Vigilant staff members at Lloyds Pharmacy in Whitchurch prevented a terror attack this afternoon, when they discovered a suspicious package left in a corner. The diligent workers called the police and the shop was closed whilst the package was checked. Thank goodness for these brave people who stopped what could have been a terror attack on the scale of 9/11. Apart from it wasn’t a bomb. It was my backpack.
There I was, enjoying the intense heat of the day at home when I thought, hang on, I’ve left my backpack in the pharmacy. Panicked – my wallet and notebook and pens were in there – I raced to the shop in the hope it had been handed in. The three adult members of staff seemed to recognise me when I re-entered the shop.
‘Have you got my backpack by any chance?’ I said.
The pharmacy assistant stepped forward.
‘We had to call the police. We were terrified! We had to close the shop! We didn’t know if it was a bomb!’
My mind didn’t really register this.
‘The police tried calling you,’ said the rather sheepish pharmacist.
I checked my phone and sure enough there was a missed call and a message. My phone number is written in my notebook. The message was from a policeman telling me he had my bag and it would be kept at Fairwater Police Station until 10pm and then moved somewhere else after that, though I missed the last part because I was suddenly getting annoyed that my bag had been confiscated because three ridiculous people were unable to behave like adults. Now I had to go all the way across town to fetch my bag.
Why hadn’t they just checked the bag? I can kind of understand being worried (I can’t really – I think the world has gone crazy when it comes to terrorism) but surely shutting the shop is a bit over the top. The pharmacy is in the sleepy village of Whitchurch in Cardiff. And when the police realised it wasn’t a bomb why hadn’t they said, leave the bag here – we’ll call the owner. This is what I would do, and in fact it is what I do when bags get left behind where I work. If I closed the library every time a bag was left behind it would never be open. I never shut the place down and call the police, because that’s mental! And there were three adults there, none of whom were able to think like an adult. Squirming with anger, I of course politely thanked the staff and left the shop.
It was 5:30 and I needed to be at Amy’s grandfather’s for the weekly family meal by 6. Just enough time to get to Fairwater and back. Or so I thought. Through rush hour traffic in the stifling heat I got over to Fairwater in half an hour and remembered the policeman had said to call 101 to make arrangements for collection. I’ll do that, I thought, it’ll make the whole operation run nice and smooth. I’ll go there, get my bag, and get over to the family dinner. So I called 101 and got past the incredibly slow talking automated voice thing to a human, who took my details and asked about the bag, etc. She wanted to know the policeman’s name but I’d deleted the message and was pretty sure he hadn’t said his name anyway. So she ummed and arred for a while and said it would be best if she patched me through to public services where I got more umming and arring and supervisor-asking before at last she came back and said I’d have to go to Fairwater Police Station at 9pm as nobody was there to give me my bag at the moment. This phone call took 50 minutes. Quite an extraordinary length of time. I knew what she had to do – put out an APB to all vehicles. That’s basically what you should always do. Instead I got a reference number. Fuming, I politely thanked the phone operator and ended the call. She’s going to get a hammering in my blog, I thought.
My night was being wrecked by people doing ridiculous things. I pined for some common sense. It was almost seven o’clock now. Was I really going to wait for two hours? I didn’t even know where Fairwater Police Station was. So I popped into the local Coop for directions and took the decision to go there and wait for an officer to turn up. Surely someone would be there before 9pm. But when I got there I saw that Fairwater Police Station is, in fact, absolutely massive and choc full with policemen and women. There must have been at least forty cars in the car park.
Sadly, the car park was on the other side of a big metal gate so I pulled up in front of it and went in search of a front door. There was none. When I got back to my car the big metal gate was open and a big metal car was trying to get around my Ka. Fortunately the driver circumnavigated my car without me seeing me and I got my chance to get into the main complex, where two officers were at the door, recognising me from the photo ID in my wallet, beckoning me in.
Awesome, I thought. At last some people with common sense. ‘They thought it was a bomb!’ said the officer. ‘There hasn’t been a bomb in Cardiff since 1969!’
I laughed and nodded to the other officer. ‘I bet they just wanted to close the shop to get fifteen minutes off work,’ I said, jokingly. Just a bit of bants really. Bants with the lads. We had a good laugh about how over the top people can be. ‘If I closed the library every time a bag was left behind it would never be open!’ I said. There we were, three lads having a laugh, men of work being sensible. They gave me bag and I signed a form and it was done. I didn’t have to wait until 9pm because it would have been silly.
I chuckled to myself on the way home. It was nice to be accepted by the policemen. I had felt a manly bond with them. Then I thought. Then I had a bit of a cringe. They’d got my number from my notebook. Which meant they’d looked in my bag. Earlier that day I’d bought a present for my colleague, Wendy. Which meant that as they sifted through my things they would have picked up a pristine hardback edition of Alan Titchmarsh’s romantic bestseller, Haunted; a tale of love, betrayal and the past.
The whole scene in the police station suddenly became something completely different in my head. They weren’t laughing at how stupid the people in the shop were, they were laughing at me acting all macho with a copy of an Alan Titchmarsh book in my bag. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing episode.
Addendum: I thought it was all over and took solace in the fact I would be able to blog about it. I’ll take a photo of the book next to the bag, I thought. That’ll be funny. It was a lovely light outside so I set up the shot, of the Alan Titchmarsh book next to my bag on my doorstep when my cool neighbour walked past. I was leaning over the book with my camera phone when he said, ‘Alright?’ I said, ‘Yeah I’m fine, thanks.’