SOME GUYS JUST AREN'T CUT OUT FOR A 9 TO 5…
As one of the newbies at the FIRM, I was keen to attend every social gathering going; even Friday night drinks with the old-timers.
One guy in particular, Big Fat Pauly, who was considered some sort of folk legend, couldn’t resist telling me about the shit he used to pull when he was my age. And as I stood there pretending to lap it all up, I remember thinking, Whatever old man, your tales wouldn’t even make the appendix if I ever chose to write a book.
It was getting close to midnight and I was getting impatient. So I chugged my beer, made my excuses and headed for the exit. But before the door closed, I could just make out the words, “same time next week then?”
Someone kill me now if all my Friday nights are going to be like this.
I’d have preferred not to catch a cab all the way home. However I had around nine minutes to make my last train and there was no bus in sight. Plus if I didn’t make a move soon there was a risk of being caught by Pauly on his way out. Luckily I managed to find an unlicensed cabbie and explained my predicament to him.
“Look I need to get to Waterloo a.s.a.p. in order to catch the last train. But it leaves in a few minutes AND I need to stop off for cash on the way. If I miss it, we can just carry on all the way to mine ok?”
This should have been the part where he said yes or no but he just stared blankly at me. Well bollocks, I’m getting in.
He clearly understood the Waterloo part, as we pulled up just in front of the main entrance around five minutes later.
“Right, wait here. I need to check if the train has left yet.” He looked at me in a somewhat alarmed manner.
“Don’t look at me like that. I told you I needed to get money out. We even passed an HSBC en route. Look, there are cash machines literally on the other side of the entrance. I’ll quickly run up to the concourse, check if my train is still there and come straight back.”
Still nothing. This would be a lot easier if you spoke, you know?
“You’re worried that I won’t come back right?” He nodded and smiled.
“Ok look.” I paused to think about what I could use as collateral. I wasn’t going leave my credit card and I don’t wear a watch. Leaving my shoes would have made for a more amusing story but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. So in the end, my only real option was my tie.
“Here’s my tie. She’s one of my favourites and you have my word that I’ll come back for her.”
I checked to make sure Drives was satisfied with my offering – as a man of so few words, I couldn’t tell either way – before marching up the escalator to locate my train.
Phew. The 11.54 to Dorking hasn’t left… Fuck it’s 11.52. What do I do?
A cab all the way home would usually cost £50 (maybe £40 depending on my rapport with Drives). And the fare to just Waterloo would’ve been about £10 at that time.
I bought the tie for £25 in ’04. Allowing for wear & tear over the previous two years, I’d say her ‘book value’ was about £12.50. Weigh that up against the fare to Waterloo and I was down £2.50 (ignoring any emotional loss of course).
But I would save £40 by being able to catch the train; so a notional gain of £37.50.
Screw it. Run for the train.
I felt bad about duping Drives but the alcohol and my ‘paper gain’ soon made me forget. Plus he’d be the best dressed cat on the road with that tie. Which, I’ll now confess came free with a previous suit purchase.
Revised notional gain of £50. Deceiving people is great.
Next stop XXX.
Karma… She’s a bitch!
Conductor: “Wake up. We’re at Dorking. You need to get off.”
Me: “What the fuck? Are you serious?”
Conductor: “Deadly sir. And that was the last train. There’s nothing into London now till the morning.”
Me: “Horse shit. Is there a taxi rank anywhere?”
Conductor: “Yes there’s a black cab pick-up point just outside the station. Where were you supposed to get off?”
Conductor: “Oh dear.” Dorking was well and truly in the burbs and there would definitely be a premium after midnight. “You’re looking at around £70 to get back there sir.”
What? The whole bloody point of my earlier trade was to save money, not lose more!
The conductor was right; including tip, the total fare back cost me £65. And I was over an hour later than I would’ve been had I have just stuck with Drives.
No tie and a real loss of £65. Deceiving people is wrong.
Don’t do it or shit like this can happen.
I mentioned my scenic route home to another junior member of staff the following week and regretted doing so immediately afterwards as I was worried what people may think if word got round that I ran out on paying my fare.
Running into Drives again was my other major concern. Though that was only likely at night and my plan was to avoid any pubs in the area for the next month or so.
The days went by and I was clearly obsessing over nothing. But at around midday the following Thursday I received a call from the front desk.
This was unusual as a client certainly wouldn’t have asked for me directly. Nor would any of my friends have popped in unannounced.
Me: “Hello, Sean here.”
Receptionist: “Hi, could you come downstairs please? I’ve got a rather irate black gentleman down here holding a red tie and your business card. He says you owe him some money?”
OH. SHIT. How the fuck did he find me? I was struggling to think of a response as I was concentrating so hard on not pissing my pants.
Me: “Oh God. Sorry, would you mind paying him and I’ll give you the money later?”
Receptionist: “No can do I’m afraid. I don’t have my wallet with me.”
Me: “OK, thanks anyway.”
As I continued to writhe in agony in my chair, I started to go over what the ‘Receptionist’ had said:
1. Irate black man – check;
2. Red tie – check;
3. My business card – hang on; I didn’t have any as I was still too new.
“Sorry, who am I speaking to again please?”
By this stage I was on speaker phone and all I could hear was the sound of at least three of the old-timers guffawing on the other end of the line before the ‘Receptionist’ a.k.a. Big Fat Pauly put me out of my misery and hung up.
Well played old man. You clearly do know how to have a laugh. And would you look at that; you’re a feature in a main story.
It’s just not the same
By the way, Lewins no longer make that tie. So to any of the readers currently living in London; if you ever happen to get in an unlicensed cab with a silent, African fellow wearing a bright red tie with sky blue – almost anchor, almost paisley – design, please tell him that Sean is sorry, he wants his tie back and that he is willing to pay much more than the original £10 fare for it.
If you liked this then I suspect you might also enjoy my book. Or not.
Either way, thanks for reading; particularly to those of you who share these stories and/or leave comments.