After my ordeal, I was in need of a drink. The Sloe bar is now closed, as part of Network Rail’s redevelopment plans for Waterloo station which will provide seventeen new retailing opportunities as part of a 20,000 sq ft new balcony floor which will run along one side of the station.
So instead I went to Bonaparte’s. Bonaparte’s is very slightly nicer than the Wellesley, the other alternative now that the Sloe bar is no more. I bought a pint of Amstel (£3.60, the price recently went up by 10p). As I sat down, I noticed something on the floor by one of the other tables:
That small dot on the black tiles to the right of the chair is a pound coin. It’s hard to see in that photo, so I have zoomed in:
It’s still not very easy to see, so I have labelled it:
A pound coin! Just lying on the floor! I decided that, even though the pound coin did not belong to me, I would take it anyway. I would apply the rule known as “finders, keepers”:
Finders, keepers is the adage with the premise that when something is unowned or abandoned, whoever finds it can claim it. Of particular difficulty is how best to define when exactly something is unowned or abandoned, which can lead to legal or ethical disputes.
I was unconcerned about the legal or ethical implications of taking this pound coin. I would take it and to hell with the consequences. However, I didn’t want to get up and walk over to the pound coin and pick it up. That would be too obvious. Someone might see what I was planning and get in before me. I decided to play the long game. I would wait it out. Finish my drink and then, as I was leaving, bend down and pick up the coin.
Of course, there are risks with this strategy. The longer I waited, the more chance there was that someone else might see the coin and pick it up. But I am fearless. I sat there, acting as if I was just a normal man having a quiet pint. No indication that behind those calm, expressionless eyes, there was a mind carefully plotting the crime of the century.
A man came and sat at a table near the pound coin. My heart was racing, he was bound to steal the coin I thought. I cursed my arrogance. That pound could have been mine! I tried to remain calm. Maybe he hadn’t seen the coin. Who was I trying to kid? The pub was almost empty. He could have sat anywhere. He deliberately sat near the coin so he could claim it himself.
I returned to my pint, feeling despondent. Who was this criminal mastermind who had thwarted my plans? I watched him carefully as he sat there. At one point, he got up. “This is it”, I thought. “He’s making his move”. But wasn’t it too soon? He walked past the coin and approached a woman sitting on her own. He said something to her, she shook her head and he walked back towards his table. I have no idea what he said, perhaps it was just a simple question – asking to pinch a cigarette – or maybe it was an invitation to dinner. Whatever it was, the exchange took only a couple of seconds. What a brilliant tactic. So simple. The exchange with the woman was just a ruse. He had no interest in her. It was just an excuse to get up and then “notice” the coin on the return journey. I almost applauded.
But then he didn’t pick up the coin. He went back to his seat. I was confused. He sneezed into his hands, then rubbed his hands together, then rubbed his hands on his jeans. I began to suspect that maybe I’d given him more credit than he deserved. Maybe he wasn’t a genius after all. I looked at him more closely. He looked scruffy. At first, I thought this was deliberate, so he wouldn’t draw unnecessary attention to himself, but I began to wonder if maybe, he was just a bit scruffy.
He finished his drink. He got up and, walking past the coin one final time, he left.
A few seconds later, I finished my drink too. I got up, took a few steps and casually bent down.
The coin was mine.