Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Operation Delve

Having greeted my wife on her return from her grandmother's, I retreated to the smallest room to attend to some pressing business. "Dave?", she soon called. "A bad thing has happened". It transpired that while changing buses on the way home, she had, in the course of discarding her used rail tickets, inadvertently thrown away, with her used ticket, her unused tickets for the following weekend's trip to Manchester. Could I, at nine on this rapidly darkening Sunday evening, cycle to the bus stop in question (just in front of LIDL and the 24-hour garage) and retrieve the tickets from the bin?

Wordlessly, I donned my helmet and set out, having first rooted around for my bike lights, unused since April. "You are absolutely sure that you threw them in the bin and that they're not anywhere else?" I checked, and even though the reply was defiantly affirmative, I still jammed my bluetooth headset on, ready to field any call to indicate they had been found.

On arriving at the bus stop, I found that the bin was of formidable cast-iron construction, with the pillar-box opening at the top of its metre of height. I couldn't even see into it, let alone see any evidence of rail tickets. I 'toothed mission control to confirm this was indeed the target. If only, I thought, I had a mirror - then, I could hold it in the slot at an angle and look down at the bin contents. Exhibiting, though I say so myself, near-genius, I turned on the camera and spotlight on my mobile phone and held it over the rim of the slot so I could look in at the display. There was something that looked like a train ticket nestling atop a carrier bag. Putting fears of septicemia to one side, I knelt down, fed my arm through the slot up to the shoulder, and at full stretch, managed to grab the ticket. Hooray!

It was Helen's return portion from her journey that day.

Further phonecam surveillance indicated what might have been the crucial vouchers, but try as I might, I couldn't reach them. I had taken out the carrier bag by this stage, and the spectacle of a 42-year old man, bicycle leaning against the railings, wearing a helmet and headset, waving a mobile phone into a litter bin, and hooking out carrier bags, was beginning to attract bemused attention. It looked like a kind of Mission Impossible on it's uppers scenario, Jim Phelps, The Wilderness Years, if you like. I felt the urge to explain to the passengers waiting at the bus stop. "It's my wife. She accidentally threw away the wrong train ticket". They nodded sympathetically, but inside I could tell they were thinking "Aye, right. He's got a wife. Course he has".

I resolved to go and get the tools for the job, and returned to the operations hub to stock up my mission pack with a long-handled dustpan and brush, a wire coathanger, some blu-tack, and extendable metal tape measure, and an air duster. That should do it. Jim Phelps was banished. Now I was MacGuyver. I pedaled back off into the September evening. There would be a new queue of onlooking bus passengers, potentially more aggressive than sympathetic by now. Just round the corner, my headset trilled. "I've found it!" said mission control, going on to elaborate "I'd thrown it in the recycling".

I executed a U-turn and returned to base, standing down the alert to amber. I had expected many things from married life, but scrabbling in bins was not one of them.

"That usually comes later", mused Agent Owen, pouring himself a generous Earl Grey, contemplating a future, with eyes that had already seen too much. Far too much.