COLUMN: March 15, 2012

I HAD to go to a box office to collect concert tickets which I had ordered last September. I admit I had been putting it off, because I was worried that something would go wrong.

How ridiculous of me. Of course something was going to go wrong. All I was doing was saving the broccoli till last.

So I ensured I had the necessary documentation, held my breath, and went for it, ready for a battle.

“Can I pick up these tickets, please?” I said, brightly, hoping to lull the box office clerk into a false sense of security. If things turned nasty, I needed the element of surprise on my side.

I pushed the printed online receipt over to the cashier. She inspected it in a friendly, but efficient, manner. This was going well. Too well.

“Have you got the card that was used to order the tickets?” she asked. Had I? What sort of amateur did she think I was? Perhaps I had overplayed the earlier lulling, making her consider me a simpleton.

I pulled out my wallet, flipped it open, and slid my card out of its mooring, all in one fluid movement, as James Bond would have done in this situation. I could see the clerk swiftly revising her opinion of me. Game over. Those tickets had my name on them. Literally, as it happens.

But as I pushed the card under the glass something occurred to me, the tricky detail which Sherlock Holmes would have picked up earlier, but I, as a real person, had not.

“Erm, it’s not actually the card I used. That’s not a problem, is it…?”

The card I used for the transaction no longer exists as a whole. It is cut up and in bits in a landfill somewhere. I suppose I could have looked for it, and glued it back together, but that would have required a bit more effort than I had budgeted for yesterday.

And in any case it would have been unusable, as it expired at the end of December. It’s not as if I cut up cards willy-nilly. My bank had been quite clear as to my obligations. There is no way this was my fault.

It turned out I had lulled the box office clerk into a true sense of security. “Yes, it is a problem,” she said, and she went off to speak to somebody.

A queue was forming behind me.

The clerk came back to the window. “Do you have a bank statement which shows that the money was taken from your account in September?”

Let us imagine a world now in which people go about the place carrying bank statements from seven months ago on the off-chance that one day somebody will ask to see them. Look at those stooped people, their bags bulging with every bit of paper that has ever passed through their hands, like organised, mobile, Mister Trebuses. Fire hazards, that’s what they are.

“No,” I replied. “I don’t.”

The clerk sighed. “Do you have any identification with your picture on?” Now, I did have a copy of The Post in my bag, with a byline picture, but I wasn’t going to show her that. I’ve been down that cul-de-sac before.

Years ago, when I was a reporter, I doorstepped a woman, who refused to believe I was a journalist. I sort of understand why.

I did not have a press card at that point, but there was a copy of my paper in her porch, and on the front page was my byline picture. “Look, there I am,” I said. The woman scrutinised the photo. “That’s not you,” she said.

I don’t have much in the way of photo ID. There is almost as much photographic evidence of Jesus Christ. I took out my Costco card, but I really didn’t want to hand it over, as it is the one on which my face looks as if it is pressed against glass. Then I saw the pink plastic of my driving licence, and was relieved beyond normal expectations.

I handed it over, received the tickets, and staggered away, battered but victorious, ignoring the sour glances of the long queue behind me.

I don’t even want to go to the concert.

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