I try to make sure that I mislay my wallet every few months or so, to keep honed my instincts of semi-poverty acquired in early childhood and reinforced in mid-studenthood.
Today, though, leaving it on the bus was compounded by it containing far more money than I normally carry round: I hadn’t spent half the cash I took to Truck, which was therefore folded up in the zip pocket; I’d also been paid expenses by my workplace a day or so ago, and the recompenses included a couple of return train trips to London. Worse, anticipation of the time required to retrieve it (if at all) was made all the more fraught by the fact that I’d taken the village-and-hamlet bus to Witney, meaning I’d already wasted a lot more of my morning than I had intended to.
By the time I’d run, streaming with sweat, to the bus depot, the number 11 had left and headed on a ramble through Eynsham to Oxford, and back. The drivers there told me I had to wait some two hours for the round trip. And then I still might not get my money back: I might have dropped the wallet elsewhere (unlikely), or it might have been snaffled by a chav (slightly more likely). Despondent, I went back into the town centre and rang K. She offered to come to Witney too, to at least make shopping more palatable and maybe have some lunch together while I waited: after an initial petulant refusal, I accepted her offer.
It was while waiting for her, and her waiting for the 100, that I had a brainwave, and rang her to tell her to get on the 11 instead: the next one to pass her would be the one I was waiting for, the one I had left my wallet on. She agreed and, five minutes later, rang to say she’d got the wallet, and was going to get off while still near home. I’d finish the shopping and, relief dripping from my brow along with perspiration,
In retrospect, my wallet had been safe all along. Between Eynsham and the big city, hardly any bugger gets onto the number 11; for the rest of its bouncy, woldy route, it’s populated by poor country-dwelling goths and pensioners. The former were kept well away today by the sunshine; and the latter, whether made especially honest by aged wisdom or not, never sit up near the back. That’s where my wallet had still been lying when K. got on, nestled in the fold between seat and back, its cache of cash intact.
You wouldn’t get this sort of hard-nosed critique of rural societies in a Herriot vignette, you know.