December 21, 2011 by Kat Richter
When I was living in London, I worked at a shop in Putney called Julian Graves. (For all my American readers, Julian Graves is like Harry and David’s, only smaller and more chocolate-oriented.) One evening, about an hour before close, a man came into the shop and bought a fruit bar. He paid with a £20 note and spent the majority of the transaction flirting with me.
I just smiled and counted his change. Then he told me, “Don’t close the register. I need change for the parking lot.”
Now an experienced Front End Specialist would have ignored the man’s request, handed him his change and sent him merrily on his way, but that was before I worked at The Shop. I didn’t know any better.
The next few sec onds were a blur. He took the £19 I handed him, then handed me a ten pound note and asked for change. When I handed him two fives in return, he told me he’d given me a £20 and demanded that I give him the £10 I still owed him.
“But I… I already gave you your change,” I said.
“I gave you a £20 note!” he demanded. “Look at the receipt!”
Sure enough he had given me a £20 note, but something wasn’t adding up.
“You stupid b*tch!” he yelled as I fumbled with the drawer. “I want my change!”
I panicked. I was alone in the shop and the security guards were nowhere to be seen but I knew, despite my sub-par math skills, that I was right. He was just trying to confuse me and I’d be damned if I had to spend an hour trying the balance the till later that night, especially as I was supposed to meet my boyfriend and his friends for dinner.
“Sir, I’ve already given you your change,” I said, trying to keep my hands from shaking as I closed the drawer.
“F*ck you!” he screamed, slamming his fruit bar down on the counter. “I don’t even want this! Give me my money back!”
By the time I refunded his 33 pence, I was a wreck. Granted, scam artists aren’t exactly known for packin’ heat (especially in the UK) but I’d never felt so vulnerable. I would later learn that the man in question had tried to pull that very same stunt on all the new cashiers, and that I’d been right all along (my till count was dead on that night) but by the time I met my boyfriend at the tube, I felt helpless.
“Can I stay at your place tonight?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied. “And I’ll check on you during my lunch break tomorrow.”
Now, you may be wondering what the heck this story has to do with anything, in particular, what it has to do with the events of this past weekend and the knock on the door Sunday afternoon.
Well folks, I’m not going to tell you. To be perfectly frank, the appearance of the person in question would have been better suited for a novel than for my blog but rest assured: when I do publish a book on the events of the past year and a half, I’ll be sure to include the full details.
Suffice it to say, the 90-second exchange that occurred on Sunday afternoon left me feeling exactly how I’d felt that night back in London: vulnerable, and helpless, and angry at myself for feeling so helpless, especially with The Wedding Date standing right there…
…Which is why it was rather fortunate that he simply wrapped his arms around me and said, “That settles it: I’m staying the night.”