My two daughters are very different from each other, though they get on very well.
Daughter 1 is dreamy and rather disorganised. Or at least, she was very disorganised when she was a child. As a little girl, she was forever getting lost. Well, not strictly lost. She knew where she was. It was just that I didn’t. I can’t count the number of times I agreed to meet her in a certain place at a certain time, and she would forget and wait somewhere else, or wander off home by herself. I attribute all my grey hairs to her. However, she’s also very good-natured, loves books passionately and is probably the world’s quickest reader. Her first degree was in English and French; her Master’s in Shakespeare Studies.
Daughter 2 is very efficient and can always be relied on to be prepared. She tends to be elected as secretary of school or university organisations and her room is usually a model of neatness. Her degrees are in architecture, and while she likes reading, she’s mildly dyslexic and doesn’t read particularly quickly. She’s also a lovely person and has a wide circle of friends with whom she keeps in constant touch by text message and email.
Which one would you expect to lose her train ticket?
Daughter 2 was going down south at 12.05 pm today to attend her boyfriend’s sister’s wedding on Wednesday. She bought the ticket a few weeks ago, packed her case last night and this morning gave her room a final tidy, since it’s being used by a visitor in her absence. At 10.30, she checked that her ticket was in her wallet.
Panic. Old tickets were there, but not today’s one.
She looked everywhere she could think, but no luck. Because she’s tidy, there were no horrible heaps of paperwork sludge as tends to accrue in her sister’s room, so there weren’t that many places to look.
“I must have thrown it out, “ she mourned.
I got ready to leap into motherly action by raking through the rubbish bags in the dustbin. “When do you think you threw it out?” I asked.
“Oh, a week or two ago. Remember when I was throwing out various bits of paper from my handbag?”
Not worth dustbin raking, then.
“You can get another ticket,” I suggested.
She went online. There were none available.
A later train? Same story.
“I’m such a fool,” she said. “Don’t you remember me saying that you should always shred airline boarding passes because criminals can find out all about you from them? Well, I thought I might as well shred these old train tickets, too.”
“You shredded them?” I said. “Well, they might still be in the shredder. Maybe we could …”
Even as I suggested it, I knew it was silly. But we took the shredder from the study into the kitchen, poured the large spaghettified heap of paper on to the table, and started sorting through it. It was now 11 am. We always allow about 40 minutes from leaving the house to stepping on the train. The train, you will remember, was at 12.05.
It helped that train tickets have orange bits on them and are printed on thin card, whereas most of the rest of the paper bolognaise was on white paper. Still, it took a long time to find all the bits of ticket and to separate the strips of today’s one from the fragments of the old ones that she also shredded. She needed her seat reservation card, too. But by 11.28 we’d got them both. We stuck all the slices on to a piece of cellophane so that the backs were visible as well, and tore out of the house.
The ticket-checker on the train had a good laugh, as did the lady in the seat beside my daughter. The chap didn’t punch the ticket. As he pointed out, it had enough holes in it already.
I think we need a new shredder, though. If we can do it, so could a master criminal desperate to steal our identities.
PS. Since writing this post, I've been on the phone to Daughter 1 in her new house, arranging to meet her at 10.30 tomorrow morning at a big department store, in the furniture department, which is at the entrance to the restaurant. I then told her the saga of her sister's ticket and as I was about to ring off, said, "Now when and where are we meeting tomorrow?" I know her of old.
"10.30," she said triumphantly. "But I don't think we arranged where - unless - was it the china department?"
See what I mean?