I work weird hours - 12 midday to 8 at night to be precise. I also get the last bus home, which picks me up in the hospital grounds.
Last week I was the only one in the bus shelter when a man appeared with all his hospital belongings and was not in a very good mood with the nursing staff on his ward. He was calling this poor nurse for everything he could lay his tongue to.
"One of the nurses in there is a real battle axe," he said "they promised they would let me out today and I've got my daughters wedding tomorrow. Do you know where the nearest 'phone is. I need to ring my sister so that she can pick me up." I replied that it was in the foyer. He then said he wasn't sure he wanted to go back indoors as the staff would probably find him. After routing through his pockets he wasn't sure if he had enough money to make a call anyway. The poor man seemed desperate.
After giving him a lecture about leaving I eventually said he could use my mobile. He looked down at himself and realised that he still had his pyjama trousers on and said he'd made a dash for it and had just put an outdoor jacket on over the top. He also told me that he was in hospital because of a fall. I believed his story and was just about to hand over my 'phone when my bus arrived. I apologised, but said I would have to go. As he still looked desparate I decided to give him some extra money for him to make a 'phone call, and told him not to worry about the change.
What happened next I could not quite believe - he said he was getting the bus and going to his sisters anyway. She lived miles away and the bus was not going that way. He did not have enough money anyway. The furthest he could go was to Abergele where I lived.
Once on the bus he gave me his sisters number. I managed to get through and said I had her brother with me and handed him over. After a couple of minutes he handed the 'phone back to me "she wants a word with you" he said.
"Oh my God where is he?" I told her what had happened and that we were heading for Abergele, telling her about the money I had given him for a 'phone call, his hospital belongings and the fact that he had got his daughters wedding the next day. "He's not of sound mind. His daughter is not getting married tomorrow and he has no clothes with him."
It was agreed that I would wait with him at the bus stop in Abergele while his brother-in-law came to pick him up and take him back to hospital. At this point he was still only wearing his pyjama trousers and it was freezing cold. I was trying to get him to put his trousers on in the middle of town at the bus stop only yards from the police station - I was just waiting to get arrested!
His brother-in-law arrived and the first thing he said was "You are an absolute ...." I was waiting for the words fool, idiot - anything derogatory for giving him some money (it was only £1), but then he said "angel" "Thank God you stayed with him, anything could have happened to him" Hospital security had no idea he had gone missing and were only alerted after his sister alerted them after our telephone call. While I was looking in his bag for his trousers I noticed a lot of drugs in there from the pharmacy. It turned out that all the clothes and the drugs belong to someone else - he had stolen them! It was also revealed that he had not had a fall but had recently had a colostomy operation!
I couldn't believe I had been taken in by his story, but he seemed so believable. I will definitely not be giving anyone any money for 'phone calls in future, however desperate they seem!
Later that week I had a visit from his sister who gave me a bottle of wine and some chocolates as a thank you for looking after him. But I still feel so guilty for giving him some money. I learned that he is still in hospital but will be OK. Thank God everything worked out OK - I still keep thinking of all sorts of things that could have happened!