PERHAPS I was naive.
Perhaps it’s only fair I was ordered to pay a fee for being forgetful.
Perhaps managers at Sheffield Railway Station had every right to hold my coat hostage and demand a ransom after I accidentally left it there.
And perhaps I’m a tight-fisted Yorkshireman for then refusing to cough-up cash for property which, though lawfully mine, had indeed been temporarily lost.
But stick with me.
For I promise this isn’t just a rant about how I and East Midlands Trains clashed when they wanted £3 to give back a jacket.
Rather, if done right, we might touch on something wider: on corporate greed, on the profitisation of human decency and – why not be ambitious? – on the causes of the economic crash.
First though, you know that horrible feeling when you lose something? I had that last weekend when I went to take off my coat and realised it was still sitting on platform 1b.
The good news was, when I returned, it was in lost property. The bad news? EMT demanded a fee or they wouldn’t hand it back.
And the really bad news – for me anyway?
I had one of those annoying moments of principle that always end up making life complicated.
“But that’s my property,” I blurted. “I’m not paying for my own belongings.”
Then, said the woman, I wouldn’t get it back.
There was a stand-off. She didn’t budge. Neither did I. For a moment I considered making a lunge for the hostage item but she wasn’t a lass you’d want to scuffle with.
I asked if the lost property service was covered by my £19 ticket. It wasn’t.
So I left, coatless. Which was annoying because it was raining.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I appreciated EMT keeping the jacket safe after I was daft enough to forget it. But I once found a lost mobile, phoned its owner and posted it back. I didn’t demand a fee. I did it because it was right.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it?
These huge companies don’t actually care about decency, do they?
Not exactly revelatory, I know, but, in this current economic climate, isn’t it worth comment now more than ever? Because I’m not just talking about a petty train firm trying to make money from misfortune; I’m talking about the whole culture of our biggest companies refusing to do what’s right.
Of banks charging (illegal) administration fees for using overdrafts; of finance firms selling pointless PPI to people who never needed it; of companies and councils cutting, slashing, burning everything that isn’t a basic service; of organisations kicking good men out of jobs so they can meet impossible city targets.
Isn’t it sickening to witness?
Isn’t it sickening that even now, after globe-humping greed has brought the whole world into calamitous economic collapse, these immoral misers – Dickensian characters in Tom Wolfe clothes – are still putting profits before people? Still thinking of money margins ahead of human cost? Would still see a million men poorer so their shares are a few pence sharper?
Don’t they realise their Gekko gluttony walked the world into this financial abyss? That their rapacity ruins us all in the end?
All that from a £3 lost property fee, she asked later?
Well, yeah, sort of.
I returned next day, spoke to another manager. She waived the fee just to get rid of me.
The policy remains the same, though. As does the world.