Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I don't ask for much

This afternoon I changed trains at Balham (the gateway to the south) on my way into central London. My caffeine level was getting unpleasantly low. Thanks to the miracle that is capitalism, there are now espresso bars on the platforms at many British railway stations, so I stopped to buy a latte. I gave the man behind the counter a five pound note, and he was supposed to give me 3.75 pounds change. Fine, but he only gave me 2.75. As is my practice, I carefully and obviously counted my change. As he saw me doing this, he apologised and gave me the extra pound.

However, he did this as soon as he saw me counting the change, and before I had realised that the change was a pound short. The only explanation for his knowning I had been shortchanged before I did was that he had done this deliberately. So, obviously, I will not be buying any coffee from that particular espresso bar in future.

If people are going to try to steal from me, couldn't they at least demonstrate some competence in doing so? Like, for instance, by waiting for me to count the change, see that it is short, and then point this fact out to them. At least in that case there would be some possibility that we could maintain the pretence that it was a genuine mistake. As it is, the acting was really poor. I am in London, the city of Dickensian pickpockets, after all. The standard of the petty theives seems to have really dropped in the last 100 years.

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