Rose Poimafisi was a tough lady. If she clenched her fists and exhibited them to you, you read, on her eight knuckles, from left to right, the letters:
T R U E L O V E
Rose lived a couple of doors down from us - and fostered some young boys - early 'teens.
Our house has three bedrooms. In order for each child to have a room of his or her own, Sue and I slept on a futon on the living room floor. In 1987, Helen, Eddie, and Adele slept in the house, each in a bedroom. Johnny slept in the 'sleep-out' room in what had been the garden shed - which is now, in fact, my office and my own bedroom.
One night in July - chilly and wet - about, I think, 9:30 in the evening, I was outside in the driveway saying 'good-bye' to Ross Jackson who had been visiting us. I was sitting on the kerb next the driveway. Ross had just put his car into reverse, to back out of the driveway - had, in fact, started to move - when I called him back. Something had occurred to me that I wanted to say to him.
I never got to say it, never, in fact, remembered what it was.
A sound that, at first, I thought was a gunshot, occurred. A sudden squeal of tyres followed. My first thought was that some sort of gang-related activity was happening. Within seconds, this belief received support because I heard, from next door in Mr Edwards yard, men shouting and beating others.
Johnny came running out of his room, and Susan from the house. I grabbed a convenient four-by-two that was lying around, told Johnny to go upstairs to the house, and crouched behind the wall of the carport, preparatory to deal with any violent criminals who should dash into our yard, intent on mayhem.
When, after half a minute or so, no such thing happened, I, with, I think, at least Johnny and Susan, went cautiously out to the street and peered into Mr Edwards' yard.
One car was there, reversed into a tree.
A second car - a police car, in fact - had apparently crashed head-on into the front of the first car.
There were policemen beating on young men (2? 3?).
And Rose "TRUE LOVE" Poimafisi was beating on one of the policemen.
What had happened was this:
- A man had (foolishly) stopped in front of Matt's Dairy, leaving his car running.
- Young boys (one of whom was one of Rose's fosters - a boy, it was said later, who had already been in prison for raping his foster sister), not slow to take advantage of the situation, leapt into the car and tore off for Waiuku. To while away the time there, they pulled off a burglary or two.
- Unfortunately for them, the police were alerted to their activities. A high-speed chase ensued (the policeman told me that they came in on Victoria Street West - a 50 Km/hour zone - at 140 Km/hour).
- They neglected to stop at the stop sign at Helvetia Road. They hit a car coming up Helvetia Road. Fortunately they hit the rear of the car (or the woman passenger in that car would have been dead rather than simply concussed). The impact spun that car around, and flung it against the steel-reenforced poured-concrete post at the corner of our yard. The boot of the car flew open. The jack flew out, across our lawn (something like 10 metres, I think), inches past my head, into the panel on the side door of Ross's car (shattering the window) - that had been, I think, the 'gunshot' I had heard.
- Their car also spun around so that it crashed rear-on against a tree in Mr Edwards' front yard. The police car braked, but still crashed against the front of their car.
The battle sounds were the police thrashing the boys, yelling at them that they may have killed someone in the other car.
And Rose? She was avenging her foster son.
There was much follow-up to be done after that night, naturally. I titled this post "Why insurance is good." It was our house insurance that paid for repairing the wall (one of Johnny's Herald customers - I have forgotten his name - did the work). I suppose Ross's insurance paid for the damage to his car. I do not know what happened to the boys. We and the neighbours on that corner demanded that the Council put in a roundabout at the corner (they did not do it, but they did put in traffic islands). But one unforeseen result was my return to the 'bus.
I had not, I think, really realised just how upsetting the event was until the next morning. I got on my motorbike to go to work. As usually, I road along Cape Hill Road, instead of the main road. Just where Cape Hill Road turns a sharp left into Tuhimata Road, I laid the 'bike down. Fortunately I was going slowly, and I managed to put it down into grass. I was uninjured, and continued on to the University.
The next day I took the 'bus. I do not think this was a particularly considered decision. I had simply lost my nerve.