Anyway, she caught up with me at TKMaxx and informed me that I'd never be rich but I'd never be poor. Gee thanks, just what I wanted to hear after I'd spent my weekly three pounds on the lottery. She also gazed into the middle distance (I thought she'd caught sight of the marauding teenagers that I'd encountered in Boots who were plastering each other with the makeup samples and giggling like simpletons) before fixing me with heavily kohl-ed eyes. "You'll be sorely tested today" she hissed, furtively glancing up and down the road. "Tell me something I don't know!" I said in an overly jovial voice before catching sight of some stocking fillers and darting into the warmth of the shop.
I reasoned that she hadn't asked me to cross her palm with silver or even demanded that I purchase any lucky heather - perhaps she thought I was past that - and so managed to shrug her words off with a brave "Pah!"
The TKMaxx sales lady didn't seem to mind me talking to myself and rung up my purchases. I couldn't find my debit card in my purse. I shuffled through them all (don't get excited, the cards in my purse include my Matalan membership, my IKEA family card and my Nectar card) but couldn't find it. A small trickle of sweat started prickling my brow. The tutting behind me was reaching a crescendo. I searched through my bag but no joy. By now my prickles had turned into puddles.
Abandoning my stocking fillers I rushed out of the shop, muttering to myself "Ohmigod, omigod, omigod" with a vast range of potential past, present and future scenarios running through my mind. I'll give you an example of just one : the thieves who stole my debit card had bought g large amounts of electrical equipment whilst laughing evilly. Then they handed it over to their accomplice who spent the rest of my money in Marks and Spencers Food Hall. And because I couldn't remember when I last had my card, Alliance and Leicester would tell me to "naff off" and expect me to pay the bills when they came in because I didn't report my card missing (stolen?) in time and I would be destitute, no money. With Christmas coming up. David would be monumentally angry with me (hadn't he always warned me to be careful with my card?) and would call this the final straw and divorce me on the spot for being reckless with money. And even if he didn't then I'd have to use the joint account card to buy things which would make me feel like a kept woman and I'd HATE that but I suppose I could get used to it. And I'd have to re-register my card with everything else and David would know exactly what I spend and where and THEN we'd end up in the divorce courts because he hates QVC even though he really appreciated the nasal hair clippers I'd bought him from there".
This charming little scenario flashed through my mind quicker than you have just read it. It was therefore no surprise that when I finally screeched to a halt in the doorway of TKMaxx that my head was reeling, spinning and generally running amok. My card has been stolen. Or did I lose it? Did I leave it in a random chip and pin machine?
"Think, think!" I muttered, grappling for my mobile, punching in the phone number of my bank and pacing. Once I'd entered my "customer number and pin" and they verified it was me calling, a machine asked me what account I'd like to check on. By now, I was hysterically pacing and attracting quite a crowd.
Now, here is where, in hindsight, I should have listened carefully. It would have saved me clapping my hand over my mouth, stifling a sob and buckling in the knee area.
Always, always, always when I've rung my lovely banking people, the option to check on my current account balance has always been first. My Flexiplan account balance option was second, so number two on my keypad. Always.
A Flexiplan account, for the financially sorted amongst you, is an account where they give you say a £500 overdraw limit. You pay a minimum of £30 into it a month and it adds up to a nice little wedge over time. Unless you're me of course and dip into said Flexiplan until it's £160 overdrawn and the £30 a month goes towards taking you back up to a "nil" balance instead of a "minus" one.
Anyway, back to my drama. I hit "1", thinking that I was being put through to check my current account balance. A few second later a computer told me that "this account is over drawn by one-hundredand-sixty pounds". It was at this point that I did the whole mouth clapping, sob stifling, knee buckling thing. I was turning into a unique piece of street theatre. A scruffy student type looked on the verge of applauding.
I made a funny sort of noise and stifled another sob. The callous bast*rds, stealing my card, SPENDING MY MONEY! and, and, and.......oh God. The computer was still talking in my ear. "If you'd like to enquire about a loan, press 2. If you'd like to order a new cheque book, please press 3. If you'd like to enquire about our savings plan, please press 4.......". On and on until she got to the "if you'd like to speak to a human being, please press 9" option.
"Omigod, omigod, I can't find my debit card and I've just checked on my balance and I'm a 160 quid overdrawn and I know that there was at least £300 in my account and they've stolen it and....and.....I don't know what to do!" I wailed when "Janet from Liverpool" asked if she could help me.
"Right Mrs Mitchell, and when did you last have your card?" she asked calmly. I was beyond calm, I wanted her to agree with me and start a good old bitching session (whilst doing something constructive like promising me that my money was safe and they'd make all thieves pay eventually) but I managed to rally myself. "Tuesday! No, Wednesday, no Friday in Pets at Home and.......and now I'm 160 quid overdrawn and I had 300 quid in there so they've spent nearly five hundred quid of MY MONEY!........" Janet from Liverpool cut me off by clearing her throat and informing me that my current balance on my current account was "three hundred and seven pounds, 59 pence".
"But, but.....what?" I screeched. The pools of sweat under my arms were beginning to affect the rest of my body and my knees were away with the fairies. I was slumped, sweating and bright red in the face on the wall outside TKMaxx. My crowd had attracted the attention of a security guard who was gaping at me warily.
"Your balance is three hundred and seven pounds, 59 pence Mrs Mitchell. The balance you checked was your Flexiplan account which is £160 overdrawn."
That was the noise I made at this piece of information. I could have kissed Janet from Liverpool who was now calmly telling me that she was going to cancel my card and send me out a new one. No-one had spent any of my money. "Ooooooooohhhhhhfffffmmmmpppppp" I repeated at a lower volume, and started taking off my coat as I was boiling up with a mixture of mortification, relief and embarrassment. "I must have.....I mean, it was always option 1 and......so, it's fine then?" I went on, sliding halfway down the wall. "Yes Mrs Mitchell, there has been no worrying activity on your account" I was half expecting her to say "Unless you count the amounts you pay to QVC each month" but she didn't.
"Is there anything else I can help you with today Mrs Mitchell?" Janet from Liverpool was oblivious to the drama and obviously had to go to and answer a call from another hysterical customer. "No, that's great, thank you, no, look, you've done enough! Thank you, thanks so much......tha......" she'd hung up and I was left with a dead phone, a crowd of mesmerised shoppers and an urge to have a wee.
I think I handled my departure from that doorway with aplomb but I'd lost the inclination to shop, the ability to walk without shaking and had developed a huge thirst. I got back to the car, had to sit in it for five minutes before feeling calm enough to drive and then drove slowly home, feeling relieved but mightily stupid. "That'll teach you not to have been nicer to that gypsy" I said to myself as I pulled into The Avenue.
David greeted me at the door with a winning smile. "You're back early! Forget something did you?" he said, waving my debit card at me. "You can't go shopping without this my darling, remember? You used it last night to verify your account when you rang QVC to check the warranty on my nose hair clippers and left it on the mantlepiece!"
Sorely tested indeed.