The Simon Heng Column

I live in a small(ish) town, where everyone even knows the working hours of the two traffic wardens, so, if you are a blue badge holder, you quickly learn where you can park in the town centre; the wardens will even give you friendly hints.

I remembered a recent news story where somebody was fined just for displaying their blue badge upside-down. So, on a recent trip to Birmingham, I was careful to make sure that my badges were correctly displayed. I was so nervous about getting a parking ticket that I stopped two policemen (when did Brummie policemen start carrying guns and wearing bullet-proof vests?) and asked them if my vehicle was parked legally.

That’s the difference between smaller towns and big cities. If you stop a small town police officer, they might assume that you want to know the time. Stop a big city police officer, and they will assume you’re a terrorist asking for advice on the best target in the area. Anyway, they grudgingly glanced to where my vehicle was parked, and declared it legal.

So I shopped in the famous Open Market, and managed to pack in two forms of discrimination in two minutes: some stall holders gave me their produce, refusing my money, presumably because I’m in a wheelchair. When  I said “thank you, but that’s not necessary” one of them replied: “You’ve got enough to cope with. I’d rather give it to you than those f***ing asylum-seekers – they always want something for nothing!”

Should I have objected to their generosity because it’s based on prejudice towards disabled people? Object to their discrimination against asylumseekers? Even harder, considering the stall holder was himself from an ethnic minority.

Getting back to my car, I found a parking ticket. I appealed, and included the police officers’ advice. My objection was overruled, and the reply included these words: “It is the responsibility of the vehicle owner to ensure that they are legally parked”.

Even police officers aren’t sure what is legal, and what isn’t, these days…


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