Here's a story of how I very nearly walked three miles back to my house on a cold rainy night wearing only a pair of shorts and a light t-shirt. It all begins at my local leisure centre, which I am attending more with the desire to watch a sporting event on their large screen in the gym rather than an urge to exercise. The lockers in the changing room are secured with a padlock which makes finding the locker again easy but if, like me, you bring a combination lock, perilous for those without a perfect memory.
Anyway, this is what happens: I arrive; get changed; put my clothes in a locker; sit down to put my trainers on; stand back up; lock the locker and go to the gym. A little later I'm back in the changing room mentally rehearsing the combination to my lock. I key in my best guess at the numbers and the lever clicks open. Breathing a sigh of relief, I open the door but the sight that greets me leaves me open-mouthed and speechless. All my clothes have gone. My bag has gone. My wallet has gone. My car and house keys have gone.
I begin to panic but, trying to think as clearly as I can, I rush out to the car park. My car is still there. They obviously didn't find it or, if they did, they didn't want it. But my wallet has my address in it and, as I run back to the reception area, I'm imagining someone slipping through my front door and rummaging through my cupboards.
Trying to think clearly again – twice in one day is a bit of a stretch, but I manage – I decide I should report the theft to the management and to the police before making my way home in the cold and wet and then attempting to break in. The manager accompanies me to the changing room so that he can corroborate my claim when the local boys in blue are brought in. He opens the locker, nods his head at the emptiness and asks me exactly what happened.
As I'm relating the full horror of the story his eyes begin to narrow and he does a passable facial impersonation of Hercule Poirot and Lieutenant Columbo combined. There's silence for a few seconds and then he opens the locker next to mine to reveal my belongings crammed inside. Now, one of two things may have happened. Either a dastardly yet nimble-fingered thief cracked the code on my padlock, removed all my belongings, stashed them in the locker next door and then sneakily replaced the lock; or – just possibly – after lacing up my trainers, I turned back to the lockers and carefully secured the wrong door.
I don't know what annoyed me most. The fact that I might have done such a daft thing, the fact that I didn't consider I had done such a daft thing before making a fuss, or the condescending, supercilious and smug look on the face of the amateur Inspector Morse as he left the changing room.