18 July 2006

Zero tolerance

My good friend Mike works the shirt off his back in the service of others.

His venerable BMW saloon – only six careful previous owners – is strictly for getting from A to B, and, if things go well, getting back to A again.

Before its annual MOT it is serviced and checked for all possible shortcomings.

I can report that last month it again passed, though not quite with its usual flying colours. The handbrake had lost something of its initial enthusiasm so Mike was asked to attend to this matter and turn up for a handbrake inspection at a date to be determined.

The Ultimate Driving Machine – now with impeccably adjusted handbrake – was then parked close to Mike’s office. When he returned to the car he found a number of youths trying to steal it. This indeed was remarkable. They usually nick new shiny models with go-faster stripes but perhaps these particular delinquents had an eye for a more mature patina.

Against all advice Mike fell on the miscreants and gave chase. But you cannot compete with performance-enhancing drugs, so they escaped.

Then again, had one of them tripped, he might have sued for common assault or acute loss of dignity and may even have required counselling. But at least the car had survived.

Well nearly. The key assembly was in pieces but, with considerable patience, and no small amount of ingenuity, Mike got the car going.

The return to the MOT centre was now ruled out until the key bits were replaced. But alas, the deadline came and went and an entirely new whole-car MOT inspection was therefore ordered – at the full standard fee. The first possible date was after the tax disc had expired. But a new disc could not be obtained without a valid MOT certificate.

Are you still following?

Meanwhile Mike parked his car – temporarily untaxed – in a city street, only to be spotted by the DVLNI’s hit-squad who towed it away. Gone too was his mobile phone. So, in order to discover where they had taken his possessions, he had to find a public telephone box. Most of these double up as toilets. The one he eventually found was no exception.

Having perused a rancid directory and fed the evil machine with every coin in his possession, he managed to trace the car’s whereabouts.

With just about enough cash left for a taxi he set off to the pound to explain the circumstances, both tragic and extenuating.

The official, fully enclosed in bullet-proof glass, listened intently. He then charged my friend £200.

I’m sure you will agree that we should be tough on crime and the causes of crime.

Zero tolerance is the name of the game.

So it is positively heart-warming that we are coming down hard on maladjusted handbrakes.

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