Two hours later, I went out of Marks and Spencer, past the barriers, to where my car ought to be. No car. I checked my pockets, bag, pockets in bag, performed discreet strip search. No key either.
Clearly my car had been stolen. Clearly my key had fallen from my pocket after I parked, and someone had opportunistically taken it and my car too, leaving me with much shopping, in the rain, several miles from home. It vexed me that this had happened just after I'd had to spend £800 getting the car fixed, but on the whole I was impressed with myself for taking it so philosophically, and it was with a rueful smile that I confessed my misfortune to the security guard whom I met at the door of Marks.
He whisked me to the information desk, where he asked the woman whether a car key had been handed in. It had. It was mine, and had evidently fallen out of my pocket when I was trying something on in Monsoon (well, they did have a 50% sale!). Meanwhile, the same guard had taken my registration number, and passed it to the people in the CCTV room. Within three minutes a natty man in a red jacket came up to me and told me exactly where the car was to be found. Outside a different entrance to Marks, and a different set of - admittedly similar - barriers.
I felt foolish, but my consciousness of folly was somehow diluted by a) the friendliness of everyone involved, and b) the clear impression I got - from their well-oiled efficiency rather than any snark - that this kind of thing happened about 20 times a day. Whereas, the woman behind the desk told me, in the 10 years since the shopping centre opened (and they have room for 5,000 cars), they'd never had a single one stolen. Altogether, it left me feeling much more positively towards the whole of humanity - always excepting, of course, myself.