“Is that your car?” the unkempt lady asked, hiding a smirk.
I groaned. Over the past hour, I had been sitting beside my car, waiting for a van to turn up and release me from my pain.
Why, you ask, couldn’t I just drive off? Well, I’m afraid to say I was well and truly clamped, rumbled for parking in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sure, I could blame it on my colleague Adrian (pictured), who directed me to the space in the first place – but really I should have learnt by now not to rely on him. “The left side of the road was for Pay and Display parking, the right side for Residents Only,” I explained to the bored helpdesk woman at the Camden Parking Office. To emphasise the point, I finished with “It was a genuine mistake!” – but then realised that they’d probably heard that many, many times before, and cut my losses. The lady took 115 pounds from my credit card before telling me (I’m sure with a smirk) that the “clamping team” would take between 1 and 4 hours to turn up. This, as you can imagine, was not welcome news. “Why,” I asked, feeling my blood boil, “does it take you up to four hours to arrive, when it only took to 10 minutes to find my car and clamp it?” The woman clearly had her answer ready. “Because, Sir, it will make sure you don’t do it again.” The phone call ended.
I had no answer to her illogical logic. I also had no choice but to sit there for the next hour, watching people go by, pointing and smirking at the cheery green clamp on my tyre. I tried my best to disown the car, creeping off into a nice little garden opposite and sitting on a park bench, but after a while I decided it was more important not to miss the Parking van. I rested on the car, watching the world go by.
It was a couple of minutes later that the unkempt lady bowled up. Very short, with crooked teeth and even more crooked hair, she wandered over and stared at my car. “I’m not a drug addict, you know,” she stated, which immediately made me suspect her of being one. “Not a hooker either, but you can probably tell that,” she continued. “I’ve been beaten up by my husband in Bournemouth. Ran up here to get away, and now I have no money to get back.” Ah, I thought, there’s the money shot. She’s after funds for her next drinking session. I stared up the road, willing the Parking van to arrive as soon as possible. “Have you got eight pounds twenty pence?”.
Now, I’m not a regular London visitor. Could she be genuine, I wondered? She said she’d been to the social services but they wouldn’t help as she had no identification. Same with the Police, apparently. I interrogated her on all the possible avenues she could pick other than me, partly to work out what she was about and partly so that she couldn’t get any further before the van turned up. I explained I had no money to give her.
She looked at my car. “Maybe you could give me a lift?”
Well, this I had no answer to, other than being rude. Thankfully, my van in white armour turned up right on queue, careering round the corner and screeching to a halt beside my stricken car. Within thirty seconds the clamp was off, and it only took another 5 seconds before I was in my car, revving the engine and screeching off, eager to avoid the woman’s glare. I could hear her expletive-filled screams a couple of hundred metres down the road. As I looked in the mirror, I could see her take out a mobile phone and put it against her ear.
I think we can safely assume she was lying.