I inserted my card, typed in my pin code, then waited patiently for the hole in the wall to spit out those magical pieces of paper with the Queen’s head.
“Fun tokens”, the Wolf Of Wall Street, Jordon Belfort calls them.
Except, there wasn’t going to be much fun had by me.
This was about to wipe out my bank balance.
£400 – my share of the rent, due today.
For a 19 year old University student, working a part time minimum wage job at the bakery (yea, 4am starts for £4.70 an hour aren’t fun!), this was a lot of money.
As I turned around, fumbling with my wallet, I saw him walking down the road, right towards me.
I could tell from the smile on his face that he’d seen it.
I had about 5 seconds before he’d be in my face, harassing me for a free lunch.
…or money to buy drugs and booze, most likely…
Tattoos covered most visible parts of his body – neck, forearms, hands, knuckles.
I’m not one to judge people on appearance – at least I try not to – but you could tell straight away that something wasn’t right about this guy…
He looked angry – like he was pissed off with the world.
And he looked dangerous. He reminded me of those prison gang members you see in documentaries.
There was a big scar running down the left side of his cheek – a curved line starting just underneath his eye running all the way down to the start of his chin.
He wore a black hoodie – hood covering his head – blue jeans, and dirty white trainers.
I stuck my hand in my jacket pocket, hoping desperately to find some coins that I might be able to palm him off with.
He towered over me…
He looked like he was in his 30s.
I could smell the cigarettes on his breath.
“Mate, you got 20 quid I could borrow?” he bellowed, as he was still a few meters away.
Borrow? Interesting use of words.
“errmm I’ve got..”…I started counting the coins in the palm of my hand….
“50…60…70…72…74p…here” – I extended my palm hoping to be able to drop it in his hand and walk off.
He smiled again…
“Where’s the rest?” he asked. “Let me see your wallet”.
I looked over my shoulder, hesitantly.
We were alone. No one anywhere near us.
Should I just start running?
Too late – in one swift movement, before I’d even realized what was going on, he reached into his jeans and pulled out a knife.
Then he placed it on my neck.
“I said, where’s the rest?”
“Hand it over. I’m not playing”
He pressed the knife down slightly harder as if to illustrate his point.
“Hurry up or I’ll stick this in you”.
I knew I had to do something.
I’d worked hard for that money.
I took a deep breath, tried to compose myself then looked him square in the eyes…
“You better take that knife off my neck before I break your arm”
He looked at me, shocked at what I just said, anger emanating from every pore in his body.
Oh no, what had I just done?