Today I came perilously close to what would have been my most humiliating moment of my 35-year old life. I was once again in Sainsburys, adding to their profit margins. We'd had a relatively pain free shop, had gone through the checkout and packed all the bags. It was time to pay. First of all, the silly lady wanted to know whether this was a month's worth of shopping because it came to £155. "Ha ha," I said. Then realised she was serious. "Er, no actually it's just a week." She looked at me as though I was some kind of frivolous spendaholic. I wanted to point out rising inflation rates and how the cost of food was a global issue as discussed by G8 leaders but it didn't seem the time or place.
Anyway, I pulled out my card to pay and after punching in the code, she said in a furtive whisper, "I'm afraid it's been declined."Really?" I asked feeling the first flickers of panic. "Can you try again?". So she did. "It's been declined again," she whispered. Now it has been a while since I checked my bank balance and I know the cost of things have gone up, but I'm not normally completely broke.
Despite having a wallet full of cards, I only know the pin to one of them. The one that was declined. Actually, I know the pin to another joint credit card, but I'm sure I remember my husband saying that he'd cancelled it. So there I was, with a trolley full of melting ice cream, two small boys bouncing a new ball I'd got them so that it careered off everyone's trolleys and just generally got in the way, and there was the queue of impatient looking people standing staring at me.
I realised that not only would I have the very embarrassing situation of having to say sorry, I can't buy these after all, but I'd also have a house with no food in it and a small problem of no toilet paper, a situation that would stay that way until husband returns home on the weekend. I rummaged in my mental larder trying to imagine what I could make out of a tin of carrots I'd won at the tombola at the village fete, some dried pasta and half a cabbage that would last 3 of us for 4 days.
Growing redder and redder in the face, I said: "Let's try another card shall we." I pulled out a card, which since receiving it three years ago have never known the pin too. About a month ago I asked the bank to send me a pin code. They did. I looked at it. And promptly didn't give it another moment's thought. There are too many other things to be thinking about and remembering besides yet another 4 digit number.
So there I was, like a scene from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, the clock ticking, the scary music playing (that was probably just in my head), I stared at the key pad thing and willed my brain to remember the code. I punched in a number that seemed vaguely familiar and looked at the lady, who was also holding her breath, to see if it had worked.
Miracle of miracles. The card had been approved. I could leave with my self respect and my groceries. A double triumph.
I came home and immediately checked my bank balance. It's true. I have no money left. I'm not sure where it all went. Perhaps I am a frivolous spendaholic after all. It's not a nice feeling being poor. I can see that my tinned carrots are going to come in handy after all, because once we've munched our way through this lot of food, that's it, we're reverting to WW2 rationing.