I’m sitting in my office at home when the phone rings.
‘… Good afternoon, Sir, I’m phoning in relation to your recent accident.’
Me: ‘What? Oh my God! I’ve had an accident …?’
‘… I’d just like to clarify a few details with you, if I may?’
Me: ‘Am I OK? I mean … I had no idea …’
‘… I’m pleased to inform you that your claim has been successful and that we have now been authorised by our underwriters to deposit the agreed compensation directly into your bank account. This should only take a few moments so, if you could just confirm your account details for me, Sir, I can then ensure that the full amount is transferred to you today.’
Me (pretending to shout across the house to my wife – who’s currently at work): ‘Nat! It’s the man from the accident shop … I don’t know … probably somewhere in India … or Nigeria … he didn’t say. Anyway, apparently, I’ve had an accident. But it’s OK because we’re now rich. Don’t bother with cooking this evening, we’re going out to eat!’
Directing my attention back to the voice on the phone, I continue. ‘Forgive me,’ I say, ‘it’s clear that I’m still suffering a little amnesia from the trip or fall at work. How bad was it?’
‘… Sorry, Sir?’
‘Well, between you and me, it occurs that none of my family has thought to discuss the accident with me, which leaves me wondering whether it’s more serious than you’re letting on. I mean, is it terminal? Just tell me that …?
‘I … um … I think you’re going to be OK, Sir. If you could just confirm your bank account details with me, I can transfer the full amount today.’
‘Are you sure you’re not just trying to be kind to me? If not even my wife can bring herself to talk about my accident, then things can’t be looking good.’
‘Sir, if you could just confirm your bank account details …’
‘There are so many things I still want to do; so many places I haven’t visited. How long have I got left? Can you at least tell me this?
‘Sir, please …’
‘Did you know that three percent of the ice in Antarctic glaciers is made up of penguin urine? I really hoped that, one day, I’d get to see that for myself.’
‘Yes, I know. And, apparently, ducks have regional accents. Did you know that? And I’ve only heard some of them. I have so much left to do … Hello? … Are you still there? …We seem to have been cut off … Hello?’
* * * * * * * *
A few hours later, Nat arrives home. ‘Hi,’ she calls, as she’s hanging up her coat in the hallway, ‘How’s your day been?’
‘Hi,’ I shout back. ‘I’ve had an accident.’
‘What!’ She’s now in the room with me. ‘What happened?’
‘I’m not sure. But a nice man from the telephone called to let me know that he’s going to pay me for it. Who knew that having accidents could be an actual job. If only my careers advisor at school had told me this, things might have been so different.’
‘And all he wanted was your bank details, right? So he could put the money straight in?’
‘No, I think my careers advisor just wanted to get through his day. To be honest, I don’t feel he was really committed to his job.
‘No, the guy on the phone.’
‘Oh, yes.’ I smile. ‘How did you know that?’
‘… You didn’t, did you?’ Nat seems to be frowning at me.
‘I might be stupid, Natalie, but I’m not stupid… And anyway, he rang off before I could give them to him.’
‘My dad usually just tells them that he has something boiling over on the cooker, and asks them to hang on for a moment while he goes to turn it down. Then he wanders off to read his paper.’
‘I like your dad,’ I say.
‘In some ways, I seem to have married him,’ she says.
‘I’ll take that as a slightly creepy compliment,’ I say.
* * * * * * * *
The next morning, I find myself reading an online report about phishing scams in the UK. According to the police website, Actionfraud, there has been a 41% rise in telephone scam calls over the past year, amounting to £23.9m in losses. In my head, I compare this with a recent Guardian article I read that stated the current average UK salary to be £28,677. No wonder my careers teacher opted to leave ‘deception intended to result in financial or personal gain’off his list of possible career choices.
‘Typical of a state school education,’ I say to myself. ‘If only I’d gone to Eton.’