Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A cautionary tale to share ...

I have been wondering whether to write this post for reasons you will understand when you have read it. However, I think that it is important for people to realise how easy it is to get into deep deep trouble very quickly. So I am writing this as a cautionary tale that I hope you will share.

We have just spent 2 weeks in Turkey. Its a beautiful country and I love it, love the people, the food ... everything. We discovered, a couple of years ago, a little excursion that was fun, relaxing and enjoyable. It was so good that I did plan on writing a post about it ... This year we booked it up again and when we arrived at the start location the lady who ran it ( an English lady in her 60's) was thrilled to see us again. We met like old friends ... kisses, hugs. Of course we were not friends, but we were repeat guests and I told her I would be writing a post about her excursion so wanted to get lots of pictures. She was chuffed and kept going on about how wonderful we all were.

Then she asked if I'd mind taking a package home with me.

It threw me. A package from a stranger? But she was, sort of, known to us. She was very friendly and ordinary and English. What could go wrong? I asked her why she didn't just post it from Turkey. I said we wouldn't be home for another week. And she said that the Turkish post was unreliable and she'd really appreciate it if we would post it from England to her friend. She gave me some money, a couple of pounds, for postage and laughed "Don't worry!! Its nothing ... not drugs or anything dodgy!!!"

So, being English, and polite and not wanting to offend her ... I took it.

It was one of those small padded envelopes with an address in Northern England.

We continued with our excursion, had a lovely day and then headed back to our hotel. All the time the package worried me. I knew I shouldn't have agreed to take it, but I didn't know what to do. My husband felt the same. Should we just send it from Turkey? But then, how would we do that? Should we open it, check what was inside and then either take it home and send it or repackage it and send it?

 All these questions and worries ... I don't know about you, but I have always been taught that someone else's post is sacrosanct. You don't ever open another person's post. I don't even open my husband's letters, never mind a stranger's. I thought it would be wrong to open another person's mail, but then I wasn't prepared to take something through customs when I didn't know what it was. Through Turkish customs ... have you seen Midnight Express ...?

I decided that my loyalty was not to a woman I had met twice. My loyalty was to my two boys, my husband and myself ... so I opened it. What fell onto the hotel bed? I thought it would perhaps be a bracelet ...  a booklet ... a fridge magnet with a little letter saying " Here's the trinket I promised you ..." But no ... onto the bed fell packet after packet of foil, blister packs of pills. OMFG.

You cannot imagine the combination of fury, relief and fear that came over me. Can you imagine what would have happened if I'd taken those through customs?? The packets were wrapped with instruction leaflets that said these were strong anti-inflammatories. They could have been anything.

How would the conversation have gone at the airport? All the variations went through my head ... all ending with my family in a Turkish prison. If we had been lucky we might have just ended up in a British prison. My husband would have lost his job. I would have lost my job. My boys ... 2 innocent, beautiful English boys ...

My husband came back from saying goodnight to our sons and I handed him the envelope. "Have a look at that" I said. We just stared at each other... "Fuck me. Fuck me!!"

How dare someone put us in a situation like that. How dare she use our politeness and niceness as a way of tricking us into doing this thing. And thank God that although we are nice we are not stupid. There was no letter inside the package, no note saying "Dear Auntie Jackie, Here are those pills for your poorly knees. Hope you feel better soon. Love Tracey" There was nothing to connect the package to the true sender.

Dodgy. Dodgy. Dodgy.

I took it, wrapped it in a carrier bag and dumped it in a bin far away.

I am the most honest, law abiding person and yet that's what all these people say isn't it? Who would have believed me? Another greedy person out to make a quick buck and beat the system. Another idiot caught trying to carry something through for someone else.

I am so angry with that woman. I cannot believe that she could put us, my family in such danger. Even if they were only prescription pills they were still pills. They were still illegal to take from one country to another. I would never do something like that, never mind get an innocent family to do my dirty work. How dare she?? How bloody dare she??!!

It frightens me to even write this down. It frightens me to have ever had them in my possession. But I wanted you to know how easy it is to be tricked. How easy it is for someone to take advantage of your good will, your politeness. Don't ever make the mistake we did. I will never ever make that mistake of just saying "Yes" because I was embarrassed to say no. If I had asked would she have told the truth about what was in that parcel? I will never trust anyone like that again. I am so glad I broke etiquette and looked inside. Thank God we are safe, I pray.

Don't be a fool. Don't be tricked. Don't be taken advantage of. Your loyalty is to yourself and your family.


15 comments:

Kerrie McGiveron said...

That's a really great cautionary tale - I would have done exactly the same as you, and I also would have felt mortified when I found out. Glad that everything was OK in the end. Phew.

sarah at secret housewife said...

Thanks Kerrie. I was mortified and felt so scared and stupid. I have learnt a lesson x

The Mad House of Cats and Babies said...

My heart was in my mouth as I read the first part of this, thinking "noooo" that you'd been conned. I'm glad you opened then and checked.
My father worked as the head of Consulate for the British Embassy in various countries. One place we lived was Thailand. I learned at a very young age about drugs and about drug smuggling. My Dad worked with a lot of tourists who fell for all sorts of tricks and also dealt with people who'd been caught carrying drugs having been paid to do so. I was approached by a woman at Bangkok airport, when I was 12 and asked to carry her bag that she couldn't take because she had too much baggage and although she was very persuasive, I refused, knowing what it could be and that I possibly was being conned into something illegal. Am relieved that you didn't get into a very sticky situation and I'm sorry it happened at all. It's a tough thing to say, but you cannot be too careful. I hope other people read your story and take note!

Sarah said...

Thank goodness you opened it! Shame on that woman putting an innocent family at risk like that!

sarah said...

Thanks Karen. Really interesting comment. You showed real guts and intelligence at 12 to say no. Im 49 and couldnt.i hope our story warns other people of the dangers. I suppose she thought that a nice middle class family wouldnt be stopped. Stupid!! The Turkish authorities opened my sons bag just to check his snorkels. They xray all bags twice ... I am a very law abiding citizen and there's no way I would willingly break the law. I have learnt such a lesson. We all have. X

Kath Bee said...

Woah, that was a close call. Have you had any contact with the woman since? I guess you wont be going there again!

sarah at secret housewife said...

Hi Kath. No I don't plan on having any contact ever again with her.Awful woman!And no ... we won't be going there again!

Mama Owl said...

It's terrifying to think how easily it can be done, thank heavens you listened to your intuition!

SarahMummy said...

Oh my goodness, I am totally shocked! What an awful thing to do to someone. Thank goodness you had the sense to open the envelope.

Inkling said...

Wow. Amazing applause to you for listening to that little voice in the back of your mind and checking the parcel. That is so scary. Do you need to inform the consulate or anyone about her just to protect yourself somehow? I know the drugs are gone, but would she have any way of tracing you once she finds out they never made it to their destination?

Oh, Sarah, I'm so glad you are safe. I have learned something huge from this post. I'm naturally pretty trusting, and my husband has a heart of gold. I wonder if we would have done the same, but not thought to check like you did.

Urban Cynic said...

Well done for opening it. A lot of people wouldn't and she definitely took advantage of you. What a dreadful woman and what a lucky escape.

Thanks for the lovely comment on my blog post by the way. of course I haven't taken one morning stroll down there since I wrote it even though the weather here in Brighton is amazing - tomorrow is another day though! x

Holidays in Turkey said...

"Ooh Sorry, only if I can check what's in it" is an acceptable response that I use. Innocents will understand and others will not ask again.
People we know have been in this situation. Very dodgy. And you're right - how dare she!

Erica Price said...

What a thing to do! Glad you checked.

Beta Mother said...

Omfg indeed. I'm livid on your behalf. Glad you followed your instincts. Ggggggggrrrrrrrr.....

Actually Mummy... said...

Oh goodness how frightening - we are so British about things, we get thrown at things that most Europeans would be outraged over. We're far too polite.