There are only so many days of the week that you can stand in the local book/stationary shop looking at the motorbike magazines before they start to think you're casing the joint and ask you to either buy something or leave.
This, though, is the problem of lunchtime whilst at work: particularly if you want to save a fortune by bringing your own food: because you can't go and eat it anywhere that sells their own food and the benches in the shopping centres are designed to be just the right side of uncomfortable so as to stop people sitting on them for long and force them back into the shops.
So inevitably you end up eating your sandwiches (or whatever you brought in your Tupperware container today) and mooching between shops, looking at things you have no interest in (motorbike magazines being a prime example) and perusing the shelves of CDs in the hope of finding that rare imprint of Blind Wombat Jones's rare imported second album and coming out having somehow bought the thing that was playing on the tannoy when you went in.
My favourite record store posed exactly this problem: it was on the one hand a veritable Aladdin's cave of treasures and on the other a very dangerous cash black hole where money intended for replacing the fridge would somehow disappear.
I actually no longer work near to this particular shop (where I tell Herself that I am regularly marched into the shop by the assistant and forcibly made to buy something) but always enjoy going back. I've made several wonderful discoveries there over the years...but then a few years ago the chain of shops ran into financial difficulties (because no one was buying music anymore in physical form) and was threatened with closure. Somehow, with a change of name and corporate identity, it was able to continue and with the resurgence of interest in vinyl was actually looking very good for the future...
...until around Christmas time it closed again, with practically no warning, and seemed to be gone for good.
This was sad in many ways: largely, of course, for the assistants who would now need new jobs. For me also it was the end of an era and I found myself looking at my last two purchases there (U2: Songs Of Experience and Bjork: Loopy Bonkers (her album is actually called Utopia - but I think my title is more fitting)) and wondering if I could have done better.
So I'm sure you can imagine that it was with a certain bounce in my step that I dashed out of the house and towards my car when I heard that it had reopened again. I say dashed, but at my age and state of mind it was more a leisurely stroll; but you get the idea.
I don't know how car parks work in the rest of the world but in England they can be anything from an abandoned patch of land that is rented out to permit holders with security being that if you hide your belonging well enough the local kids might not break your windows to multi-storey concrete edifices that were designed so that the ramps were just tight enough to scrape the paint off the sides of anything bigger than a mini metro.
There are also, generally speaking, two ways of paying when on site: firstly there is the barrier car-park where, as you go in, you get a ticket time-stamped with your arrival that you pay for when you return, thus charging you only for the time you actually stay. This is my favourite type and is generally speaking a multi-storey park.
Secondly there is the "pay-on-arrival" type where you have to find a space, go to the little ticket machine and then take a guess at how long you think you are going to be so that you don't end up paying too much. It was to this type of car-park that I was going on this day.
I arrived, parked up and went to the ticket machine: trying to figure out the tariffs. 50p for 1/2 hour - well that was clearly not going to be good enough to walk-past that compilation album three times saying "you don't need it" quietly before finally caving in. £1 for an hour: well, I would probably be back within an hour: I don't like hanging around too long, but just in case I decided to pay £1.50 for 90 minutes. Hardly going to break the bank.
And so I dutifully put 50p into the slot.
Nothing happened. No light flashing, no bleep of acknowledgement. Not even a clunk of the mechanism as my hard earned cash was swallowed. And so I pressed the coin-return button
And out popped a £1 coin.
Blimey Charlie, I thought, not quite comprehending. I stood there and thought for a second and eventually decided that maybe this was the reason my initial coin hadn't succeeded: because of a blockage somewhere. And so I scrambled around in my wallet for another 50p coin
And this time I got a £2 coin back.
And at this point a person with less scruples with me would have continued to see how ahead of the game they could get. I, however, meekly went and found another machine.
And so I sashayed forward (I didn't sashay, obviously; only people in Fred Astaire films actually sashay) and duly spent far more money than I should have in the newly-opened shop (an action which I defended as showing Support To A Struggling Venture)
Coming back to the car later I still felt bad about the money I'd somehow made at the car park. There had, after all, been a parking attendant checking for tickets in windows at another part of the area and I could have offered it to him.
And so I did the only decent thing I could think of: I gave the £2 coin to a homeless person and wished him a good day.