Friday, October 13, 2006

Faking It

I have just sold some musical equipment to a friend, and as a result I have six £50 notes in my wallet. I am usually more of a chip and Pin man (there’s extra protection on purchases plus the opportunity to collect points, which really makes sense if you pay off your balance in full each month as I do), but I like having these large-denomination notes in my pocket. It makes me feel like a Cockney wheeler-dealer who pays for everything in cash from a big wad. As a result I have been dropping aitches all day. I am now at Tesco.

“That’s £44.92 please”, says the check-out girl.

I hand her one of my prized notes, just about managing not to say “‘Ere you go, Princess – buy yerself somefink nice.”

She takes her security pen to check that the note is genuine, and to my horror it makes an incriminating black mark right across Sir John Houblon’s boat race (face).

I immediately start to sweat. When I think about it, my friend is a bit dodgy. He certainly didn’t go to university. The woman in the queue who tried to push in front of me watches with interest, now in no hurry to go anywhere.

The check-out girl makes another mark on the note. Same result. She holds it up to the light. I have heard stories that they get bonuses for catching fraudsters – she’s certainly looking at me like Christmas has come early. I consider making a run for it, but realise that she has already swiped my Clubcard.

Idiot! Cockney hard-men don’t leave loyalty cards at the scenes of their crimes.

I hand her another note. “Perhaps you could try this one”, I say, my glottal stops magically disappearing. Same result.

Idiot! You’re now a repeat offender.

I want to be middle class again.

The check-out girl presses a button and after an agonising wait during which the growing queue happily regard me in the manner of an audience at a public execution, a supervisor appears.

I try to affect the nonchalant air of an innocent man, but inwardly decide that I will squeal on my friend at the earliest opportunity. That slag would do the same to me. The supervisor tries the security pen, putting a thick line right across the Queen’s forehead. Both banknotes now look like either a toddler or a deranged anarchist has been let loose on them. The spectre of prison looms large. I really, really, really don’t want to get bummed.

“Hang on a sec”, says the supervisor. “This is just a marker pen.”

We all have a right old giraffe about it – me, the checkout girl, the supervisor and the woman in the queue, and I head back to the trouble and strife for a knees-up with half a monkey.