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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

The Traffic Warden

The sight of traffic wardens taking photographs of illegally parked vehicles heartens me. I imagine them spending long, enjoyable evenings archiving the pictures. Perhaps, in old age, they might review these albums and relive the joy of each ticket. It is good for people to take pride in their work.

I was delighted, therefore, when a warden asked me to photograph him with his most recent prize. I obliged and returned his camera.

‘I didn’t know you chaps liked to be photographed with the cars,’ I said.

‘I don’t usually bother,’ he replied. ‘It’s just this is a 1927 Bentley. I’ve been searching for one for months. Now I’ve only got one more type of car to get.’

‘You target specific cars?’ I looked puzzled.

‘Oh yes. Here’s the book.’

He pulled a thick volume from his bag and flicked through the pages. There listed, were hundreds of vehicle types - with a neat tick against each.

‘You must have booked some many times?' I ventured.

‘No,’ he explained, ‘once I’ve bagged one, I don’t give a ticket to another of that type. What would be the point?’

‘To enforce parking regulations?’ I pondered stupidly.

He glanced at me quizzically for a moment, then continued with his former enthusiasm. ‘Twenty years I’ve been working on this collection,’ he announced, ‘and when I get that last car, I’ll retire.’

‘What is your last car?’ I enquired.

‘A 1967 Morris Oxford,’ he replied.

‘That’s a coincidence. I drive a 1967 Morris Oxford.’ I pointed towards my vehicle at the end of the road.

His face lit up like that of a child might on Christmas morning. ‘Can I see it?’ he said.

‘I’ll photograph you with it, if you like,’ I offered as we walked.

‘Don’t take this the wrong way,’ he said, ‘but is it illegally parked?’

‘It’s on a meter.’ I consulted my watch. ‘It’s got another five minutes.’

‘It’s the traffic warden’s code of honour,’ he explained, ‘we can only tick-off a vehicle if we’ve booked it for an infringement of traffic regulations.’

He stopped at my car and furtively glanced up and down the road. He pulled his wallet from his pocket, withdrew four ten-pound notes and pressed them into my palm. ‘I can give an on-the-spot fine of thirty pounds, if you get my drift?’

‘No problem,’ I smiled. ‘But you’ve given me too much.’

‘Please keep the change,’ he said. ‘You’ve been awfully good about this. They taught us in Traffic Warden College that all motorists were evil bastards who should burn in Hell. I guess that may have been a little harsh.’

He glanced at his watch and his manner transformed. ‘Excuse me sir,’ he said officiously, ‘your car is illegally parked. I must impose an on-the-spot fine of thirty pounds.’ He right eye closed to give a long, conspiratorial wink.

I returned three of his notes. He wrote his final ticket, hands shaking and with tears of joy dripping from his cheeks.

‘Thank you so much,’ he said sincerely as he handed me the paper. He opened his book and placed a tick in the final space. Then he removed his peaked cap and uniform jacket, thrust them into a nearby wheelie-bin and skipped joyously away.