06 December 2008

Buddy can you spare a Dime?

A man in a disreputable wool hat and a high-vis jacket came up to me and, muttering something I could not make out, pressed 60p into my hand.  It seemed that he wanted me to use it top pay for the copy of The Sun that he was brandishing.

I was waiting in line to redeem my voucher for today's FT, and we were in WH Smith in Didcot, but to be asked to pay someone else's dues in this way struck me as odd.  I was at the back of the queue, so engaging me as his agent did not offer any significant saving of time.

"You won't have a receipt", I pointed out to him.  "They might think you haven't paid for it."

he seemed happy to take his chances: indeed, he went on to explain that he would be delighted to be locked up, preferrably with some paedopihiles whose throats it seemed he would take delight in cutting, confident that he would be able to avoid suspicion.

Our brief conversation had already covered a great deal of ground, and I was not unhappy to find myself at the head of the queue.  I proferred the 60p to the assistant, explaining that it was this gentleman's copy of The Sun: but the gentleman had already gone on his way, perhaps in search of paedophiles, though the assistant had seen him and seemed to understand.  (Perhaps he did the same thing every day.)  I glanced round the shop on my way out in the hope that I might be able to give him the receipt, but there was no sign of the high-vis jacket.

An hour or so later, I was looking for loose oranges in the fruit department of Sainsbury's.   Standing by them, carefully examining the produce, was a familiar figure.  Taking reassurance from the fact that his clothing was not spattered with the blood of a paedophile who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and conscious of the fact that I had an interest in the same fruit as him, I decided against jumping to the next item on my shopping list and moved into proximity to him.

"Would you like me to pay for your groceries?" I asked.  He looked up and after a moment of hesitation recognised me and smiled.  he didn't take me up on the offer: but neither did I understand what he had to say about the oranges.

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