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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Abandoned vehicle, a case study

We get vehicles dumped in car parks and on the streets every day of the week. Sometimes they are so badly damaged that we can get them removed without much trouble, sometimes the legal niceties have to be observed and I get events like this;

A blue Rover parked in one of the rarely patrolled back streets on a single yellow line; vehicle tax (Vehicle Excise licence or tax disc) just about in date. Scruffy interior with some discarded clothing and lots of empty soft drink bottles and sweet wrappers all over the passenger footwell and rear seats. There are two PCN’s on the windscreen already and the front nearside tyre has been slashed. Nearside tail light is broken and the paintwork has been scarred down the footway side by repeated ‘keying’. Last Penalty charge notice was issued five days ago. I shrug, as soon as I can get a third PCN on the windscreen I can make a particular phone call.

The thing is; what I do is bound by legal process and can’t be rushed. We have to go through the motions, jump through all the hoops before certain actions can be taken. Of course many people don’t see it like that and want something arbitrary done, now!

Just as the PCN goes under the windscreen wiper, a scathing voice comes from behind me. “Load of bloody good that does. Can’t you see it’s been dumped? Bloody stupid Traffic Wardens.” Before I can turn around, the source of the voice, a man in his sixties, is ambling off down the street. Notwithstanding, I make a phone call.
“Hello, is that environmental?”
“Hello Bill.” It’s Kens friendly voice (Thank goodness) who immediately recognises my dulcet tones. “What can I do for you?”
“Abandoned vehicle in Weatherspoon Street. Three PCN’s on the windscreen. I’m just giving you advance notice in case our lot forget to tell you.” I tell him the registration and precise location details. “I’d get it shifted quick before it gets torched and causes a real hazard.”
“Cheers mate. We’ll have it gone in a couple of hours.” I’ll say this for Environmental, when they get the word to go, they get onto these things quickly enough. I make a call to my office to satisfy the legal niceties and knowing Ken and his merry Environmental mates, that scrap vehicle will be history well before I finish today.

Strictly speaking I’m not supposed to call the Environmental and Trading department direct, but if I left it to the office that car would still be there for another week. There’s nothing mysterious about it, just that people in an office can forget or get sidetracked by gossip. E-mails get lost when someone crashes the mail server, that sort of thing; hence the message sometimes isn’t officially passed on. Thus you learn to ensure that the relevant parties are properly informed and you cover all the bases – the job gets done and the Council looks good. By the same token; it makes a my job a little easier, as the public can see that we’re actually doing something about it. Thus they feel less inclined to give me grief all the time.

Speaking of which, another MOP hails me just as I’m finishing my second call and demands that we ‘do’ something about said vehicle.
“Just called it in sir. Should be gone by tomorrow at the latest.” I say, with professional cheerfulness (It’s all a performance, I wasn’t feeling very cheerful).
“About time too.” He complains scornfully. “Don’t see why you have to waste your time putting another parking ticket on it. It’s obviously dumped.”
“It’s the law sir. We can’t do anything about him if his tax is in date. We have to book him three times and all three tickets have to be visible on the windscreen.” I say by way of an explanation.
“That’s bloody silly.” He moans. “Surely anyone can see it’s been dumped.”
“True sir, but the legal process has to be observed or the Council could get sued and Council tax would rise because of it. We get it wrong and it’s the local people who end up with the bill. I know, I’m one of them.”
“Oh.” A little mollified by my explanation, the offended person drifts away. Thank god for that. Now I can get on.

French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre once wrote “L’enfer, c’est les autres.” ("Hell is other people" In Huis-Clos or ‘No Exit’) I’m inclined to agree.


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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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