This morning one of those well-advertised 80mph gusts swept the car door almost entirely off the rest of the car. Being as mildly obsessive as I am mildly Aspergery, I’d filled the boot nearly a year ago now with plenty of emergency accoutrements. I tied the door up to its partner behind it through the handles with and used some complicated bungee-spider to pull it tight inside, against the gearstick, a handbrake and a random ashtray. As I sat waiting for the RAC man I munched on a pear and gazed out at the weather, which gazed back just as dismally.
Pulled up, as the necessity of my car’s incapacitation dictated, on double-yellow lines with my indicators on, I realized that I was the pivotal link in a growing chain of illegal parking. An old woman wheeled her car slowly, like her finest china, in front of me and seemed rather put out when I suggested the RAC might want to stop there (breaking with the chronology, I should point out that he did indeed need the space: to jack the car up with all its weight on the point of the recalcitrant door, which bent the hinge back into shape admirably, if a little alarmingly).
Next, an enormous workie-wagon pirouetted its dangerous, teetering bulk to a thundering halt close behind me—no joke, as I’d given the helpline rather convoluted directions and there was a good chance they would miss me if I were hidden behind this sod—and I later realised two more cars had parked behind him, encroaching on the zigzags of the zebra crossing. I felt like the psychology of safety in numbers was at work with all these people parking around me. I’ve never seen that stretch of road particularly abused on previous mornings, so it’s not as though it’s an illegal-parking hotspot.
I’d assumed before that it was solely ignorance, or at any rate arrogance, that prompted someone to park where safety dictated otherwise. The council don’t spend money on paint without something bad having happened, after all. And there’s a sort of brazenness about the chap who owns the enormous station-wagon and rams it into the gap at the mouth of the driveway opposite Waterstone’s, that’s fooled me in the past in thinking he was absolutely unconcerned about the consequences of his actions. I now don’t think he’d ever pull up there if there weren’t rows of cars before and after the driveway, and not just because he could then use the free space. They’re his camouflage.
The problem is that it only ever takes one transgression to start the process of clogging up a street utterly: that one broken window that gradually turns the whole row of houses into slums. With this in mind, it’s obvious that the only policy one can adopt, to tackle the wedge while it’s still at its thin end, is clearly one of zero tolerance involving possibly the birch and the stocks, and I will be instructing Call Me Dave to follow such a courageous political path to its last crazy-paved slab. With some clearly-worded clause in favour of those whose doors drop off, of course.