Fine driving…

Two officials letters arrive this week. One is a first but the other is all too familiar and  depressing.

The former being a summons for Jury Service duty, at the Old Bailey no less. Completing the summons (online) I felt a sense of civic duty, upstanding tax paying member (although not this year) of the community that I am. I like the idea of duty and there is some pride too in  stating that I’ve never been convicted of a crime and some relief that I have never been detained under the mental health act. Not yet anyway which brings me to my second letter.

Yet another PCN – penalty charge notice – which arrive with increasing regularity. How to avoid them? The new 20mph speed limit the latest cash bonanza. This one though is a bus lane infringement which Mrs H claims immediately. It might be more economic if Nikki retrains and becomes an actual bus driver but I don’t suggest this. I just cough up, literally.

Where we live, our council kindly provide a parking scheme (£80 a year) albeit with too few parking bays and too many wardens on patrol. A cynic might think it’s designed to raise revenue with fines almost inevitable when residents and visitors fall foul of the deliberately opaque rules. And their frequency will increase with the newly installed and fiendishly complicated meters. With more keys than a piano, anyone over the age of 35 is likely to struggle. No cash. No ticket. Use your phone. Shit, what’s my car reg?

Purgatory for the residents too in trying to acquire visitors permits. Gone are the scratch cards we could dole out. It’s all online now. So handy! Our council has established a labyrinthine process worthy of Indiana Jones for its residents to negotiate. Scan and upload being two words to traumatise and this is assuming we have a gas bill to hand.

It’s the same process now to attend the local dump, to enjoy this cathartic process of getting rid of crap. But gone are the days of doing this on a whim. When we snap at a draw that refuses to open. Filling the car to the brim and rocking up at the dump. It is now guarded by online guards. A little like those spikes that police lay over the road to stop car thieves.

And while I have the guile (just) to get through these hoops to access services I have already paid for, my ire is piqued for my fellow residents who are not so capable. Those people without broadband or a smart phone. You know, people  who are less capable than the majority. People who might be forgetful or infirm. Visually impaired or just frightened of technology and life more generally. Like OLD people. The people most in need of services and support.

People like my mum – a widow at 83 and on her own, she has all the modern kit and yet she is completely incapable of scanning and unloading anything and she is anxious and fearful of ever being in trouble. There is no chance of her deciphering these online forms so that a visitor can park at her house without being fined. Lucky then that she has kids to help her but what about the elderly people not so fortunate?

That councils can migrate the provision of services online in the name of progress is laughable and it is compounded by making it almost impossible to phone and speak to an actual person who can help.

Like many companies nowadays, my council deliberately discourages phone calls from its customers. Any phone numbers are buried so deep within their website, they have to be rooted out like truffles. Instead, they prefer we use the handy links and click buttons which is not so handy for the person living on their own and without a computer.

Some people will welcome much of this. There is much glee in motorists being fined. Car’s being all-evil it seems. Speed kills. Exhausts kill. Cars kill. Get out of your cars you on lazy bastards…

I note this week that pollution levels are up since the halcyon days of full lockdown – and in some cities (Brighton), air pollution has even increased a further 20% from pre-pandemic levels. I wonder if this is because cars are now hemmed in and stationary on roads having to accommodate deserted bike lanes that have sprung up like spring daffodils. If so, then this extra pollution is a cruel irony.

Never before have our administrators had so much control. What we can and cannot do. How much? How many? How far? When? Where? Who with? Until what time?

It’s all pretty wearying.

Recently I dashed to my mum’s (90 mins round trip by car) because she was frantic over a cardboard build up. I retrieved her waste and deposited it at my local dump facility, which is probably a crime these days. And having confessed, if they come for me and secure a conviction then my new criminal record might preclude me from the jury service that my country has called upon me to provide.

8 thoughts on “Fine driving…

  1. Lorraine says:

    I’m sure it is a money making racket regarding speeding and parking, particularly in the greater London area. It is difficult for older people to negotiate technology and very little is done to assist them with an alternative to make life easier. I hope you got away with the ‘bus driver’ comment? Wishing you a very happy Father’s Day Dom. I hope you are gifted another pair of slippers on gorgeous Tess’s behalf.

  2. Sydnee Coleman says:

    Lovely blog Mr. H, I can understand the struggles with online nightmares, I have one, I tried to get a new bank account all online, super easy, yeah no, the site glitched so I just made an appointment for the bank and went in and got it all squared but the one I did online came through so I had two new bank accounts, I finally got it squared away but man it was a hassle

  3. Derek Shakespeare says:

    I went for absolutely years, if not a decade or more without getting any Penalty Charge Notices,then got 3 on the same day,driving from Kensington to Hanwell. It’s all a money making racket,in my opinion.

  4. Rachel says:

    I really enjoyed the blog this week!
    I totally agree about how difficult it is to upkeep and manage all of these different hoops we have to jump through (just for parking?!?). My family and I consider ourselves to be high-functioning individuals, but after the fiascos of the IRS, healthcare, financial aid, freaking COMCAST XFINITY even, it really makes you worry about the people who may not be functioning at the same capacity.
    And no one has any patience anymore, especially for the elderly, who deserve it the most.
    I feel like your writing has been really wry and cynical lately, but I kind of like it.
    Looking forward to next week’s blog!

  5. Yose says:

    I liked this entry very much. I completely agree with you that “migrating the provision of services online in the name of progress is laughable”. I guess especially in Europe, where the elderly population is both numerous and important, there should always be someone you can talk to in order to figure everything out. An actual person. Not only that, but also a patient person, someone who doesn’t mind spending 30 minutes talking to a grandma to help her properly. Real progress should be inclusive. Technology isn’t everything. I think your mum is very lucky to have you :-).

  6. Devlin says:

    I feel your pain. Our street has a depressingly similar set up. It changed from the glory days of the wonderful visitors’ scratch card about five years ago in another raft of cuts to replace people with machines. All very efficient… until it’s not… or the website isn’t working or you’ve forgotten your account password (regular painful occurrence). And what was once a quick scratch is now never less than 10 minutes of hair pulling. And that’s for those of us successfully using the technology (and with hair)! My lovely neighbours are in their late 80s (refugees from Poland during the Second World War. They’ve weathered many a painful storm… but online parking permits proved to be a step too far, smartphone and computer free as they are). I fretted about how best to help them and, I’ll let you into a little but glorious secret, if you badger the local authority enough and highlight the lack of technology some face… the paper permit and scratch cards miraculously appear. They haven’t gone anywhere… they’re just for the chosen few (but not in an Eton way). It’s a beautiful thing!

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