Why does embarrassment follow me everywhere? | Steve Canavan

Some people sail through life without ever finding themselves in embarrassing positions.There are others, however, who do it on an almost daily occurrence.

Saturday, 11th April 2020, 12:00 am
Steve Canavan's card got stuck. And it all went downhill from there. Photo credit should read: Martin Keene/PA Wire

I can say without hesitation I fall into the latter category.

I went to Marks & Spencer’s yesterday to do a big shop. I got all the essential items one needs during the virus – bread, milk, butter, roasted asparagus with fennel seeds and a tarragon salsa verde – and went to the till to pay (I have tried heading straight out of the store with my trolley before but always find a couple of big fellas dressed in black chase after you and then call the police, so I stopped doing it).

When the cashier bloke finished totting up my stuff, he announced, ‘that will be £54 please’.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

I looked at the 11 I’d purchased and thought crikey, then put my card in the machine to pay.

I jabbed in my pin number and the screen read ‘transaction failed’, so the guy behind the till mouthed, through the Perspex screen, ‘just take it out and try again’ (which, ironically, is exactly the same thing Mrs Canavan said to me after inviting me to stay the night on our third date).

I did what I was told, and went to pull the card out, except it wouldn’t budge. I pulled harder. Nothing.

‘Erm, it seems to be stuck,’ I said nervously to the guy behind the Perspex.

‘That’s unusual,’ he said.

I glanced to my left and saw there were seven other people in the queue, although because they were stood two metres apart, the queue actually tailed back to the bakery section almost at the rear of the shop.

I weakly smiled at the woman immediately behind me, a smile meant to indicate an apology and a kind of ‘well, this isn’t my fault’. She stared back as though I had recently killed her pet gerbil.

I pulled harder at my card. Nothing.

‘Can I have a go,’ cashier man said. He had a go. It wouldn’t move for him either.

‘Oh dear, I’ve never seen anything like this before,’ he said.

It was at this point I remembered the little chip bit on my card – that tiny square metalic part – had been loose of late and I’d had to stick it back in a couple of times.

‘Brenda, you won’t believe this,’ said the guy at the till – giving it an unnecessarily dramatic build-up in my book – ‘but this gentleman’s card has got stuck in the machine.’ ‘You’re joking,’ exclaimed Brenda.

Behind me, the queue was now audibly sighing and tutting and staring at me with an intensity I’ve not felt since my high school geography teacher caught me defacing in quite crude fashion a map of Italy.

Brenda wandered off to get more help, while another employer arrived and opened an adjacent till.

Even if Piers Morgan had happened to wander in at that exact moment, I’d have still been by some distance the least popular man in Marks & Spencer.

Two more staff members arrived, including one who wasn’t wearing an M&S uniform – an indication of the severity of the situation.

He clearly knew his debit card stuff because he asked, ‘has the chip been loose lately?’

I looked puzzled and said, ‘no, it hasn’t.’ (That drama GCSE has really come in handy over the years).

By using a combination of a knife, a staff lanyard, and a fish-slice grabbed directly from a shelf, this crack rescue team of chip and pin experts managed to free my card.

Unfortunately as I hadn’t yet paid, I had to go through the same procedure again and, watched by four employees, nervously stuck my card in – but eureka, this time it worked.

When I got home and told Mrs Canavan, she barked: ‘I’ve been telling you to change that card for ages you idiot,’ she barked.

And with that we sat down to eat tea in silence. Again.