I was hanging out with friends yesterday afternoon, soaking up a bit of the very rare winter sun and taking in the sights of a very busy Bricklane. It was all very pleasant, despite the stolen bikes at extortionate prices, the ever more blatant contraband tobacco ring and the growing number of DVD rippers… they all add to the street’s unquestionable charm in a strange way – especially when you can’t trade with them in the first place.
It had been a few hours into the jaunt before I was dragged into Beyond Retro, a giant emporium of colourful clothes that the world’s most eccentric almost certainly died in and now provide endless joy and cause for sequinned admiration throughout Shoreditch and Dalston.
Suddenly finding myself dawdling around the chromatic rack upon rack of second and third [and quite possibly 4th] hand youth club T-Shirts whilst my female co-jaunters suddenly became frenzied shoppers; trying on anything and everything they may or may not have liked the look at.
Almost an hour had past and I had run out of faded vinyl team-slogans to read, wacky trousers to look bemused at and broken tin clockwork toys to feel cumbersome amongst. It was time to leave and the ‘I’m bored, get me out of here’, face came out in vengeance.
As quickly as the upturned smile was presented, we were ready to leave and in the queue to pay for a single, solitary jumper (an hour for one freaking jumper between five of us?!?).
I was waiting patiently by the door with the rest of the empty handed Sunday shoppers when a muffled yell of horror came from our final, remaining compadre. She was unable to pay for said jumper as she had lost her wallet. She was pissed off and panicking. I was just pissed off.
After the realisation that it wasn’t in any of her pockets or her bag after numerous and unnecessary double, triple, quadruple checks, the group therapy began; a chorus of “Well, where did you last have it?” Followed by, “I don’t fucking know, it must have been stolen, it isn’t where I put it. Fuck.”
I don’t think we were helping. All I could think about was how shit it is to lose everything like that. I’ve never lost my entire wallet at once, I’ve lost the majority of it over time but I have never been incapacitated entirely in one foul swoop. If it hadn’t had been hours in the waiting, I would definitely have felt sorry for her.
Fortunately she had her passport still but that was literally it. Everything else was gone, her bank cards, her cash, her ID, her driving licence, personal pictures of friends and family from home, the works.
OK, I did feel sorry for her. Especially for the unenviable task of telling her parents back in France what had happened; no matter your age, parents cannot help not helping – they will be angry at the victim, they will suggest redundant suggestions on how to prevent what has already happened or they will tell you that another sibling would be less likely to have found themselves in such a predicament.
After a few more minutes of unproductive but justified flapping, we deduced that the last time she used the wallet was in Pret-a-Manger on Bishopsgate, despite being hours earlier and subsequently spending the time in between meandering around an absolutely jam-packed market renowned for opportunistic pick-pockets with a handbag that has a broken clasp, Pret seemed like a pretty logical place to look first to me.
We should talk about it more and then probably go and get some food somewhere to talk about it further… an orthodox plan, but I was willing to see it through if it meant not causing a fuss amongst people I didn’t really know.
Unable to console, unable to help by actually looking, being almost strangers; even a pat on the back seemed inappropriate. I called a big fat bullshit on the situation and made my apologies to leave. After all, I really did want to go to the gym – I didn’t even need to make up an excuse.
I said my goodbyes, politely wished for the best out-loud and left the hustle and bustle of Sunday UpMarket for the yummy-mummy-chaos of Spitalfields across the road and beyond.
Suddenly, on my way to the gym, I realised I was right outside the fore-mentioned Pret on Bishopsgate and thought it was the least I could to ask inside if anyone had handed it in.
Like the proactive, Samaritan I sometimes claim to be, I waited in line for an opportunity to strike up a conversation about a women’s purse that wasn’t mine, that could like anything because I hadn’t ever seen it, and a name on the inside that I only half-knew with someone that only really wants to know whether I want a mocha or a cappuccino.
It was then that I noticed the inspiration and the original point of this post; Pret have installed Paywave! Whoop Whoop! Another fancy chain of coffee shops has become a little bit more accessible to me… there is now another chain of coffee shops I can no longer walk past and still think it isn’t easy as it used to be to buy a hot drink I don’t need.
Ecstatic about my discovery but concerned about the new low my excitement is triggered by, I reach the counter. Refraining from giving the new payment method a whirl, I ask about the non-descript lady’s wallet – I even make an oblong shape with my thumbs and index fingers to illustrate it’s potential form.
The service assistant looked puzzled at first, then his eyes lit up as if he knew the exact wallet I was talking about, my hopes were lifted from the gutter and…
“No, someone probably stole it. You should ring the police. People steal things like that.” He replied – still with the look of realisation on his face.
I was puzzled by his expressions but not surprised. I didn’t expect him to have found the wallet, let alone with its contents still in place. I said thank you, he asked me if I wanted coffee, I gave in and said yes just so I could play with the contactless system, the coffee came, the Paywave machines weren’t online yet, I had to pay on my scabby debit without showing off, and then I left with a luke-warm, overpriced coffee that I really didn’t want.
But at least I left with my wallet, my identity and my cards still in tact and in my pocket. If that had happened to me I would have lost my only way of paying for anything, my Oyster card, my ID and almost as importantly; my ‘go to the loo for free’ card when playing Ring-of-Fire drinking game!
Crap coffee aside, my Sunday was a lot better than my friend’s.