A few days ago a male acquaintance approached me at a bar.
“So listen,” he said, “when are we going on that date for your blog? I want to be in it.”
My first fully-informed victim is lined up! And so effortlessly too. I will call him, but lately I’ve had a friend staying, which, as we all know, leads to no action in the dating department. But it was more than worth it.
Having Chrissie with me has been a wonderful blast from my London past. Back home, we shared a desk at Mizz magazine, where we personally wrote the entire 66 pages by ourselves – a miracle unto itself. We interviewed terrible teen bands, created trivia quizzes and dreamed up coverlines (“Why boys are stupid!”, “How to be cool at school!”) We sipped endless ‘skinny caps’ (that’s a non-fat cappuccino to those outside London), flat-ironed our hair and stole from the beauty sample cupboard (“No you try the fake tan! No, you! I’m having the glittery bodyspray!”)
Chrissie greeted me cheerfully every morning with the words, “Love your look today darling,” at which point I would respond, “9.99! H&M!” or similar. We supported each other through everything. From uncomfortable elevator rides with that dodgy bloke from Nuts magazine: “Shit babe! It’s him. He’s so fit! What do I say?” Me: “Don’t look at him! Just wiggle your arse a bit”, to serious issues: “Do you think I can expense a cab to Top Shop at lunch?”
Chrissie is sort of like my sister. Our dialogue is constant, baffling to others and almost unchanging. She is exactly the person she was when we met six years ago. Just this past week she shoved the still-hot hair straighteners back in my wicker bathroom basket. “Ahh” I thought fondly, remembering the time she came home to her smoke-filled flat, still-plugged-in straighteners burning a hole in the wooden dresser.
The best part is that we both find these instances hilarous. I mean, who cares about these practical things anyway? We’d much rather worry about something else.
One of the traits I most value in other people is a capacity for kindness. Once she one-upped me at work with some cutting comment. Then literally a single second later, with complete sincerity, said,
“Sorry babe, that was really bitchy. Can you forgive me?”
It’s this genuine sweetness that makes me think she deserves the guardian angel that most definitely rests on her shoulder.
Take for instance this week in LA, in which she left her Blackberry full of unrecoverable work contacts in the back of a random cab. Gone forever. Obviously.
But it wasn’t. Not for Chrissie. We went back to the mall where she’d picked up the cab and after chatting up the very nice security manager, found ourselves in a windowless room in a parking lot, fast-forwarding through through two days of surveillance tape, in the hope of identifying the cab company she’d used.
It seemed hopeless. Chrissie’s memory that the cab was “maybe grey” wasn’t working well since there are no grey cabs in Los Angeles. Her description of the phone, “It’s really big and grey” was also problematic.
But weirdly, at that moment, a familiar-looking cab pulled up on one of the live camera screens. It was green-and-white but it jogged her memory. A quick call was made to the on-site concierge. He leaned in the cab window and asked the driver if he’d found a Blackberry. He had. We ran to meet him and he said, “I’ve been trying to find you!” Of all the many thousands of cabs that service that mall! In LA! A cab driver trying to find her to return her phone!
But that wasn’t all. When the time came for Chrissie to go to the airport, I happened to be working (if you can call watching Matt Damon receive an award work.) I left her with a cab number and instructions that as she planned to pay her cab by credit card, she should forewarn the driver, so they couldn’t pretend not to accept cards, like they always do.
The next morning I awoke to many text messages. It emerged that, unable to use her credit card in the cab due to some international bank glitch, she’d spent over an hour trying to get her bank on the phone, negotiating with the foreign exchange desk at LAX and trying to give her dad’s credit card details to the cab driver. Basically she made every effort to pay the man, who kept the meter running up to $140 as she scrambled for cash. Did he accept her information and passport number in order to ensure she would send money? No. Did he take her dad’s credit card details? No. Did he phone the police and get them to help sort it out? No. What he did was refuse to give her her luggage. Yes, he left her at LAX, to board a flight alone to London and drove off with her suitcase.
He was however, kind enough to give her his name, cab number and cell phone.
I called him. No response.
I called the cab company switchboard and spoke to a nice man called Frank.
“I will call the cops on your driver and will report your company for theft unless you resolve this. Right. Now.”
Ten minutes later, the driver called me. He was on his way with the suitcase. I went to the ATM. Chrissie was going to reimburse me and had urged, “you can just offer him more than the fare. I really want my stuff back.”
Hell no, I thought. He’ll be sorry and he won’t get a cent more.
But just in case, I called in the big guns for protection.
OK, I called in Paula. And our friend AJ.
As I walked out the door to meet the cab, I told the dog “look vicious”. She rolled her eyes.
The driver looked quite a lot like the pervert in The Lovely Bones and from the way he behaved it was clear he hadn’t experienced much human contact.
He remained in the cab, engine running. The case was locked in the trunk. “Here’s the receipt. it was $141” he said.
Me: “I know she gave you $30 cash at the airport. You can have $100.”
Him: “It was $141.”
Me: “It’ll cost her $300 to ship her case back home because of you. What you did was theft. $100 and that’s it.”
Him: “Give me the cash”
Me: “Give me the case first.”
Him: “Cash first.”
Me: “Why would I hand over the cash without the case, when you know where I live and you can just drive away?”
Him: “Why would I give you the case, without the cash?”
Paula: “I’m calling the cops.”
AJ: “What’s your problem man? Hand over the case!”
Him: “I’m not popping the trunk until the money’s in my hand.”
By now a small crowd had gathered.
Eventually we came to an arrangement. AJ stood by the trunk and I handed over the cash but didn’t let go until AJ got hold of the suitcase handle.
Later, over a glass of champagne, AJ said,
“He probably just wanted to keep her panties as compensation.”
Case closed, you’d think, but no.
On the flight, Chrissie kindly switched seats with a woman who wanted to sit with her husband. Sadly she forgot her passport in the first seat pocket, only realising this in the queue at immigration. She called the airport security and persuaded the guy to return to the now-closed plane. He couldn’t find the passport.
How does one enter a country without a passport? Do you remain in no-man’s land while they decide on your identity, like that weird film where Tom Hanks lives at JFK? Not if you’re Chrissie. If you’re her, you go up to the immigration desk, tell them the whole story, they laugh in your face, say, “good luck with your life, you clearly have issues” and then they let you into the country – with no form of ID.
At breakfast the next morning, Paula said,
“I wish I could be like that, a person where good things just keep happening and nothing ever turns out bad. It’s like if you think nothing will be bad, then it isn’t.”
“Exactly” I said. “Many bad things happen to Chrissie, but she keeps smiling and if you do that, even if things don’t turn out right, it seems like they sort of did. It’s a choice you have to make.”
That day, not only did Heathrow airport call Chrissie to say they had her passport, but a mutual friend traveling from London to LA agreed to bring her stuff back to London free of charge. I wasn’t surprised.
Chrissie called to thank me.
“Babe it was like a scene from CSI!” she said.
We laughed for a good ten minutes. After I hung up, I resolved to find everything, from dating to decision-making, a lot funnier.