Let me just give you some backdrop to my mood as I write this. I’m £100 lighter having just settled up a parking charge with some company whose name escapes me and which seems to exist only to collect parking charges. It’s my fault. Who else is to blame for neglecting to display his blue badge in the window of his Ford Focus while parked in a disabled bay at Boots on Ravenhead Retail Park? I was in there for less time than it takes for Steven Gerrard to get his marching orders but there’s no getting away from the fact that I did park in a disabled bay without displaying my blue badge. For this reason my heart wasn’t in it when it came to an appeal. If people don’t pay parking charges for parking in disabled bays without displaying their blue badges then how am I ever going to find a disabled parking space again?
The problem is they probably don’t and the fact that I, a genuine wheelchair user, got caught being absent minded rather than lazy or inconsiderate is still rather irritating me. How many able bodied bastards get away with pulling up at their local Tesco, heading straight for the disabled bays and winging it completely while they nip in to get their night’s supply of Red Stripe? What’s grinding my gears (sorry, but we are on a motoring theme here) further is the fact that the money goes to some faceless debt collecting entity. If it went to Cancer Research or some other well intentioned charity I’d have paid it without hesitation and probably felt better about my day in the process.
I’m further culpable for the amount I have had to pay. When the ticket was issued a month ago it was only worth £30. But I did what I have always done with any problem I have ever had in my life, including stage four kidney disease until the heart palpitations started, and ignored for as long as was humanly possible. I received a letter yesterday telling me that it was too late to appeal against the judgement, and too late to settle it by paying just the initial charge of £30. This was followed by several vague threats of court action. Apparently the ticket stipulates that you have 14 days to pay the £30 before it then becomes £100 and you have no right of appeal regardless of the condition of your spine/legs/torso/head. There was a brief moment when I thought about waiting for the inevitable summons and then making my appearance in court, if only to prove to the faceless debt collectors that I am in fact a disabled person and not a boy racer stopping off for Red Stripe. But again it came back to the question of what happens if everyone starts finding a reason not to pay their parking charges. The boy racers would have an even freer reign of the disabled bays at Tesco and then where will we be? In a bay that is too narrow to allow you to get out of your car and into your wheelchair, that’s where.
So I’m to blame. But remembering a situation I found myself in when I lived in Barnsley many years ago I can’t help thinking that a degree of common sense should come into the law here. I was parked in a disabled bay outside a branch of Halifax Bank in the town centre. I was sat in the car eating my lunch. I practically lived in my car when I was a student, mostly because it was a good deal more accessible than my house at the time. So I was munching away on my sandwich and reading my magazine when someone knocked on my window. I looked up and saw a 60-something woman gesturing for me to wind the window down. When I did she asked me where my blue badge was. The bald truth of that matter was that I didn’t have a blue badge at that time. Blue badges cost £2 even then, and as any student knows £2 is £2. Or four shots of whiskey to put it another way. I did have a wheelchair though, which I pointed to for her benefit. It probably didn’t help that I made a face which indicated that only the most brainless moron who ever lived on Planet Earth would ask a person as to the whearabouts of their blue badge when they clearly had a wheelchair sitting in the passenger seat beside them. To my mind my wheelchair trumped her blue badge, which was probably acquired following a particularly nasty grazing episode outside of Gala Bingo. Anyway, she was not convinced and angrily reminded me about the law on blue badges and how wheelchairs don’t count. But in the absence of faceless debt collectors I won this battle, refusing to move my car until I was good and bloody ready, by which time she had harrumphed off to tell all her grazed friends about the injustice of it all.
But the point is this. Surely there are other ways than the presence of a blue badge to demonstrate whether an individual is genuinely in need of the disabled parking bay they have just occupied? The person who issued my ticket at Boots would not have seen my wheelchair because I was in it elsewhere, but surely it is not beyond the realms of human endeavour for a record of blue badge holders to be kept somewhere so that forgetting to display said blue badge is not such a problem. You don’t have to display a tax disc any more. The DVLA know exactly which cars are taxed and all you have to do is go online to make sure that yours is one of them. This wouldn’t stop time-wasters hogging disabled bays because as I alluded to earlier blue badges are no doubt absurdly easy to acquire, but it would at least stop forgetful people in genuine need from being punished. If the authorities can see their way clear to catching the odd Boy Racer along the way then that's a bonus. I'm just asking not to be punished for being careless.
I suppose that as long as absent minded piss-hats like me continue to forget to display their blue badges then there is always going to be a perceived sense of injustice. I’ll take the hit, but just do me one favour. Do not make a patronising comment on this link about how I have been ‘naughty’ or include the phrase ‘tut, tut’ in your response. If you do I will remember it to my dying day and one day, when you least expect it, even if everything is fine between us for the next 20 years, I will come around to your house and punch you full in the face.
Now fuck off away from my page.