're safe.  Most people here live in houses surrounded by big concrete walls with gates, so mobile patrol checks the gates to make sure they're locked and (I'm assuming) that there haven't been any home invasions.  

We live in a gated neighborhood, however, and our houses have no walls or gates around them, so obviously mobile patrol can't check our gates.  So instead they check our front doors to make sure they're locked.  Now I am not a habitual door-locker.  When I was a child we would visit my grandparents and they were door-lockers.  Any time we would go outside to play we would inevitably get locked outside the house and have to wander around peering through windows looking for someone to come rescue us when our incessant doorbell ringing brought no savior.  It always drove me nuts.

When we were in Cairo, our door didn't actually have a door handle - just a big round knob in the middle that didn't actually turn.  So when the door was shut, it was locked by virtue of the fact that there was no way to actually open it.  I don't remember actually locking my door from the outside the whole two years we lived there.  In Virginia our townhouse was so small and dark that I left the door open with just the glass screen door keeping the children in.  In Utah I think we locked out door at night.  Sometimes.

So here's the thing about mobile patrol: they come at random hours all day long.  That's the point - they're supposed to make sure we're safe all of the time.  But when you combine a habit of non door-locking with people who's job it is to make sure your door is locked, and to make sure it's locked all day long, it makes for some awkward situations.

Usually the doorbell rings when I'm in the middle of something complicated.  There have been several times when I've been upstairs bathing the children and nursing Joseph and the doorbell has rung.  I hurriedly put Joseph down (screaming), tell the children not to drown, make myself decent, try to wipe the shampoo off my pants, and sprint down the stairs.  "Your door is unlocked."  Yes, thank you for telling me.

One day I came home to about four people standing around looking very concerned when the doorbell rang and instead of me answering the door it was somebody else.  Luckily I showed up in time to explain that this was my housekeeper and not somebody trying to kidnap my children.

Sometimes while I'm napping my phone will ring.  Brandon calling.  He just got a call from security telling them that my door was unlocked.  Could I go downstairs and tell the mobile patrol that everything is okay?

While playing with the children on our third floor, I will hear the telephone ringing.  Since the only landline we have in our house is on the first floor, I run down the stairs as fast as I can, trailing children behind me who are wailing because I've suddenly left them, and sprint to the phone and pick it up panting.  "Your door is unlocked."  Yes, yes, I'll take care of that.

One day I came downstairs from taking a shower and found the door ajar and could hear somebody talking outside.  I crept to the opening and peeked outside.  "Your door is unlocked."  How long had they been standing there?

Right after falling asleep after a long tiring day and having gone to bed too late in the first place, Brandon's phone will ring and wake us up.  Who could be calling at this hour?  Doesn't everyone who's decent know that it's past bedtime?  Brandon fumbles for the phone in the dark and answers it on the sixth ring.  Hello?  "Your door is unlocked."

Once I went downstairs because I heard Kathleen talking to someone.  She was at the open front door.  She turned to me.  "Mommy, the man told me to come get you and tell you that your door is unlocked."

But the most inconvenient and annoying situation ever came one night.  But I'm not going to tell you about it because this is a family blog and one day my children might read this.

So since then, bad guys who are thinking about taking advantage of my inability to remember to keep my door locked, I've been very vigilant about keeping my door locked.  And I'm sure that mobile patrol is happy that I can remember now.  They were probably pretty tired of finding different ways of telling me my door was unlocked.


PaulaJean said...

I'm glad that I never had anyone waking me up from my nap to tell me the doors were unlocked!!!

UnkaDave said...

Your door's unlocked.

Sarah Familia said...

They should really just lock the door for you instead of telling you to lock it.

Bridget said...

Wow, that is crazy! And I agree with Sarah.

Angela said...

Make a sign and put it on the outside stating "Our door is locked, our door is locked, okay!! You really should lock your door:)

Ashlie said...

I am a perpetual door-locker. But if I wasn't, that would make me crazy!