Thursday, November 23, 2006

The City 2006

By the time the lorry started to turn the corner into the narrow lane in the centre of the city, it's driver was already a marked man. He was observed by a member of a group operating throughout the city. Loitering behind a nearby bus stop the hidden observer knew all too well that the driver had to stop and make his delivery at a restaurant in the lane. Once he was stopped and unloading his lorry he would be powerless to avoid the attack.

Sure enough the red brake lights of the lorry signalled its halt outside the restaurant. Silently and still unseen the stealthy observer made his way up the narrow street between the high buildings. He lingered a minute while the driver got out of his cab and opened the back of the truck up. He took some boxes of fruit and a sack of onions and walked into the deserted restaurant.

The malign observer watched the delivery driver at his daily work and as he walked into the restaurant door, he pounced. Out of his bulky coat he pulled a state of the art.........................

.....................ticket printing machine, quickly punched in the vehicle's details against the location details he had already entered and slapped a £80 ticket on the windscreen of the lorry. By the time the driver emerged from the restaurant exchanging a quick joke with the owner, the ticketing terrorist had disappeared up another street to seek another target elsewhere in the city.

The helpless driver could only curse the moment for he knew that his employers would expect him to settle any parking fines he incurred in his delivery.

This is not a work of fiction but sadly a common occurrence that I see almost daily in the narrow streets of the City of London. To those unfamiliar with the City, it is a square mile home to many financial institutions who employ tens of thousands of people. Undoubtedly it is one of the wealthiest areas of London. Few people live in the City but many work there. To service the City workers there are numerous shops, bakers, barbers, pubs, cafes and restaurants. The City has at least 3 characteristics: i) Grand old institutional buildings like the Mansion House and Bank of England; ii) Mega towers like the Gherkin and Tower 42; and iii) a dwindling number of narrow lanes left untouched by German bombs in the 40s, Irish terrorists in the 90s and the super-developers of the millennium.

It is in the narrow lanes that many of the most interesting sights of the City can be found. Ancient taverns or gardens can surprise the visitor only a stone's throw from a modern financial tower. It is in these areas that delivery drivers are most prone to attack from the traffic wardens. They have no option but to block the road for a few moments while the delivery is made.

What is so depressing is that the modern traffic warden takes full advantage of those doing their work and penalises some of the least wealthy who work in London.

Traffic wardens have long been held in the same esteem by the British public as estate agents, politicians, serial killers and tabloid journalists.

However I feel that up until recently their inclusion in this group was a little unfair. After all how many people would really want to a traffic warden ? Ask the average 8 year old what they would want to do and I doubt there would be too many traffic wardens amongst the prospective astronauts, firemen and doctors. A traffic warden is doing an unpopular and unrewarding job. Don't they deserve some sympathy ?

In the provincial towns that I grew up in there was always a bit of give and take with traffic wardens.

My father would agree an extra five minutes while a quick visit was made to a shop or something collected. In that time a traffic warden wasn't popular but they still sometimes acted with a little humanity.

However the modern traffic warden is completely uninterested in dialogue. They are interested in issuing tickets to get commission. The tickets can be issued by fair means or foul but they must be issued.

This is a pity as it adds further to the stress and lack of humanity seen in our cities. To the traffic wardens of London, I say we sympathise with your boring and tough job but occasionally give us a break especially the delivery drivers who are only trying to earn a living. If not , surely it is only a matter of time before someone takes revenge on one of these ticketing terrorists......................

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