6 October 2010

Please find my purse, please, please, please...

You know what late bars and nightclubs are like. The floor is sticky and wet from spilled drinks. Coats and bags lay on seats and sidings and floors. People often struggle to get through throngs of others to reach the bar, the toilets or the smoking area.

And even in the nicest areas with the most refined of clientele, you get the odd moron out to ruin someone's evening.

On Saturday night, a lass approached me as I was playing the music and reported her purse missing. I get one of these most weeks, but usually it's an older woman, experienced on nights out, who knows that anything that does go missing is likely to be of little value to anyone else. They stuff their tenners in their bras and, having placed their keys in their jacket pockets, give me their jackets. They often don't bring purses with them. I have mobile phones reported missing more than anything else.

But this girl was different. She was very youthful, looked and acted like she'd never been out before. She was really worried about her purse as everything - keys, cash, cards, driving licence, photos, mobile - was in it. Bad error, that. I asked the punters if they could look in their respective corners of the bar and dancefloor.

One of the doormen then brought me a purse. This girl's face brightened up momentarily - but it wasn't hers. At this point, she burst into tears. Great uncontrollable sobs that you could almost hear above the music. She flopped down on the floor next to my rope cordon and buried her face in her knees for what felt like hours.

I gave it up as a lost cause in my head but for her benefit, kept putting out appeals. This purse hadn't been accidentally kicked around the dancefloor, it had been lifted. People kept coming up to her to try to comfort her but she was inconsolable. Word had genuinely spread among these half-cut, dancing partygoers that a purse had gone missing and a youngster had been heartbroken - and left beside herself with worry - by it. But while the sympathy and reassurance was plentiful, there was no sign of the purse.

Her issue was that her keys were in the purse, along with documentation that contained her address. She was frantic that someone could go round her place and break in, or turn up later when she was there alone.

Two hours or so on, with a whole river now cried next to my cordon, I put out another appeal for the purse to be hunted down. I was doing it to soothe her because I was sure there'd be no hope of its return, but I felt I had to be heard trying because this lass - I reckon she was 19 at the most - was just distraught. The doormen tried to persuade her to go and look for her purse in the area where she last saw it but she wouldn't move. She couldn't go home as she couldn't get in. She was, essentially, marooned while people danced to very loud music under flashing lights all around her.

Then someone approached me and handed me a purse. She said it had been found outside in the smoking shelter under one of the benches. I checked the documentation inside and my heart leapt - it was the correct purse. The girl stood up and I showed it to her.

I have never been hugged so bloody tightly as I was at that point. The tears were now of relief.

She checked the contents. The toerag had taken her money but left everything else, so she got off lightly. She has now learned to only bring out the stuff that's necessary and to use the cloakroom facilities to secure her stuff. And I've learned that it's possible among a crowd of varying degrees of roughness and inebriation to have enough camaraderie to help someone in real distress.

I've worked Saturday nights in that establishment for pushing six years now and I can genuinely say it was one of the best moments of it. That girl left with a smile - albeit principally of relief - on her face, something which seemed so unlikely at one point. That it happened is a credit to the crowd and the staff, and that almighty bear hug she gave me was for them all. You know when people say an event restores their faith in human nature? Well, this did just that for me.

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