I had stopped at a petrol station to buy some snacks for the kids on route to my parents' holiday house on the coast. I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd just let the kids stay pekish or eat the two week old cheesestiks I'd found in my bag. But no, I didn't want them to feel the faintest growl of hunger for the long, long ninety minute drive - I mean, god forbid they should do something with their mouths other than chew - and so I stopped at the station.
I headed first to the ATM to withdraw some cash, then made a beeline for the biscuit aisle to grab some Shapes. (And no, I'm not proud of having bought my kids Shapes, but I'm not proud of anything that happened this morning, so there's no real discordance.)
Within a few seconds of picking up the Shapes I realized I'd forgotten to pick up my cash. I'd withdrawn $200, which isn't a massive amount, but it's not small change, either. I raced back the three metres to the ATM to grab my cash which was still waiting in the machine for me. Except that it wasn't waiting at all.
It had gone.
I couldn't believe it. I had been gone for all of 45 seconds and my cash was gone. Where the hell was my cash?
I looked around at all the people in the service station, and there were a few of them. Could any of them have taken my cash? I scanned their faces for signs of guilt. They all looked guilty, though perhaps they were just bored, or hungry; after all, it's not that easy reading the faces of complete strangers.
So I took the direct route. "Did any of you take my money?" I called out to the room at large. "My cash is missing! Did you pick it up?"
"Not me," they all answered, which meant that either none of them took it, or one of them was lying.
I pushed my way to the front of the counter and cried out to the cashier, "My money is gone! Someone took my money!"
"Are you sure?" he asked. "Maybe the transaction didn't go through."
I thought for a moment. It seemed possible, as I was old and demented, so I checked my bank records on my mobile phone. It had gone through all right. The money had been withdrawn. It just didn't make it to my pocket.
"Do you have a CCTV?" I asked.
"Yes," the man said.
"Well can you check it?" I asked.
"Yes," the man said. I waited a minute.
"Well, <i>will</i> you check it please?" I asked.
"Oh, yes," the man said, and murmured some instructions to the female cashier working next to him. She disappeared into the back room, and I waited.
Around fifteen minutes later, she reappeared. "Yes," she told me, "the footage shows a man coming up behind you, taking money, and walking straight out the door."
"Oh," I said. There didn't seem to be anything else to say.
"The bank won't reimburse you if someone else took your cash," the male cashier said helpfully.
"Great," I said. There didn't seem to be anything else to do. I walked back outside to where my husband and kids waited in the car. They ate the Shapes in silence, and I drove despondently to the coast, feeling violated and stupid and $200 worse off.
"Think how many Shapes we could have bought for $200, Mum," my son said helpfully, and I turned the radio on high.
I still can't believe that someone took my money. They would have seen me leave it there, and just decide to keep it for themselves. I'm not a perfect person - far, far from it - but If I saw someone leave their money in a cash machine, I would run after them immediately and give it back. I'm less upset about the money than people can be so incredibly selfish. If that person had told me I'd forgotten my money, I would have gushed with gratitude and felt warm towards humankind. As it is, I feel ripped off and angry, and sad at the lack of caring in this world.
I hope that $200 burns a hole in that man's conscience, I really do. And if by some strange coincidence he ever reads this, I hope he knows that he made this world just a little less good today.