Here in the UK, we have this thing called Victim Support. (I’m not going to credit it with any kind of gravitas by using ‘ we have a service’). Think ambulance-chasers, dishing out lukewarm sympathy rather than the promise of compensation.
This Saturday morning, at 9:30 BST, I was roused by the sound of a call to my land line. You will, modern reader, know how rarely the ‘home phone’ rings these days, with the mobile phone having long since eclipsed it as our chief means of communication. So, the phone rarely rings, and when it does, it’s usually a very close friend or family. It was, however, no such thing.
All my fault, I guess. I’d not anticipated that, when reporting to the police last Monday’s picked pocket in Prêt a Manger (yes, say that when pissed), I’d be receiving a call other than to say “Mr S, we have good news — we’ve found your £100, credit cards, leather wallet and innumerable bits of paper with notes and phone numbers on them”. Nope, no such luck.
Instead, a rather hesitant voice, chosen specifically for its blandness, asked querulously if I were who I am.
“Err – hello, is that Simon Saunders?”.
“Yes, it is. Can I help?”
“Err, yes. This is Clive [not his real name, but as good as] from Victim Support. I understand you were pick-pocketed on Monday of last week.”
“Yes, that’s right, I was. In Prêt a Manger on Euston Rd.” I realised that the police had passed them my number. I hadn’t, of course, been asked.
“The police passed us your number. I’m calling to see how you are”.
My eyes widened slightly. Calling to see how I am? “I’m just fine, thank you”, I replied. Other, of course, than having been got out bed by some wally at 9:30 on a Saturday morning. “My wallet, however, is gone forever, and I’ve spent hours, this past week, in police stations, various banks and the Kings Cross branch of Prêt a Manger. CCTV footage isn’t available in the café, only for collection by the police at some as yet unknown future date.”
“Err” said Clive. “Were the police helpful?” This was definitely, unquestionably the wrong question.
“No, actually, they weren’t. After I’d waited 20 minutes at West End Central police station, I spent another 50 minutes having my crime report taken by a policewoman whose dead slow, hunt ‘n peck typing was rendered almost stationary by banter with a cute colleague.” Somehow, I knew Clive wasn’t really interested in this detail. “Are you taking notes?” I said this politely.
“No — this isn’t part of our job, to record complaints about the police.” Clive’s delivery was swift, unerring.
“So why did you ask if the police were helpful?” I could feel my blood starting to heat up.
“Err….I was just asking. There’s actually nothing we can do.”
The red rag.”Exactly. There’s nothing you can do. So why have you called?”
“Err”, said Clive. “I think we should end this call now.” Upon which he hung up.
Victim Support, eh? Weirdly, I was less annoyed at having my pocket picked — within a minute of paying for an expensive bread-free sandwich (yup, it’s true), and an equally exorbitant soy latte — than I was by the attentions of the witless Clive.
As I tried to say to him shortly before he hung up, Victim Support is a really great way of putting people off reporting anything whatsoever to the police, n’est-ce pas?