Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The School Run

“Here in my car, I feel safest of all. I can lock all my doors; it's the only way to live in cars…
by Gary Numan. Artist

Picture this… last Friday afternoon I drive into the small cul-de-sac where I meet my daughter each day after school. We affectionately name this meeting place ‘the garden’ as to the left as you make the turn there is a grassed area with bordering flowerbeds. It is situated just off the main road and around the corner from the high school. I am arriving later and later, as my daughter never seems to be in a hurry to get home and I always, invariably, arrive here many minutes before she does. It is no surprise then, to see that the available street parking to the right hand side has been taken up by the other regulars waiting for their children. Directly ahead - and one of the two parking spaces situated in front of two handpainted ‘No Parking’ signs is occupied by the librarian who works at the high school but who chooses to wait here for her school attending son with the bubble hair. The road squares off here and opens up to the left, into a large area that is strictly private parking for the elderly residents of the surrounding dwellings, and their visitors. I am not sure if parking is allowed in the space next to the librarian so I opt to carry out my favourite manoeuvre. I take a swing to the right and then reverse the car back. My car is small and so I can tuck in alongside the short length of kerbing by the grassed area. I now sit to one side of the opening that leads to the private parking area for the residents. I turn off the engine. I action usual checks in my mind:

I am not causing obstruction to anyone wishing to enter/exit the residential parking area – Check

I am sitting the right side of the cones that mark the area as being one that is no go - Check

There are no yellow parking lines - Check

I am sitting just short of the bend - Check

Logic has always won over any doubt I may have about doing this. I push the radio buttons and decide on Smooth FM. I look ahead and I see that the lady in the black Vauxhall is knitting again. The silver taxi is there too. And that the mum in the VW with the soft top has her daughter onboard, but is still waiting for her son. The amusing little toddler with the turned-up nose and red curls is hanging out of the window of the people carrier waiting for two lads, who, if they are brothers, bear little resemblance to one another.

I do not like the next song, and so I select radio 4 and realise, rather annoyingly, that I’ve missed most of Gardener's Question Time. I listen to the banter. I expect, any minute, to see the dad in the blue S-type jag slink into the slot next to the librarian, (he seems to never have any qualms about parking there). Also to see the arrival of the two massive off roaders who often do block off the entrance to the ‘private parts’ - be it only temporarily…and then I'm lingering on the thought that I haven’t seen those 4 x 4 drivers this past week.

Suddenly, I am aware of a presence outside the driver’s window. It is a woman who looks like a short, squat, Karren Brady on a bad day.
I notice she is holding a couple of note books with floral covers; probably her mobile phone too but I’m not sure at this point, plus a bottle of spray Flash cleaner! She is speaking, but I can not really make out what she is saying - but I can guess. I turn down the radio and open up the door.

As I thought, she is telling me that I am wrong to park there. I state that I do not agree. She says she will take my number and report me because she has been told to do this. I tell her to ‘just try it’. I am mildly irritated and so I shake my head and pull the door shut.

I am not sure in which capacity this woman feels she has authority to approach me. But she is really beginning to annoy me now, because not only have I missed the final question presented by a member of the audience for the panel of expert gardeners, but I see that Ms Jobs Worth is back once again. I open the door. She is telling me I am illegally parked. I get out of my car this time and join her on the pavement. I say ‘What is your problem!’ I state (for the reasons I mention above) that I did not agree with her assumption. I tell her to go away and then she is threatening me again. She says she is going to take down my number and report me. I am not sure who she intended on reporting me to, but I am suddenly fuming and so wave my arms to dismiss her before I dive back into the driver’s seat, banging the door shut once again. Up goes the volume of the radio - and then I watch her as she grapples with the nearest traffic cone, rocking and tipping it away from the hedge (where it has sat for the past seven months, at the very least) into a new position somewhere behind my car. She is back at the window rambling on and so I deliver the ‘talk to the hand and not the face gesture’. She walks away but only to settle down on one knee on the grass with her pen and note book open. She is balancing these and the Flash bottle precariously and I’m hoping she is not the trigger happy sort.
She, seemingly, dials a number, (numbers) on her mobile phone. I do not know if she manages to connect and speak with anyone, instead I start playing with my own phone in an effort to divert my attention from her. In my mind I am considering how unfair it would be for me to be pursued by a police or parking enforcement officer or departmental head who would be acting purely on the actions of this woman.

She is paying me another unwelcome visit and I do not acknowledge her for a moment. I turn up the volume of the radio even louder, I look ahead as she goes on and on at me through the glass. I make beaky movements with my hands to mimic her nagging. I cannot hear her, but she appears to be setting out a warning of what to expect should I show my face around these parts again. Either this or she is outlining details of some kind of procedure that will result from her harassment. I hear the words ‘Right?’ and ‘OK?’ These words she delivers hard and fast at the end of each short lecture. I turn down the radio and shout out with an aggravated tone ‘I can not hear you!’ I turn down the radio more and then I ask her why she doesn’t leave me alone and go hassle the librarian for parking in one of the private parking ‘bays’. The librarian sees that my signalling over to her direction means I am trying to enrol her into the argument. So what does she do? She diverts her gaze. I feel betrayed momentarily, not just by her but by the other parents who ‘pick up’. And to top it all the bully lady states that the librarian’s parking is not illegal and through making that claim she manages to imply once again that my choice of parking actually was. I remain unconvinced that bully lady is right on either count.

But I’m not sure this was bully lady’s day because by now her face is so embittered, that she looked as if she was suffering from a bad bout of constipation. She is literally ranting now. She is calling me a ‘stupid woman’. ‘You stupid woman, you are parked on a bend! What about the children? DO YOU NOT HAVE ANY CHILDREN?’ She continues insulting me this way a little longer and then, finally, she gives up. I watch her back as she walks away. I am utterly bemused.

The lady in the soft top drives off. I start the engine and drive across to park in the spot she has just vacated. I turn off the engine and have a couple of minutes, before my daughter arrives, to reflect. I reaffirm in my mind that I am perfectly capable of risk assessing situations - thank you very much! And I feel if Ms Busy Body was acting in response to complaints received from those who reside in the homes, about cars hanging around the vicinity for half an hour every weekday afternoon, she is quite powerless really to do anything about it. I am sure there are many villagers, who are not associated with the school, that have some gripe in regards to the impact it has on their otherwise moderately sedate village. Different day and different location I once witnessed one grumpy old man taking a broom to someones car bonnet! But that's another story.

My daughter is here and she asks if I’m ok. ‘I think so’ I reply.

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