Sunday, 30 September 2012
Copenhagen: Two tales of one city
'The doorbell rang at 2 o'clock in the afternoon...'
This sentence opens two stories about two unrelated events that took place here in Copenhagen in the last little while. One of them happened to me and the other I read about in a post on Facebook warning people about security at home. They show two very different angles of life in this city and, indeed, the incongruity of life. One day my children will ask me about good and evil - I hope I remember to tell them these stories. Although I know that they really only pose a bigger question: what makes some people do good and others do bad....
The first story is mine to tell: the doorbell rang at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, it was a Saturday afternoon and I was sitting with my family around the table, we were chatting and I was sipping a cup of tea. Parked downstairs was the car we had rented for the weekend in order to go exploring with my parents who were visiting from England. I answered the door and it was a male voice I didn't recognise asking for me. 'Yes', I said, 'that's me'.
'You left your bank card in the parking machine downstairs', came the reply. I went downstairs and was met by a young man who had been walking along my street, saw the bank card in the machine and went around the apartment buildings in the near vicinity looking for my name so he could return it. I was stunned. Grateful, obviously, but nevertheless taken aback by his honesty and the fact that he had given time to finding where I lived. Of course, the part of me that is unaccustomed to living here and still lives like a Londoner wondered if my card had been used before it was being returned! But, really, what would be the sense in that? I simply had to accept that standing on my doorstep was the face of honesty. It even laughed at me when I offered a beer in return for the kindness that had taken me by surprise. Happy to be reunited with the card I didn't even know had been missing, I felt a huge sense of relief.
The other story is simply this: the doorbell of a flat in a different neighbourhood across town rang at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. This was also a flat with a shared entrance, the young family that lived in the flat were out save for the father who was busy and so he didn't answer the door. The doorbell rang again and again he didn't answer. Moments later two men used a crowbar to break in through the front door. At this point the father appeared and upon realising the flat was occupied, the intruders fled.
When I think about these two events, I struggle to reconcile them. Compared to living in London, I feel relatively safe here in Copenhagen but I also try not to take those feelings for granted, to be careful about security and to play my part in keeping this city safe.