'This Furtive, Self-Important Person Used to Be Called a Traffic Warden, but from Today He Has Extra Powers'
Walsh, John, The Independent (London, England)
Tales of the City
I've often wondered what a visiting alien would make of our local councils' attitudes to motoring. As the Department for Transport announces an increased number of offences for which motorists can be penalised, what would a visitor from Betelgeuse would make of it...
Alien: What is the reason for the yellow metal robots by the side of the road?
Me: They're speed cameras, watching out for cars that are being driven at more than 30 miles per hour, so that their owners can be punished.
Alien: And what is the function of all these monitors called Chroma-Vision?
Me: They're CCTV cameras, watching out for cars been driven in a bus lane, so their owners can be punished.
Alien: I see. And what exactly are "cars"? I assume they are an evil breed of dangerous invaders.
Me: No, actually. They are metal conveyances for moving people around the city as rapidly as the traffic allows.
Alien: How rapidly is that?
Me: About 11 miles per hour.
Alien: That does not seem terribly rapid.
Me: You should have seen the place before the Congestion Charge came in.
Alien: That "car" over there, with a yellow triangle around one of its circular legs - is that an important, high-up car, bearing an insignia?
Me: No, it is a car that's been rendered immobile for doing something wrong, and its owner must pay 120 before he can become mobile again.
Alien: It has been imprisoned? And what was its owner's heinous crime?
Me: It could be anything. He may have parked on two painted lines, or on just one line but at the wrong time of day. He may have parked more than 19 inches from the kerb, or in a spot reserved for diplomats or local residents. He may have put two pieces of money into a machine, realised he needed more pieces, gone to Starbucks to buy a 99p chocolate-chip cookie with a fiver to acquire some change, then returned to the meter and put more pieces of money in it.
Alien: And that is considered bad?
Me: It is a terrible thing called Feeding the Meter, and the miscreant must be punished until he howls.
Alien: Who is this furtive yet self-important person walking towards us?
Me: He used to be called a traffic warden, but from today he is a Civil Enforcement Officer with extra powers to punish motorists and take their money.
Alien: An enforcement officer? You mean a policeman, fighting crime and standing up for truth and justice?
Me: Not exactly. He works for the council, bringing them millions of pounds by taking money pieces from car-owners.
Alien: Of what does he accuse them?
Me: Of …
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Publication information: Article title: 'This Furtive, Self-Important Person Used to Be Called a Traffic Warden, but from Today He Has Extra Powers'. Contributors: Walsh, John - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 1, 2008. Page number: 6. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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