Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Thursday 16th December: The ghost of Christmas parking

It’s ten days before Christmas and I need to find the wrapping paper I bought the other day to start wrapping presents. I know I left it in the car. But where’s the car? I scour the street cursing Husband for parking it somewhere strange, and then I remember: I parked it last night when I came back from a playdate with Youngest. There were no spaces left because the Catholic school on our road was having their nativity play. A woman gestured that I should wind my window down. “No room at the inn!” She shouted, or words to that effect: nowhere to park on our road. “But I live here!” I protested, as if that would make any difference.

I had to reverse back out on to the main road, which was a rather hairy operation to say the least, and go round the other way and I’d been triumphant to discover an empty space after all, right up at the other end of the road near the Common. “Stupid woman!” I said to Youngest. “There’s space right here in this stable!” Then, after we parked and got out and tramped all the way down to our house, there was another space right outside the front door. But I didn’t bother to move the car again because it was cold, and it was late, and dark.

So where was that? I tramp up and down the road looking. It was up here…near the Common…very near to that Disabled Bay there…. Oh dear. I think the car has been towed. Sure enough, when I ring the car pound, they say they have it. Somehow I will have to get out to darkest, deepest Colliers Wood and collect it. And pay the fine. £200. Happy Christmas.

My dear friend and neighbour takes me in her car. After she drops me off I have to sign multiple paperwork. And pay the fine. Not £200 as it states on the website, but £250 with the parking ticket added on as well. I can hardly look at the man. I know it’s not his fault and I’m not a violent person, truly I’m not, but I’d really like to punch him in the face right now.

He tells me to wait and then to come through the side door to the car park when he gets there on the other side. I don’t wait, I just walk through the door and march straight up to my car. I get in and slam the door. He’s trying to tell me something but I ignore him and drive up to the gates. It’s my tiny victory over the system. I won’t have anything more to do with him. I won't speak to him. I want to be out of here. I want to be gone. This is not happening.

But the gates don’t open and the man just stands there looking at me with his arms folded. Reluctantly, I wind down my window. “You have to sign this.” He says.

“I’m not signing anything else.” I say. “You have my £250 and now I have my car back and I want to leave.”

“You have to sign this waver saying that we haven’t damaged your car.” He says.

“I’m not signing that.” I say. “I don’t know yet if you've damaged it or not.”

“Well, you need to take a look,” he says, quite reasonably. So I have to get out of the car and walk around it and pretend to look when really I can't see anything because I'm blinded by rage.

It seems fine, that is, no more beaten up and scratched than it was before. I sign and the electric gates slowly slide apart. I rev the engine far more than necessary and then, finally, I’m free to go home and start wrapping the presents.

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