For a moment I felt like a character in a road movie who suddenly gets involved in a situation that will turn him from law-abiding citizen into hunted wolf. This generally happens at some petrol station in the middle of a wind-blown prairie when the guy is driven by desperation, love or sheer craziness to help himself to the contents of the cash register and make a run for it.
I wasn’t exactly in the middle of a prairie but I was at a petrol station standing at a deserted payment kiosk. In front of me was an open cash register stuffed with money. To the left of the cash register was a plastic lunch box containing a large stash of used ten euro notes. The station forecourt was empty apart from a couple of guys messing about at the car wash 50 metres away.
If this had been movie land I would have just stumbled on the scene of a crime in progress. I even leaned inside to see if there were desperados hiding beneath the counter or someone lying unconscious on the floor. But this being Portugal the explanation for the money buffet in front of me was far less dramatic, as I realised when one of the guys at the car wash turned and waved to let me know he would be there just as soon as he had nothing better to do.
The notion of leaving a large pile of money unattended just to go help someone get their coin into the car wash would be considered recklessly stupid in every other country I have lived in, but not Portugal. The Silver Coast is not without crime but as this is a petrol station used mainly by locals there was probably a bigger danger of that money being taken by the wind than any passer-by.
I have been told that crime was unknown in Portugal when the country was largely closed to the outside world during the days of the dictatorship. I don’t know if that’s true or whether it is just what the dictator told people but I do know that in traditional communities, especially in the country, no one bothered to lock their doors until fairly recently.
Crime does happen but as it is not something we are confronted with daily we maybe get a bit blasé about it. I should probably lock the car when I go to the supermarket but the central locking is dodgy and I can’t be bothered to go around pushing all the buttons down. Hopefully this is not something I will come to regret, but so far I have had no problems. This might, however, say more about the desirability of my car than the state of crime in Portugal.