Friday night provided a salutory lesson on how the world looks at you differently if you are without access to bank cards.
Continuing the saga of my lost wallet, I thought I'd smoothed the way to continuing with my planned weekend trip. I'd managed to get cash over the counter to see me (I thought) through the weekend; I had persuaded a grudging ticket clerk to hand over my pre-purchased train tickets without the bank card that had made the purchase six weeks ago and I'd persuaded the hotel I'd booked to wait for the remainder of my payment in cash on arrival as the card they'd taken my deposit on was no longer functional, and I didn't yet have a new one to replace it. Of course none of those things were the thing that actually went wrong.
I traveled down to Exeter after work, enjoying some soothing time in the company of the (pictured) Paddington Station Band (every Friday, 7.30-9.00, a send off for weekends away in the West Country) at the mid-point change in London. As I was scheduled to arrive at midnight the hotel had given me instructions on out of hours check in. Basically, my key would be left in an envelope with my name on under the front door mat. My train was delayed, so it was closer to 01:00 in the morning when I arrived at Exeter St David's and navigated a ten minute walk to the hotel. I found the mat. I looked under the mat. There was no envelope, no key. And no means of getting in.
I spent a couple of minutes wondering if I needed to find a bush to curl up under, but I'd remembered that I'd passed a couple of larger hotels down at the station, so I thought I'd head back down to see if there was a room available. A room that could be paid for with the limited supply of cash that I'd brought with me.
Yes, there was a room. "How will you be paying sir?" "Cash." "Fine, but we'll need to take some card details too." I explained that I didn't have a card, realising by the look on the hotel receptionist's face how unconvincing my story of losing a wallet on the bus two days previously was. It was established that in this case a cash deposit would be needed to cover the cost of the damage that I was sure to wreak during the night, as clearly that is what people without bank cards would do.
This, I realised, was something that my calculations for how much cash I needed to bring with me for the weekend hadn't considered. My face must have fallen as the receptionist managed to step out of role and become a human being. "Well, we'd usually need that, but we can't leave on the street can we..."
So I had a room to sleep in for my first night. But what would the other hotel have to say about my key in the morning? And would they still have held my room for Saturday night?