He led me past the boxes of glass eyes and prosthetics to a more prosaic shelf, labeled car keys. I thought I might have dropped them in a taxi, meanwhile the car was racking up quite a bill at the pound in Camden Town.
He stood there while I looked through the box marked ‘Fiat.’ The key ring would have been easy to spot, with its tag labeled ‘Lefty zone, do not enter' a free gift from Left Handed Day 2011.
Once I’d established that my key wasn’t there, the man asked “How much time has this cost you, love?”
I hadn’t really thought about it. But before I could say anything more, he lead me past the shopping trolleys and clothing department to a small door marked “Lost and Found Time.”
“Go and speak to Gary at the ticket office on the “Lost” side” he said. “It might be worth your while. Take a pink ticket from the dispenser first with your number on it.”
The office turned out to be quite cavernous, with a grandiose clock over the ticket windows.
The light was flashing number 42, my ticket 66.
To my surprise, I saw my mother in the queue with her carer, Sue.
“Hello Mother,” I said.
“You’re not my mother!” She replied. “Mother and father are over there. Have you met my friend? She’s on holiday here.””
Sue, mother and I nod at each other. I tell S. quickly about the car keys.
It seems Sue takes mother for a weekly trip from The Home to see if Lost Time can give her anything back. She's looking for 75,000 hours of lost memory.
“It’s lovely weather isn’t it? ” remarks mother. “That’s why we have the deckchairs. Would you like an ice cream?”
“Yes please“ I reply, “A strawberry cone.”
Asking Susan whether she can keep an eye on the window I go over to Justin Time Coffee and buy two. Minutes pass, or were they hours?
A man ahead is being referred to another office for wasted time, which is in another building.
The window is now flashing 66. If I get my three hours perhaps I could donate them to mother?
Gary listens to my car-key-lost-time story, and doesn’t seem too engaged. “I’ll look on the computer. Bear with me.”
After a desultory scroll or two he just says “Nah. Sorry. Difficult to prove. Unless you want to donate to another cause?”
I give him mother’s details and he knows about her. “Aah, right. She’s the lady looking for 75,000 hours. She can have them as a donation. Have a nice day.”
I find Sue and tell her the result.
“Last week he said there might be a little result. - six hours probably. So that’s nine in all. Better than nothing eh? And good luck with the car keys.”
I pass the pile of questionnaires for consumer satisfaction and tick the one labeled “fairly satisfied.”