Monday, January 25, 2010
I was in London last week. The weather was splendid (1 degree - that's what I'm talking about) and the beer damn fine (if you're canny enough to avoid the warm brown stuff). I spent 54 hours in transit and 54 on the ground. Consequently, I'm buggered beyond belief.
However, I had a tremendous experience while driving 5 actors through a small village in Essex. It was the morning after the job I had travelled all that way to oversee, after which I had drunk numerous pints until the bar closed at 3am. I suspected I was still lingering somewhere near the legal limit when, rounding a corner, I happened upon 3 policemen, one of whom was pointing what looked like a Polaroid camera at me. As I approached, a second copper waved me down and approached the window.
"Ullo sir," he said, in an Essex Boys' accent.
"Hi," I cleverly retorted, wondering how much beer the copper could smell drifting from the interior of the car.
"You do realise, o' course, that you were doing firty-six miles an hour in a firty zone?"
"Was I?" I said, imitating a ventiloquist: I didn't want to part my lips for fear of knocking him over with beer breath.
"Yes you were, sir."
"Oh dear, sorry about that."
"Ne'er mine that. You have two options. One. I will 'and you an on-the-spot fine and free demerit points or, option two, you drive firty metres furfer on and be ticked off by a coupla irate schoolkids."
"I'll take option 2."
"Everybody does sir."
So I drove on thirty metres and, sure enough, several schoolkids supervised by another couple of coppers were standing by the side of the road. Two other motorists were already on the footpath being spoken to by small boys. A female copper asked me to step out of the car and informed me that my interrogators would be two 8 year old girls named Sophie and Denise.
"Fank you sir," said the copper. "Now, Sophie, would you like to ask this gentleman your first question?"
"Ok," said Sophie, hunched in her coat: it was bloody freezing out there. Steamed emanated from mouths, noses, arseholes. "Why were you speedin'?"
"Oh. Well. Um. I'm from Australia and I..."
"Ooh Australia!" said Denise, suddenly interested in what had otherwise been a dull and cold morning. "My nan's just been t'Australia."
"That's a long way," said Sophie. "It's the uvver side o' the world innit?"
"Yes," I said, starting to see I could get off pretty lightly. "It took me 27 hours to get here."
"Ok sir," interrupted the copper, eyeing me suspiciously. "You'll 'ave to finish your answer."
"Oh. Ok. Well, I'm really sorry for speeding, but I wasn't aware of your local speed limit. I made a mistake. I should've been more vigilant of your speed signs."
"You sound like Toady from Neighbours...," began Sophie.
"That's an honest answer innit girls?" said the copper.
The girls mumbled something.
"Now, Denise, your turn to ask the gentleman a question."
"Oh. Sir, how would you feel if you knocked down a small child while speedin' frew our village?"
Things had taken a darker turn. I got nervous and nearly blurted out "And I'm drunk too!"
"Oh. I think it would be the worst thing that could happen to someone," I finally said. "You'd regret it for the rest of your life. And from now on I'm not going to speed ever again." And I meant it.
"What do you fink, girls?" asked the copper.
They mumbled something, huddling further into their coats.
"Aren't you cold?" I asked.
"I can't feel my 'ands," replied Sophie.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end*. I came away with a) an admiration for English rural policing and b) a good story which I relate with an over-exaggerated and regionally incorrect accent.
And the moral? It is a far more effective way of deterring speeding motorists than being a bastard and slapping them with a fine.
*Except that one of the actors, from the comfort of the back seat of the car, filmed the whole thing on his mobile phone and promises it will appear sometime soon on his facebook page.