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Monday, May 01, 2006


Low stakes drifting

There was a made for TV movie I saw once, I’m pretty sure it was ‘the Gambler’ starring Kenny Rogers and Bruce Boxleitner. The theme tune for which made a pretty good refrain for today’s little episode. I think the chorus went like this;

You got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sitting at the table
They’ll be time enough for counting
When the dealings done

Today I walked away, but in the face of ten to one odds which left me with a limited escape route, no CCTV cover, no backup and my back exposed. If those circumstances don’t make you a very nervous person indeed, then you have no fear and probably often enjoy the taste of hospital food fed through a straw. Me, I’ve had my teeth a long time and I’m very attached to them thank you very much, they belong in my upper and lower mandibles as nature intended. Dentures, as my father pointed out to me, are no substitute for the real thing.

On patrol on the Municipal gardens car park this afternoon I’m meandering along, checking pay and display tickets, watching people falling out of boats, generally keeping an eye open for people who don’t like paying for their parking when I come across six cars without tickets. I also come across the drivers who are having an impromptu game of football nearby. Now I’ve no problem with the football, but people who are too cheap to cough up the price of a litre of petrol for an hours parking – well, it’s what I do.

As I‘m giving the first car my usual once over prior to entering details for a putative booking there are general “Oy you!” Noises from the greensward. Next thing I know there’s ten or so guys around me with at least three behind my suddenly very nervous back. “I can’t see any Pay and display tickets.”
“Machine’s jammed.” Claims someone.
“All right.” Damn, I know from experience there’s no CCTV cover down here. To call them now would up the ante and that would be a very silly move on my part indeed. Diplomacy Bill, that’s what’s needed here. “I’ll have a look.”

The mini mob lets me through and I walk towards the offending P&D machine trailing footballers in my wake. Upon opening the machine, sure enough, there’s a coin jam. How much I don’t know, but there are the best part of a dozen guys with less than friendly expressions behind me and I’m feeling a horribly prescient itch in the middle of my back.

Have you ever tried to do some familiar task with several pairs of eyes burning into your back? That’s just how I felt. I firstly had problems clearing the jam with such an audience behind me, and also because it was a tricksy one that had swallowed a few pounds without registering them. Now there was no way I could verify this for myself – the machines are getting old worn and clunky, needing maintenance on a thrice weekly basis. Some of them are twenty years old. Marvellous really that they’re taken all the public can throw at them for that long, but more robust units are needed. This being the case, there was no way I could verify the truth of the matter, one way or the other. After two minutes inexpert tinkering I put everything back in place.

“Okay, looks like we’ve got a fault with this unit, I’ll get an engineer out as soon as possible.” I said as I closed the unit up. “I’ll just have to take your word for it that you’ve paid.” There was an imperceptible lowering of the temperature and a general murmured agreement that all Parking Enforcers weren’t all bad people. I made as gracious an exit as I could, tail lowered.

Maybe they were on the up and up, maybe not, but someone had coughed up in good faith and who am I to say who it was? You just have to know when to back off and sod the hard liners who say you should have handed out tickets anyway. It’s only a bloody parking ticket.


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Location: British Columbia, Canada

Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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