You know those cop and robber films or TV serials where the "wanted" man is finally cornered, perhaps after an exciting chase and shoot-out? There is a feeling of relief in the minds of both viewers and the policemen as the long arm of the law reaches out and grasps hold of the criminal. The felon is always made to face either a wall or the the bonnet of the car while he's frisked and then handcuffed. Next, he's unceremoniously bundled into the police car. What has always engaged my attention and curiosity is the seemingly thoughtful gesture that follows - the hand placed on the head of the person being pushed inside. Is this a belated show of compassion? Or is to ensure there's no last-minute escape?
Imagine my surprise when I witnessed a similar scene in real life. We were a group of nine comprising family members and friends on a tour of Portugal. After a long drive from Spain, we reached Lisbon at around 9pm. The confinement of adults for what seemed like a lifetime in a moving vehicle had exposed raw nerves and frequent rumblings from several who supposedly suffered from motion sickness (though there were those squashed in the middle who thought that was a clever ploy to get window seats) or whose limbs were decidedly uncomfortable with the lack of leg space.
The luxury of freedom of movement soon improved everyone's mood and the search for sustaining victuals took us to what seemed to be a good place to end the evening. The restaurant was huge and I found myself seated next to a window. Opposite me sat a nephew who is blessed with a vivid imagination.
As the beverages flowed, tongues loosened and humour decided to linger in this fine company. While we waited for our orders to arrive, an idle glance directed outside became a transfixed stare as two men of a particular skin tone seemed to be chasing a duo of another hue. What was fascinating was the sight of one of the pursuers holding what appeared to be a butcher's knife. Speaking fast and furiously to one of those being chased, he used the cleaver as a rapier, making lightning jabs at the listener's chest and shoulder. As the action continued, a crowd began to gather. Soon the first police car arrived, followed by four others when it seemed like the incident was more serious than an altercation.
Absorbed in the scene, my nephew and I, noses and eyeballs stuck to the window pane, began giving a blow by blow account of what was transpiring for the benefit of our fellow diners unfortunate enough to be seated farther away.
The young lad's fertile imagination soon got the better of him as he began to feed into his narrative his own theories about the possible reason for the fracas. Listening to the tales he wove, one would think he knew the four protagonists intimately. As his recounting grew more and more vivid, his aunt pondered over the fact that she was seeing the exact same scene but had not thought of jazzing up her version of events.
Her attention was soon drawn to the dramatic scene unfolding outside. Apparently enraged beyond reason, one of the men being pursued lashed out, punching a policeman in the face. That was the proverbial last straw. Things happened very fast after that. In the blink of an eye the aggressor was shoved face down against the car's bonnet and handcuffed. I must mention that this action propelled the demise of his earlier swagger and bluster. Next he was pushed inside the car, restraining hand firmly in place on his pate. But, in a sweet act of revenge, the man's head somehow came into sharp contact with the metal rim. Had the hand of justice slipped? Or was it deliberately removed? One will never know. But I had had my Kodak moment.