Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I Was Hungry. I Didn't Have to Pick Up My Son for over an Hour. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I Was Hungry. I Didn't Have to Pick Up My Son for over an Hour. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Article excerpt

I had an hour and a half between a meeting in Soho and an appointment to pick up my son from school in north London. There was no margin for error, because if you are even a minute late for the pick-up you incur the silent judgement of the teacher and the I-thought-you- loved-me silence of the child. (When it comes to dropping off at school, discipline is even tighter: you have to fill out a form giving a reason for lateness. In the past, I've written INCOMPETENCE and UNCONTROLLABLE CHILD.)

Still, surely, I was capable of eating lunch at a restaurant. I can even remember it entering my head: "I can't see this going wrong, no way."

The Italian place was busy; service was a bit slow from the outset; then the waiter brought the wrong thing and I was forced to send it back. By the time I'd finished eating, things were tighter than I'd have liked. Even so, the odds still looked good--until I came to pay the bill.

My card was rejected. Maybe it was a problem with the machine, the waiter said politely. We tried again: the same result. I went round the corner to a bank machine, leaving my bag as collateral, and waited for the reassuring grind as money was spat out. But no. YOUR REQUEST CANNOT BE CARRIED OUT.

Now, suddenly, things were serious. I had no other card, and only--found after a prolonged search of my pockets--11.50 [pounds sterling] in cash, 7 [pounds sterling] short of what I'd "spent". Could I claim that the service had been so bad I was leaving a minus tip?

Shamefacedly I trudged back and explained to the waiter that I had no way of paying the bill and that I had to be somewhere else very soon. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.