Many years ago, I bought a video recorder, and somehow this came up in conversation with my then-flatmate’s mother.

“What did you do with the box?” She asked.
“Er… I put it in the bin,” was my honest reply.”With the packaging and all that stuff – kept the instructions and the warranty card, though.”

“Did you shred the box?”
“Or tear it up or put it into a bag inside the bin?”
“Well, no – I just put folded it up and put it into the outside bin.”
“Ooh, no,” she said, “you need to make sure you shred it or tear it up. Otherwise the bin men will see the box, see that you’ve bought a new video, then they’ll go down the pub and tell their friends, who’ll break in and steal your new video.”

I don’t remember what I said to this at the time, though the series of events that she detailed certainly struck me as implausible (about as unlikely as the chain of coincidences in the Bruce Willis storyline in ‘Pulp Fiction’, if you ask me), and there was something about it that left a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth, though at the time I couldn’t exactly say what it was.

Fast-forward many years, to the almost-now; I’m working late, and one of my colleagues who’s already left for the night rings from a payphone to ask me to look and see if she’s left her mobile on her desk. I go and look, and indeed she has, so I retrieve it and go back to the phone and tell her this.

“Can you lock it in your desk, please?” she asks. “I don’t want it to get nicked by the cleaner or something.” For the record, I did lock it in my desk, and phone and owner were reunited and all was right with the world, but…

Well, maybe it’s because of reading Mr O’Farrell’s book (see REVIEW posted earlier today) recently in which he does a very good job of poking fun (and occasionally kicking fun) at the snobbery and class-system-ism that still lingers in the UK, but it’s only in recent times that I’ve come to realise how often these kinds of comments get made; the cleaners are invariably responsible for pilfering things, be they watches from school changing rooms or mobile phones from office desks, and the men who empty my dustbin are only doing so as an excuse to check out the wrappings of my recent purchases. I mean, it’s obvious.

It’s bad enough that people who do vital jobs get paid ridiculously poorly (teachers, trainee nurses, sewer workers, etc) without white people from comfortable middle-class backgrounds acting as if they’re all would-be criminals just waiting for the first hint of a slight chance of an opportunity to barge their way into their safe suburban lifestyles and steal away their not-so-hard-earned material luxuries.

For crying out loud, talk about adding insult to penury.