How I blew my university savings in the worst way possible

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I've had a blog for a very long time. Over 15 years. Recently I've been thinking how it'd be nice to bring back some of the better old posts, once a week. I'm starting with a series that I did back in 2009, before Blood on the Motorway was but a twinkle in my eye. I'd asked for seven blog topics from people on Twitter and got some of my best blog material as a result. Skipping over the sixth, which was a silly list of comics I liked, here's Day Seven, a suggestion from Kerri, who's also remained one of my dearest internet friends. Basically, if you want to stay friends with me a long time, respond when I put out calls for blog topics! Originally posted on September 2nd, 2009, this is possibly one of my more shameful tales. Mum and Dad, if you're reading, please look away now.

FROM THE VAULTS: 7 DAYS, DAY SEVEN

Indecision

Indecision is a bitch.  For example, my boss currently can’t seem to decide whether he wants to go on his lunch or not, which is playing havoc with my ability to make this post.  Or take the fact that on Monday morning, already a day behind on this esteemed challenge, I couldn’t decide whether to start on the next post before going out drinking. Which inevitably led to this post being two days late.

I’ve always had a problem with making decisions. Or at the very least I inevitably choose the path of least resistance. Why do something today that you can put off until tomorrow? While I have always suffered from an inability to choose a course of action, back in my teen-aged years this was an almost debilitating affliction, and in the end it cost me all the money I had saved up for University. 

One hot summer’s day, I had a day off from my job at Blockbuster Video (which still ranks as the best job I ever had, even now) and so a few of us grabbed the train from Basildon to Southend for a day at the seaside. Our ulterior motive was to purchase some weed, as there was a drought in Basildon at the time.

Once in Southend, we started to ask around in all the usual places and eventually came across a very scary looking fella, who took our money and disappeared. He said he could only buy in bulk, so we ended up forking out all the money we had on us. We waited for an hour or so, and just as we decided that we’d been skanked out of all our money, he returned. But this time he had a group of thick-skulled thugs to accompany him. ‘I couldn’t get any smoke for you, so I got you these pills instead,’ he said, menace and violence in his eyes.

Now, none of us in our party were interested in anything more than smoke (I have never gone past smoking weed) and so we started to argue that this wasn’t what we wanted, and so please could we have the money that we gave him back, please?  He refused, and his group of associates started to square off for a fight.

Sensing immediately that this wasn’t a fight we were about to win, outnumbered as we were two to one, we retreated immediately, without either the drugs or the money in hand.  Displeased overall with our day’s visit, we decided to call it quits and return home.  The only problem being that we no longer had the funds to get the train back.

Southend station was one of the first to have installed ticket barriers leading on to the platform, making it almost impossible to get onto a train for free, and so we pooled what little money we had and decided to buy a single to the next station on the route, allowing us access to the train without paying the full fare.  If we saw inspectors coming along, we’d simply alight at the next station and wait for the next train.

And so we boarded the train, all rather pleased with the duplicitous nature of our entry, feeling somehow that we’d finally had a small victory in a day of failure. The ticket man even came up and checked our tickets while they were still valid, before disappearing to the other end of the train. We laughed and joked and felt better.  All up to the moment when we looked up to find a British Transport Police officer stood right next to us.

He asked to see our tickets, making it plainly clear with his tone that he knew what he was about to find.  He looked at me first, and I decided that I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.  I pretended to look in my pocket and said I couldn’t find my ticket. He ordered me to empty my pockets.

‘Oh, there it is.’

‘Are you aware that this ticket doesn’t take you this far?’

‘Doesn’t it?

‘No.  You need to make up the rest of the fare.’

‘I don’t have any money.’

‘Then you will have to pay the rest of the fare, and a £25 fine. Can I take your name please?’

And this is where I got really foolish.  About a week previously I had split up with my girlfriend, who I discovered had been cheating on me with her ex, who was also now incidentally a heroin user.  Needless to say, I was miffed by this, and without thinking, I blurted out his name, presumably with my brain deciding that the least he owed me was 30 quid or so for stealing my girlfriend.  Although to be fair, I had stolen her from him to begin with.  My friends looked at me in shock.  Without looking up, the policeman continued. ‘And your address?’

Ah.

I hadn’t thought this through. I didn’t know his address. What should I do? Give mine? Make up an address? Admit defeat and come clean? Instead, I simply stammered, feeling my face grow redder and redder. The policeman looked up from his notepad and fixed me with a stare, making it even worse. Now I couldn’t even remember my own name and address.  There was a thumping sound in my head.

He let me stand there in my own shame and indecision, my mind literally frozen, for what seemed like hours (although, given that it was only a half hour train journey, that seems unlikely) before slowly he said;

‘That’s not your name, is it?’

I shook my head and proceeded to answer every question truthfully. When I had finished, he gave me a caution and told me that my fine would now be for a higher charge, and I may need to go to court. I sat down slowly, my face undoubtedly still supernova red. Needless to say, my friends made no such mistakes, and gladly reeled off their names and addresses.

Two months later, having elected not to defend myself in court, I was handed an additional £250 fine, on top of the £25.  I paid it out of the money that I had spent the summer saving towards University, and as a result, went to Sunderland with about £15 in my account.

Looking back on it now, I think it’s safe to assume that it wasn’t my finest hour.

Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores.