I HAD 12 minutes to catch a connecting train and it was the back end of lunchtime.
It was the point of lunchtime at which if one were leaving the office to get some food, some colleagues would think you were leaving work early for the day. “Where’s he off to?” they’d say.
And then they would talk about “the part-timer” behind your back, but still within earshot.
But they wouldn’t have the decency to look embarrassed when you returned with your sandwiches, oh, no. Not that I am settling scores from 19 years ago or anything.
I swept my eyes around the station at the various franchise offerings. One half of my brain was reminding me that
I had only 10 minutes now, the other half was trying to work out how long the staff in the burger place would take given that there were four people in the queue, and only one wrapped burger in the chute behind the burgerista.
“Nine minutes, come on,” said the timekeeping part of my brain. There was nobody in the pasty shop. That was fine. In fact, if I had a “traditional Cornish pasty” I could feel slightly smug about British regional delicacies, even though I was in Yorkshire, which is about as far from Cornwall as it is from Jupiter.
“Stop faffing about provenance, you total idiot. This isn’t The Food Programme. You have eight minutes left to stuff your face and catch a train,” said that bit of my brain again. I walked into the pasty shop.
There was a friendly young woman behind the counter. “What can I get you?” she asked. “Erm, a pasty, please” I blurted out. I looked at the counter. It was filled with roughly 74 different varieties of pasty. I might as well have said: “Erm, a thing, please.”
“Seven minutes, Bainbridge,” said time-brain. “Pick one and go.”
“I can’t,” rest-of-brain told time-brain. “How can I possibly choo… steak and stilton?! Why do they keep putting stilton in things? Who invented blue cheese anyway? You wouldn’t eat Angel Delight with blue mould in it…”
“Shut up, rest-of-brain,” said time-brain, “A) you like blue cheese, and B) six and a half minutes.”
The woman behind the counter was looking at me, with a kind sort of concern in her eyes. I picked the pasty right in front of me. “Chicken and chorizo, please,” I said. I tried to pronounce “chorizo” correctly but it didn’t go well.
“Very British,” time-brain pointed out. “Didn’t they have frogs’ legs and escargots?” I hate time-brain. The woman bagged up the pasty and I handed over some folding money.
She gave me my change, and I was just about to put it in my pocket when I realised she’d given me change from £10. And I’d handed her a £20 note.
“Just go,” time-brain said. “No, time-brain,” I said. “That is still a fair bit of money. If I found £10 I didn’t know I had in my back pocket, it would be a cause for delight.”
“Erm, I’m sure I gave you a £20 note,” I told the woman.
“I don’t think so,” she said. Her kindly eyes hardened.
“Five minutes to get to the other end of the station,” time-brain said. “Be quiet, time-brain,” I said.
“But I only had a £20 note on me,” I told the woman.
“Do you have any proof?” she asked. “Because I’m sure you only gave me a tenner.”
I thought for a moment. “Fingerprints…? Look, I remember being really annoyed when I got £20 out of the cash machine and it gave me a £20 note, because who wants a £20 note when you’re only withdrawing £20?”
She looked me up and down. Yes, she clearly thought, this is the sort of man who A) would only have £20 on him, and B) would know when he had a £20 note. She opened the till and gave me a £10 note.
“Sorry,” she said. “It’s all right, everyone makes mistakes,” I said, and ran out of the shop in a cloud of pasty dust.
I hared down the platform, stuffing my change in my pocket…
“Oh, no,” I thought. “Please, no.” I took a crisp £20 note from my pocket. Apparently I had found £10 I didn’t know I had in my back pocket. And it was not a cause for delight.
I ran back to the pasty woman. “SORRY!” I yelled, and turned away, leaving a £10 note fluttering in the air as I raced for the train.