Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

May God forgive me, but I paid the fine.

I couldn't fight them any more. Wearily, shamefully, I picked up the phone and dialled.

'Good afternoon. Welcome to the London Borough of Lambeth. Your life may be ruined for quality and training purposes. Please press the star key on your keypad if you have any strength left in your fingers despite the onset of a small stroke at the thought of giving us yet another £60 for a non-existent parking offence.

'Thank you. Please listen carefully to the following evils. If you cannot decide which is the lesser of the evils, please press zero at any time.

'For extortion demands, press one. For street care and recycling fascism, press two.

For left-wing propaganda about what will happen to you if you don't put your wheelie bin in the right place at the right time, press three. For all other misery, please hold . . .

'Thank you. You are now through to the extortions and blackmail department. Please press the star key on your keypad a further two times to let us know you are in a compliant mood and have given up all attempts to fight the system . . .

'Now, please listen carefully to the following options, taking care not to swear because we are sitting here listening while eating Haribo and filing our nails and would be only too delighted to prosecute you for verbal abuse of a recorded voice.

'To cave into an extortion demand, press one. To try to mount an entirely pointless attempt to appeal a trumped up motoring infringement, press two. To speak to a member of our parking and appeals adjudication team, please hold for ten minutes after which the line will either cut off or return you to the first set of options. That's right, the ones at the beginning of your call. To listen to this nonsense again, please press nine.

You weren't expecting nine, were you? You were expecting three, because that would have been sequential and logical. Well, when it comes to what we jokingly call customer care, we like to keep it as illogical as possible. So, are you feeling lucky, punk? Well, are you?'

Plagued by a horrible feeling of betrayal, I pressed one. Have you no self-respect, Kite? I taunted myself. You told your readers two weeks ago you were going to fight this. …

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