I’m a criminal – and I’ve been caught
About two years ago, a swanky new hotel opened near the train station that I go to every day. It had a lovely gym with a pool and a steam room. When they were building it, I’d walk past every morning and think “If only I could go there – it’d be so lovely and convenient and I’d be really fit and healthy.”
Just before it opened, I saw a competition in the local paper to win a year’s membership, so I entered – and I won! What joy I felt at my good fortune. Not only would I be super-thin and super-fit, but the membership was £70 a month, so the prize was worth almost a grand.
I really made the most of my prize – I went swimming most mornings. They have lovely showers and they give you a big fluffy towel when you go in. On weekends and holidays, I’d spend time lounging around in the jacuzzi and steam room. I also went to aquafit and yoga and sometimes even to the gym. I was allowed to sign friends in too, so I’d often take a mate along on a Saturday for a girlie day out.
Anyway, when a year was up, I was a bit gutted about having to give it all up. I mentioned it to the guy behind the counter one day and he said he didn’t have any record of my membership expiring. He gave me a big old wink and said “If I were you, I’d just keep quiet”.
So I did. Two years after winning the competition, I’m still a regular posh gym-goer – until this morning. I haven’t been in for a few weeks, and when I walked through the door this morning, I saw to my horror that there was a new membership system.
Now alarm bells should have been ringing at this point, but just as I thought “Uh-oh”, the reception blokey appeared.
Miss Meep: “Er.. I haven’t been for a while, I haven’t got a new membership card.”
Gym Bloke: “It’s OK, your old one will still work.”
Miss Meep does a silent ‘phew’ and swipes her card.
Gym Bloke: “Oh, there’s a problem with this. It says your membership has expired.”
Miss Meep (flutters eyelashes and looks confused): “Oh, really? I don’t understand that.”
GB: “Has the money been coming out of your bank account?”
MM: “Er… well… I haven’t checked for a while. I think so.”
GB: “You have signed a Direct Debit form, haven’t you?”
MM (heart starts beating): “Yes, yes – I did that about six months ago.”
GB: “Oh well, I’ll let you in for now – the manager will be here when you’re on the way out, so she can sort it out for you.”
Bugger, bugger, bugger.
GB: “Oh, I also need to take a photo of you for the records.”
Crikey, they’re going to have a mug shot of me!
MM (one step away from a panic attack): “Ah, er… I haven’t got any make-up on – can you do it on the way out?”
So off I go into the changing rooms, heart going at about a zillion bpm, thinking “Oh my god, they’re going to find me out – I owe them about £1000 in membership fees and they know what I’ve done and now they’re going to arrest me.”
Problem is, I can’t just leave because I haven’t had a shower and my hair is greasy, so I can’t go to work looking like a homeless. So I use their showers, dry my hair, put my slap on.
But now was the tricky part – how on earth was I going to get from the changing rooms and back out through the reception without the manager collaring me? I thought of a few options.
1. I rush holding my mobile phone, saying “Don’t worry – I’ll be right there” – pretending I’ve been called away on an urgent family matter and can’t stop.
2. I walk through, saying : “Gosh, it’s not my day today – I’ve left my swimming stuff in the car. Back in a sec.” Then disappear.
3. I run for it.
I chose option number three. There’s a big mirror in the reception area, so you can see the main counter from the door of the changing rooms (although they can’t see you). I took my coat off (bright green – very easy to spot), skulked about in the doorway until the coast was clear, then just legged it. Really fast. Out through the gym reception, through the hotel lobby and onto the safety of the street.
It was the longest 30 seconds of my life. I had visions of turning around and seeing a herd of walkie talkie-carrying security men coming to get me. I’d have to grab the crystal chandelier in the lobby and swing through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows onto the roof of a passing double decker bus.
But it was OK. Phew, I made it. Just as my heart was starting to slow down, I felt a strange sense that something was missing. Oh no, my wedding ring wasn't on my finger – I must have left it in the shower!
But it was OK – I’d put it in my bag for safe keeping. Panic over. All is calm.
But now, of course, I can’t relax ever again. They’ve got my address and phone number. They know where I work. They could send the boys round at any point.