Magazine article The Spectator

Standing Room

Magazine article The Spectator

Standing Room

Article excerpt

It's always the smallest thing that tips one over the edge. This week I cracked. I sat on the pavement outside King Edward VII's hospital and shamelessly sobbed. My husband was ill with septicaemia, and I was desperate to get to him. I was panicked, worried sick and keen to get up to his room to make sure he was all right after an interminable night spent apart. I'd found a parking space - this particular grid of private medical care in the heart of London offers perhaps the last bastion of dependably available parking spaces - and hurriedly began the endless process of pay-parking by telephone.

I'd found my glasses, found the sign, texted my four-digit location code, confirmed my car's registration, entered the number of minutes I wished to park, and was waiting for confirmation. Mobile tucked under my chin, I grabbed bags out of the car and was already halfway up the stairs to the hospital when I was electronically informed that my credit card had been rejected. Assuming there had been some technical mistake, I went through the whole process again. Crossly.

This time I was transferred to a 'technical adviser' (aka a human) who told me I had 'insufficient funds', i. e. exceeded my overdraft limit. It was the straw that broke this camel's back. A wave of impotence swept over me, and I crumbled. I sat on the pavement, put my head in my hands and howled like a baby. An elderly woman on crutches poked my shoulder and asked if I was all right.

'No.' I sniffed. 'I just want to get to my husband and I can't. …

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