I was sorting out the panniers on my bike after a moderately substantial shop at Sainsbury’s, when I head a voice behind me.
“Excuse me, Sir…”
I glanced back and saw a Sainsbury guy walking towards me. Instantly I played through the possibilities. Had I accidentally packed something without running it through the scanner? I doubted it, though great potential embarrassment loomed. Then it hit me. I’d paid the thirty quid in one pound coins, deriving great satisfaction as each one slid home. The coins were given to me at my school event yesterday – I flogged a few books at a loss-leading three quid a pop, just to have the rare pleasure of a reasonable signing queue. My guess was that this activity – paying in great piles of coins – probably brought up a red money-laundering flag. And it’s exactly what I’d do, if I had a few thousand quid in drug money I wanted to wash, from selling skag to primary school kids, or whatever. And I knew exactly how this was going to play out.
“Sir, could you come back into the store please?”
“We want a word with you…”
“That’s fine,” I say, firmly, but reasonably. I’ve been waiting for this moment ever since passing O level Law with flying colours (back in 1983, before grade inflation, a B was still counted as flying colours). “But I first have to inform you of your rights…”
“Er, my rights …”
“Yes, you see, you can only force me to return to the store by placing me under a citizen’s arrest – which you’re quite entitled to do. The trouble is that if I an not subsequently found guilty of a criminal offence, you will be guilty both of the criminal offence of unlawful imprisonment, and also the Civil Law equivalent. For the former you can be imprisoned for up to fifteen years, and for the latter there are unlimited damages. So I advise you to proceed very carefully …” I was about 75% sure that this was true, as 1983 was a long time ago. But 75% is more than I usually have to go on.
And this succeeds in throwing the man into utter confusion. He doesn’t know whether to wrestle me to the ground or slink off. Then his boss, and a security guard turn up. I explain the same thing to them, and they offer full apologies, and let me go.
Anyway, I played that all out in my imagination, in far less time than it takes to tell.
“You dropped this,” says the man – a youth, really, wispy hair on his face. He’s holding out my bank card.
“Oh, thanks. I’m, always bloody doing that.”
A satisfactory outcome, I think you’ll agree, for Perry Como. I mean Mason. Whoever.