Ian McMillan: Won’t get fooled again... until the next time

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It’s a fact that when you’re young you’re very naïve; you believe stuff that people tell you without a second thought and that’s why you get sent for a Long Stand or a tin of Striped Paint.

As you get older the naïve edges get knocked off a little and the rough bits get sanded down and you see life through sensible-coloured rather than rose-coloured glasses.

So when I was a lot younger I once got done by the old “coin-stuck-to-the-ground” trick. I was walking through the pleasant spa town of Buxton when I noticed, in the entrance to a pub, a gleaming 50p piece on the floor. It shone in the late evening sun like a promise of wealth; I know 50p isn’t much but this was free money, cash I’d not had to work for, an asset that had dropped out of the sky or rolled from someone’s pocket.

I bent to pick it up. I noticed a slight and subtle change in the silence of the early evening; the lack of noise became, well, anticipatory. I took no notice; I bent over and grabbed the coin. It wouldn’t move. Suddenly there was a huge explosion of shouting and cheering from the pub. “That’s another one!” somebody shouted. I blushed as red as Marilyn Monroe’s lips and hurried away to pretend to look in the window of a closed-down shop. And at that moment I grew up a little, and promised to myself that I wouldn’t fall for that trick any more. I’d never pick up any dropped money of any sort, just in case.

Many years later I was in a taxi going to Sheffield station in the early morning; it was about 5.30am in June and the day was already warm and sunny. Suddenly Keith, the driver, slammed on the brakes and said “I’ve got to get out of the car!” I thought he was ill and I watched him run to the side of the road and crouch down. Then he sprang up and waved a bit of paper in his hand like somebody doing Neville Chamberlain in a game of charades. He was clutching a £10 note he’d seen on the floor; we looked around and there was nobody about so he kept it, and at that point I wished I could return to a state of naivety. I’d seen it in the gutter but assumed it was a chocolate wrapper. There were times when it paid to look for cash on the ground, it seemed.

And now fast forward to an early evening a few weeks ago; I was walking through the bus station and past the taxi rank in Barnsley when I saw a ten pence piece on the floor. Now, you all know what’s going to happen next, but I didn’t. It’s not as if I had no money in my pocket; my purse was bulging with change, but this was (see earlier) free money, unworked-for cash, a sky-dropped asset. And I knew it had to be mine. I bent to pick it up and of course it was stuck to the floor. “I’m surprised at you falling for that, Ian lad,” said a taxi driver, “I thought you had more sense!” I laughed, uneasily, feeling the blush spreading up my neck like hastily applied gloss paint.

He went on: “There was a £2 coin stuck down the other week, but somebody came and chiselled it up!” and that made me feel both more naïve and less naïve at the same time.