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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Whenever I visit the fair city of Brighton, I have the joy of using a 'Resident's Visitor Parking Permit', which is like a scratchcard, only it costs a pound without actually giving you the chance of winning any money. But every day I have to scratch off the date on one of these permits, fill in my registration number, and place it in my car so that I can park in Lisa's road. At a pound a time, it doesn't take a genius with Lisa's qualifications to work out just how much money I've donated to Brighton & Hove City Council over the past 16 months.

But obviously I don't mind.

Anyhoo, said permits have to be placed either on the nearside dashboard, or the top portion folded over and hooked onto the nearside front window, which you then close to hold it in place. (Stick with it - this is all relevant). 90% of the time I park with the driver's side closest to the kerb, and place the permit on the dashboard, but occasionally I park the other way, and have to put the permit in the window, because the dashboard on the passenger side is too narrow to balance a permit on.

Don't worry, this blog post becomes more interesting in... oooh, about two paragraphs time. Actually, make that three paragraphs.

On those occasions when I have to park with the passenger side closest to the kerb, and the permit in the passenger window, I'm always slightly worried, because I've seen the local traffic wardens, and they have a habit of walking down the middle of the road (which is a quiet cul-de-sac) rather than on the nearside as they should. But I daren't put the permit on the dashboard on the driver's side, because even though they'd easily spot it there, they could technically give me a ticket, because I haven't placed it on the nearside as per the instructions, which form part of the 'Conditions of Use'.

So anyway, after driving Lisa to work at 8:15am yesterday morning, I parked outside with the passenger side of my car closest to the kerb, and placed a parking permit in the window. I then left my car until 4:25pm when I went to pick up Lisa again.

Anyone who can't see what's coming here should immediately report to their nearest NHS clinic for the slow of thought.

Yep, I'd received a £60 parking ticket for having parked longer than the two free hours you can stay without a permit. Which means that a traffic warden had visited TWICE, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and BOTH times had completely failed to spot my 8" wide parking permit clearly displayed in the side window. Even on the point of issuing a ticket, they still didn't bother wandering over to the kerb to check the nearside window, where THEY instruct you to display the damn thing.

Now, I'm a mild mannered man, and my similarity to guinea pigs and lambs has been discussed on this blog before, but to say I was livid would be an understatement.

I drove off to pick up Lisa, but as luck would have it, I rounded the corner, headed down the hill, and spotted a traffic warden at the side of the road. So I pulled in to the left, which was very handy, because my parking permit was still in the window, and asked the traffic warden if she'd just come from ******* ***** (Lisa's road has been censored for security reasons). She was only a young girl, and the way she looked blank, searched vaguely through a few pieces of paper in her hand, and repeated the words "******* *****..?" in a thick French accent, suggested to me that not only was she new to the job, but she probably didn't speak English either.

But I persevered. I showed her my parking ticket, she recognised her signature, I pointed out my permit, and she uttered for the first time the four words which would become her catchphrase over the course of the next two minutes:

"I didn't see it"

She must have said that at least twelve times. It was her response to just about every argument I put to her. And possibly the only English phrase she knew. I told her it's her JOB to see it. Which is when she started shrugging. Honestly, the girl could not have been more French if she'd tried.

Having repeated myself a million times, and told her she can see the permit right now in the window of my car, where it's been all day, she managed to muster enough English to inform me that she can't take the ticket back because she doesn't have a photograph proving that it had been there all day. Quite where I'm supposed to get photographic evidence that a permit's been in my car for eight consecutive hours, I'm not sure. But what really annoyed me was when she started blatantly lying...

Having impressed upon her that the permit instructs me to place it in the nearside window, and that therefore it's her job to check there, she told me she HAD checked ALL the windows. I told her she can't have done. She told me she had. I told her the parking permit is visible from about thirty yards away if you're on that side of the car. She shrugged and said she hadn't seen it.

Basically we got nowhere fast. She said I can complain if I want to (which is ironic, because I thought that's what I'd been doing. And it had got me nowhere). But I said I would, and having attracted an audience of two people by now, I decided it was time to leave, taking my parking ticket with me.

Anyhoo, instead of heading over to Lisa's Uncle and Aunt's as promised, I was forced to make myself late by going straight to the council parking department in the city centre instead, before they closed at 5pm, paying 50p to park, and attempting to sort it out with the man behind the bullet-proof glass. I was told they can't just cancel a ticket, I have to go through an official appeal, which meant filling in a form with the details of why I don't think I should have to pay the fine, after which they weigh it all up, decide whether or not to believe me, and write to me with the outcome in a couple of weeks.

So there you go. Because of a trafic warden's complete inability to do her job, I could be faced with a £60 fine. So I'd just like to say that the utter incompetent in question is Brighton & Hove Parking Attendant Number 476, and her scrawl of a signature looks like 'W Lunch'. Seriously. I can only assume her first name is Working.