Sunday, 13 December 2009
I have just bought my son a van from a chap who lives on the Kursaal estate, Southend seafront. My son, slightly worryingly, reliably informs me this is where the drug dealers and prostitutes who have done slightly better for themselves live. Upward mobility from a crack estate.
We do the deal and with some relief drive away onto the seafront. It's late, I'm tired and want to get home. As I'm driving along become aware the passenger door is open, as I can't reach the door handle from inside pull over.
Am aware of a driver behind me also pull up. Has he been following me?
He looks furtive and become worried he's going to assault me. To my relief see a blaze of rather festive flashing blue lights appear in his car and him don a white peaked hat. He walks towards the car brandishing a mini computer gadget and asks my name 'Jean Gibson' and where I'm from 'Benfleet'. To which he surprisingly says 'no you're not'. Warming to his theme he continues 'is this car yours?' when I tell him it is, 'no it isn't' comes back the - rather pantoesque - reply. I resist the urge to say 'oh yes it is' and imagine the cheering of the non-existent audience shouting 'look he's behind you' and besides know my humour may be wasted on this rather humourless policeman.
Now I know I'm getting a bit forgetful in my dotage but even I know who I am and where I live. Is this a ruse by my children to get me an early pass into the maximum security twilight home they keep joshing about? Is this a new variation on the question always posed by doctors to assess dementia, normally 'who is the prime minister?'
By this time I gather he hasn't stopped out of concern for me that the passenger door wasn't properly closed. My son later tells me 'those days are over Mum' as I'm still of the kindly 'bobby on the beat' generation. He tells me the car is registered to a chap in Yorkshire or somewhere distant and not terribly exotic.
To prove my lack of dementia I proudly - without peeping once - recant the car registration number. At this he is visibly taken aback, I think to myself it wasn't that impressive. Not like Derren Brown's formidable cerebral skills. The policeman is taken aback, not at my mental skills but the fact that he has misread the last letter. I'm thinking, 'do I really look like a car thief, without sounding too unpleasant I am wearing a very expensive coat and without wishing to shout it from the rooftops: I'm of advancing years. Sometimes this tool can be useful to give additional clout to annoying situations and people, like call centres, government bodies, public sector workers etc.
I drive off feeling a little uneasy. I was driving at 30mph, not doing my usual hand-brake turns - joke if the police are reading this - I like to think I don't look much like a pimp, drug dealer, car thief or boy racer. But apparently the police are now free to stop anyone without suspicion of wrong doing. They have the computer onboard to check whether a car has mot, car tax etc. and if that poor bugger's details don't comply his car may be crushed. I can't tell you how unnerved I am by this, I am a retailer and like many have been the victim of crime as we're all an easy target. Dialling 999 has never elicited a response in all the years I've traded and would like to know why so much technology and efficiency is directed towards the motorist and not nearly enough to protecting hard-working people like myself.
Has it got something to do with the fact there's not a fine involved? And is this what my father gave seven years of his life for?