The Outer Limits
Beat J is not a beat you want to do if your bladder isn’t made of cast steel and you need a hot drink to break up the morning. When I first started this unholy job, I used to have trouble getting back on time for lunch on this beat. Nowadays I get out a small notebook and jot down a few story notes as I’m ambling along. I mouth bits of story dialogue to myself to get the feel of the words and am about as effective as nailing jelly to the ceiling as far as parking enforcement is concerned. I’m just giving my uniform an airing.
This morning, one hour into my foot patrol I’m staring down another straight run of double yellows with nary an infraction in sight when my radio crackles “515, please respond, over.” There goes my peace and quiet, just as I was building a decent narrative thread. Bugger.
“515, your location please.”
“Half way along Mainbar Road, heading north.”
“Which way is that?” Learn to use a map dickwit.
“Towards Collet Avenue.”
“Right, can you backtrack to base, now please.”
“I’ll be about twenty minutes.”
“No problem.” This had better be important.
So I quickstep all the way back to base, only to be greeted with a “Sorry mate, we’ve sorted it now.” Why’s he trying not to laugh?
“Any chance of a lift back out to Collet Avenue?”
“Van’s playing up mate, sorry.” If you’re lying, you will be.
Off I pootle, my patrol timings all screwed up and no chance of a break for another three hours, inwardly cursing new supervisor. However, being the good little grafter I am I carry on, wondering abstractedly why I hadn’t the good sense to have brought my Mp3 player so I could at least listen to some downloaded Radio Comedy as I pounded this near deserted set of streets. Daydreaming along though a patch of light drizzle, I ducked out of the precipitation in the lee of a bus shelter, hoping no one mistook me for a bus inspector, as some OAP’s regularly do. A quick glance at the sign told me this 1950’s prefabricated design hadn’t seen a bus for years. So for a change I could relax.
Not so. My radio bleeps and crackles again. “515, your location please.”
“Yeah, can you get back to base pronto.”
“Okay, what’s the problem?”
“Can’t tell you over the air.”
All of a sudden I have this sudden flash of inspiration. “I hope it’s urgent, or are you doing a Blackadder on me?”
“What do you mean 515?”
“I’ll call you. Wait one.” Now the episode I have in mind is ‘Money’ from the Blackadder 2 series, where the Queen, played by Miranda Richardson, and Lord Melchet, as portrayed by Stephen Fry, wind up Edmund Blackadder who is in deep financial trouble with the Black Monks by repeatedly calling him from Billingsgate to the Palace as a joke. New supervisor is a Blackadder fan and I think he’s bored. I call his number on my mobile phone. It’s engaged or switched off. Uh-huh.
Two can play this game. I stay exactly where I am and call back on the Radio. “This is 515, can’t return to base, I’ve got a couple of customers on double yellows.” This is a blatant lie. There is nothing in sight but he doesn’t know this. There’s only one way to fight back, and that’s by playing a variant of Monty Python’s ‘Cheese Shop’ sketch. Every time New Supervisor calls, I’ll have a fresh excuse why I cannot do his bidding right this moment.
Ten minutes later, New supervisor calls again. “Have you finished booking yet 515?”
“Yeah, you scared them off, they heard my radio bleeping.”
“Sorry mate. Where are you now?”
“Turton place.” I say truthfully. “One of my shoelaces has broken. I’ll have to fix it.” I lie.
“Okay, we’ve sorted it now.” Yeah, right. “No need for you to come back." Yet.
Twice more he tried to call me back to base for nothing, twice more I had an excuse ready. By the time he had bored of his little game; I had covered the beat and was back at base with my aching feet up munching my sandwiches and screwing up my face at a barely drinkable cup of mess room tea. New Supervisor poked his head in. “There you are Bill. You back then?”
“Nah, this is a recorded lunchtime and I’m officially off duty.”
“Oh, right.” His face falls; he knows he’s been rumbled.
“You were playing Cheese shop weren’t you?” Wavey Davey sits down beside me when new supervisor had gone.
“Don’t know what you mean.” I say past a mouthful of processed chicken.
“I went past the office this morning and I overheard him talking to his little friend Joey.”
“Ah, the pederasts catamite.” I observe dryly.
“Yeah, well. They were talking about this Blackadder episode.”
“And they thought it would be fun to see if they could catch one of us out with the same trick.”
“They fucked up when they picked on you didn’t they?” He chuckled.
“Yep. I’ve been around too long and I’ve got a nasty suspicious mind.”
“What was it the first time?”
“They wouldn’t tell me.”
“Right. How did you know?”
“I don’t know. It was just the look on his face when I first went back to the office. He was smirking at me.”
“Did you twig right away?”
“No, it was when he tried to pull the same thing twice.”
“He should get a proper job.”
“So should we all Davey me old mucker, so should we all.”