A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times






Have you ever wanted to really fool a Traffic Warden? Then go jack up the side of your car, take a wheel off, lock it in the boot and go do the business...

            Dane Brooks is a member of the notorious Rossendale County Bachelors Drinking and Mayhem Club. Bragging one evening about how easy it would be to hoodwink a Traffic Warden, he found himself on the wrong end of a silly bet.

            Loosing face is a sin worse than losing one's pants to a County Bachelor, so Dane duly set out to honour - and win - the bet.

            The task before him was to stage a breakdown in his local High Street, on double yellow lines, for two hours during a peak shopping Saturday, without being lent assistance, towed away or told to get the Hell out of there by a Traffic Warden or anyone else. The twist was that his chosen vehicle should stand alone, no human being in attendance, during the whole of the two hours - and the entire proceedings had to be videoed for playback at the next CB party night.

            Dane set about his project with the dedication and detailed planning of an SAS commander. A beat up Transit van was selected for the event, borrowed from a local parcels carrier. Equipment included a professional garage trolley jack with pump handle, two tool boxes full of spanners, various greasy mechanical parts from underneath a similar Transit van, two pairs of matching, greasy blue mechanics overalls, two pairs of size eleven cheap, oily black boots, socks to match, a portable, battery driven cassette player with auto reverse, an old fashioned hearing aid, complete with lead and ear piece, two plastic red and white cones - and the bottom half of a male tailor's dummy.

            8:45am, one cold, wet Saturday morning (Dane had checked the weather forecasts. A warm, sunny day was not to be part of the plan). Transit and Dane drove into position in the High Street. Opposite, the proprietor of a TV shop, himself a County Bachelor, set up in his shop window a video camera, focusing on the van and locking the camera in position, a VCR unit inside the shop began recording the scene.

            Shoppers were not yet out and about. Zero minus 15 minutes!

            Dane hauled the trolley jack out of the van, positioned it under the front engine mounting and jacked up the front of the van about a foot into the air. Next he pulled the tailor's dummy out from the van, already dressed in the greasy mechanic's overalls, oily boots, etc. and slid the dummy under the side of the van, so that the boots and half a foot or so of the dummy's legs could be seen, roadside. Zero minus ten minutes.

            Next the cassette player was placed under the van, adjacent to the torso end of the dummy, and switched on. Dane had spent a happy half hour recording the tape in his garage the weekend before.

            The two tool boxes came out next. One was positioned next to the booted feet sticking out the off-side of the van. The other was positioned in front of the van, next to the jack handle. A few spanners were laid onto the road, along with the various greasy mechanical parts from underneath a similar Transit van. Zero minus five minutes.

Two road cones were then placed fore and aft of the van. Finally, the most important piece of equipment of all, the hearing aid, was laid out, carefully and conspicuously, on top of the tool box at the front of the van.

            Zero minus one minute. Dane took a final, careful look round his set, rubbed his hands with undisguised glee, and sauntered over to the TV shop to his observation post and a hot cup of coffee.

            Saturday shoppers began to bustle. Soon the High Street became a hive of activity, congested with people and with traffic. No one took the slightest notice of the broken down van under repair.

            At 9:21am, Dane's nerve was tested as a police car drove past the van. The two uniformed occupants looked across at the van, saw the mechanic at work and drove on without stopping. Dane could breathe once again.

            At 9:43am a Traffic Warden appeared, but she was on the TV shop side of the road. Female, already cold and damp from the morning rain, she stopped and looked across at the van. All appeared in order; road cones in place and a professional on the job. The Traffic Warden kept walking along the TV shop side of the High Street.

            10:37am. The Traffic Warden re-appeared, her usual half hour circuit had increased to nearly an hour because of the inclement weather. Again she stopped and looked across at the van. "Obviously a difficult job. Wonder if he needs assistance." She thought. She waited for a break in the traffic and crossed the High Street to the van side pavement. Dane began to worry, beads of sweat forming on his forehead.

            In accordance with standard practice, the Traffic Warden made a complete circuit of the van. She observed that the van belonged to a local carrier. She inspected the jack handle and the tool box at the front of the van. She wondered how a hearing aid could possibly help a mechanic repair a vehicle. She looked down at the size 11 oily black boots and the greasy overall legs sticking out from under the van, road side. As she made her inspection she heard the normal kind of spanner noises, clanks and mild swearing coming from beneath the van, intermingling with the humming of one of the County Bachelor's favourite war chants.

            Dane's pre-recorded tape was performing well.

            The Traffic Warden grimaced at the sight of the greasy mechanical parts which the mechanic had obviously stripped from the van's belly. Clearly this was going to be a long job. She raised her voice to compete against the traffic. "Need any help?" No response came from under the van. The spanner noises, swearing and humming continued. "NEED ANY HELP DOWN THERE?" The Traffic Warden shouted.

            Still no response. Across the High Street, Dane crossed his fingers. This was the weakest link in his plan. Would the Traffic Warden put two and two together and come up with five? Would she throw away months of rigid training and stoop down to look under the van? He prayed for a below average intelligence level and an above average ego. His prayer was soon answered.

            Shouting in the High Street was definitely beneath the dignity of a Traffic Warden. Standard procedure took over. Hands clasped behind her back she made another complete circuit of the van. At the front, her eyes once more made contact with the hearing aid on top of the tool box. "Of course," she exclaimed silently, "The man's deaf. That's why he didn't answer me."

            Across the High Street, Dane saw the Traffic Warden's head nod twice as she looked at the hearing aid. He hugged himself. It was going to work.

The traffic Warden made a third circuit of the van, trying to decide what best to do, paused on the pavement, looked hard at her watch, looked up at the rain filled sky, thought to herself, "Who needs this aggro?" and continued on her rounds.

            Much hilarity ensued in the TV shop. Dane looked at his watch. "Twelve minutes to go. We're practically in the clear."

            At 11:05am, Dane, dressed just like his dummy left the TV shop and crossed over to his van. First item to go back inside was the tailor's dummy - as fast as it could go. Then the greasy mechanical parts, equally as fast. No point in taking any chances this close to success.

            And a precaution well worthwhile, for, as Dane was straightening up from under the van, having retrieved and turned off his cassette player, he saw walking towards him the Traffic Warden, this time accompanied by a police constable.

            Dane just had time to put the cassette player into the back of the van and make sure the doors were firmly shut before they were upon him.

            "Sorted out the trouble?" the Traffic Warden asked warmly.

            Dane was thinking fast on his feet. He turned round to face the Traffic Warden and the policeman, and faked a "you startled me" expression.

            "SORTED OUT THE TROUBLE?" the Traffic Warden shouted, smiling, six inches from his left ear.

            Dane held up a finger, walked round to the front of the van, picked up the hearing aid, plugged the earpiece into his ear, made as if he was turning the aid on, gave it a tap and faced the two officials.

 "Sorry, can't hear without this. No good wearing it under the van. Get's in the way. Been here since a quarter to nine. Hell of a job, but it’s all okay now. Thanks for letting me get on with the job."

            "That's life." said the copper. "This weather, I reckon you've been in the driest place under there." And he and the Traffic Warden walked on.

            Dane had triumphed in his dare. The bet was won and his dignity was still intact unlike that of the Traffic Warden, who would be diligently torn apart at the next CB party. 



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