Sunday, 21 February 2010

I fought the law

I've felt the rough hand of justice.

Oh yes I have. I fought the law.

At least that's how I like to remember it but it is going
back a few years. It was Christmas and I was travelling back from my parent's
house to my 1 bedroom flat in Walthamstow. I'd been in Essex for a few days, I
think this was the 28th December or thereabouts. It was definitely in that odd
period between Christmas and New Year. I was on hols from work and very single.
Not sure what I was hurrying back to E17 for, really. I was probably keen to put
all my lovely Christmas things away and watch some videos.

It wasn't a bad journey. About an hour all in, usually
very straightforward. But today there was a a twist: snow. We're used to the
stuff now. Bored of it even. But back in 2000ish it was huge. Though not
actually. As Paul Daniels would say: (there was) not a lot. But a covering,
which was more than enough to make this nervy driver scared.

I think my folks also felt a bit anxious about their
little girl braving the elements/light dusting of snow as I returned to my crazy
life up in the big smoke/back to my admin job in subtitling. I may as well have
been hoisting a stick with a spotted hanky tied to the end and trudging back to
the mean streets. The journey had been perfectly commonplace until I opted for a
short cut when I was about 30 seconds from my flat. The only snow I had seen up
to then was in Braintree and in the Essex countryside. I certainly didn't expect
to run into any now I was back in out nation's capital, and besides, I thought
snow couldn't settle on gold?

I was tootling along nicely in my H reg VW Polo, as I
say, really nearly almost home when the snow started to get serious. By serious
I mean there was a visible dusting on the road. The ROAD! I remained calm but
definitely concentrated further, probably turning the radio down and/or gripping
the steering wheel a bit more. Then I spotted the roadworks. Nothing to write a
petition about. It was just a few cones making it so you had to give the
opposing traffic right of way before driving past it. And would you Adam and Eve
it? I was required to stop, only to find that I couldn't. I was moving at about
10 miles an hour, maybe less, when I attempted to pull in to let the oncoming
traffic pass.

And failed.

I applied the brake and the car started sliding.
Skidding. Ever so slightly. I was suddenly proper scared. I remember thinking,
"Steer in to it! Steer in to it!" and still not understanding what on earth that
meant. I pressed the brake again and again, the road wasn't on a slope and
eventually I slowed to a halt, just brushing an orange traffic cone gently with
the front left corner of my bumper. A very gentle knock, I was certain there
would be no damage.

By now the opposing traffic was passing me and very soon
indeed I would be required to pull out and move off again. I can't really
remember what I was saying or thinking at this point but I think it's a safe bet
to assume angry, scared, sweary and shouty (just like the 4 Dwarfs that didn't
live with Snow White) I was not happy and suddenly I was being beeped at by the
drivers behind me. Did they not realise I had just been involved in a miniscule
RTA? Apparentely not. Beeeeep! "I'm frickin' stuck, drive round me!" I shouted.
I prised my white knuckly hands from the steering wheel to gesticulate that I
wanted the cars behind to pass.

Within seconds I was being overtaken: the drivers behind
were now zipping past me, not before getting a good look at the pickle I was in.
All the while I was undoubtedly shouting a noisy sarcastic commentary: "I am
really sorry my poor driving delayed your journey by ooh, let's say, 15 SECONDS!
Please do move along and don't forget to give me a withering look when you
pass!" But one of the cars, a beautiful 4x4, drove past, especially slowly and
mouthed something to me whilst making a circular mime.

The man driving wasn't laughing but he was smiling kindly
and would come back to help me! He would drive past, pull in and then come back
to help. I was saved! Relief washed over me, I was calm. With no cars behind or
in front and my faith in humanity restored I found the strength to reverse back
a little and resume my journey. I was back in the saddle. Not sure what all the
shouting had been about. Ha! HA!

About 20 metres up the road, and even closer to home, I
saw the 4x4 driver out of his 4x4. He was jogging! He was jogging back to help
me! My hero! How kind! It was my turn to mouth and shout. "Ohh thanks for coming
back" I bellowed "But I'm ok now. Aw! So kind! Thanks! Happy New Year! Thanks!"
I doubt he'll have got any of that. I can only hope I gave him a cheeky thumbs
up to further illustrate my gratitude. I whizzed past him, a bit hysterical and
noisy and glided into the final corner.

And I kept on gliding. The left turn bend was sharp and
conditions were treacherous, or, you know, a bit slippy. I slid, slowly, into
the back right hand corner of a parked car. Oh blimey. This was real this time.
I proper prang. My friends had all had them: prangs. It was my time. Already
people behind were overtaking. And looking. Rubber-wotsitting. I didn't know
what to do but it was all going to be ok because he was back! Super 4X4 man!
He'd been jogging back to his car after I snubbed his initial attempts to help
me when I clipped the parked Mondeo. With a bound he was there, by the impact
point, shouting instructions at me. "Back up! Back up!" But I couldn't. No grip
you see. All I could muster were some wheelspins while more cars drove past
slowly. My hero ever so slightly lost his cool. "BACK UP! COME ON! BACK UP!"
Nope. Sorry. I'd love to help but I can't. And now I am panicking cos you're
getting cross. With a further heroic bound he straddled the front of my car
where it was joined to the Ford and started to push us backwards. Heave! Hooray!
We were moving! With my window down I shouted some/all of the following: "Thank
you! Thank you! Is there much damage? I thought I'd be there forever! Just
wouldn't move! Wish people would stop staring! Is there any damage? Are you ok?
Oh my goodness, thank you!" Our hero assured me there was no damage to either vehicle
and waved me on my merry way. I parked up outside my flat no more than 30
seconds later and realised I was shaking. I really am a complete wuss. And that
was it. The end of the whole sorry little episode.

Or so I thought. Remember I said I was single?

Well, on the morning of 14th February I was optimistic as
well as being single. Maybe the postman would bring me a Valentine? I checked
for any mail as I left for work and was thrilled to see I had something! With a
handwritten address! I tore it open as I skipped off up the road. Who could it
from? How many people knew my full address? Wow! It could be from literally two
people! A bit papery for a card though. A bit bendy and not very cardy. It could
almost be a letter. Oh. OH! It was from the Metropolitan Police. Ooh! Shit. I
was the registered owner of a car that had been involved in an RTA blah blah
blah and I had left the scene blah blah blah witness had taken my number plate
blah blah blah I was required to present my documents at the local nick blah
blah blah. OH MY GOODNESS! Well, I was terrified. (Wuss.) I'd have to get my
insurance certificate, my MOT and my registration documents together and go to
the police station in Walthamstow. Happy Valentines!

I called my boss and told him I was a fugitive and needed
to give myself up. Ha ha! Oh, I made a joke about it but really I was terrified.
I genuinely had no idea at all what would happen to me. I had not heard of
anyone being asked the present their documents before so on that bleak
Valentine's Day it sounded gritty and ominous. I thought I had best get on with
it. Do it now. Face up to my past.

So after a quick visit to the car file in my super tidy
flat I was off to surrender at my local police station. I had no idea where it
was so walked along clutching my A-Z, trying to be brave. By the time I arrived
I was convinced I was horribly guilty of the horrible crime and would be
punished. Horribly. And I was quite worked up. My 4x4 hero had said there was no
damage. He must have lied! Into the empty reception area bit I went and as
calmly as I could walked up to the female police officer who was sat behind the
glass partition. My voice wobbled slightly when I said "I'm here to show you my
documents". The officer hadn't noticed my nerves. She very politely said
something like "Ok, thank you" as I passed her all the paperwork. She certainly
hadn't requested back up from her colleagues.

The next couple of minutes seemed to last, oh, at least
5. I stood there, shifting my weight from side to side, biting my lip, checking
my nails, trying not to suck my thumb, adjusting my bag whilst trying not to
fidget. The officer in charge of my case was writing down my car number plate
and my car insurance policy number on sheet of paper. She said nothing to me and
I remained silent. I knew my rights. On and on this went. She really was quite
slow at writing. She wrote something down about my valid MOT and then started to
shuffle the documents to tidy them up. Now was as good a time as any to find out
what my future held. I cleared my throat and asked "what's going to happen to me

The WPC looked at me as my eyes filled with tears. She'd
heard my voice break halfway through my plea. She looked really puzzled. I had
asked a simple question but it sounded like I was about to push my wrists
together and declare "It's a fair cop!" She looked really really puzzled. "Well,
um, thanks for bringing all the paperwork in. It all seems fine, we'll be in
touch." "Oh" I gasped. "Ok" I was obviously weeping at this point. "Try not to
worry!" she called as I trudged out of the station. I got outside and did a
proper cry. A little one but a proper one. What a lemon.

I went off to work and tried to act all cool about it. I
also thought about what the officer had said: try not to worry. I stopped
worrying, eventually. It only took about a week or so. Then a month later I got
a letter telling me that the Met Police were satisfied that I hadn't
deliberately broken the law and that there were letting me go. I had been
cleared! I was a free woman! I felt elated. I wanted to see 4x4 man again and
get really drunk with him as we reminisced about the caper. And then, when I
really thought about the whole story, I felt like a total, law abiding, cretin.