Hilarious as it would be to say I had a crash on my way to trade my car in for a new one, I’m not entirely sure that was what happened.
I was driving very slowly down Streatham High Road on my way to Croydon where the new Volvo awaited me. The traffic was bumper to bumper and we were crawling at a few miles an hour. Barely moving, I gazed out of the window and when I looked back I had shunted almost soundlessly into the car in front. It was one of those prangs where you are not entirely sure the other party has felt it.
I could see there was no mark on the car in front. But it pulled over immediately so I did, too. I jumped out smiling. ‘Gosh, I am sorry,’ I called as the driver got out. ‘But you’re all right. No marks or anything.’ As I checked my car, which was also unblemished, a woman got out of the back seat. She was, and I’m not going to put too fine a point on this, a dead ringer for Waynetta Slob in The Harry Enfield Show. Greasy hair, spotty skin, missing teeth, the lot. She began to cavort in the road like a pantomime dame. ‘Owww! Ooooooo! Oooooooh! Aaaaaaaagh! Me back! Me back!’ she was yelling.
‘Whatever is the matter with her?’ I said to her husband, who stood there limply like a neutered Billy goat.
‘Owwww! Oooh! Aaaaaargh! I’ve got whiplash!’ she screeched. ‘’Ere, I’ve got whiplash, Jim, I ’ave, real bad it is. Owwwwwww! Ooooooooooooo!’ And she clutched her back and staggered about.
‘Excuse me, madam,’ I said, ‘but my car barely touched you. There is not a mark on your vehicle, nor a mark on mine. And whiplash affects the neck, so you might want to grasp that instead of your lower back.’
‘Owwwww! Ooooo! I’ve got screws in me spine! It’s ’ad it now! ’Ow’s your back, Jim?’ To which the man suddenly grabbed his back and yelled, ‘Ow! Yeah, it’s bad.’
‘And…’ she said, pausing for dramatic effect, ‘we’ve got a baby in the car ’an all!’
I looked inside where a child seat was indeed replete with a wretched baby who did appear to be trying to form a word. It was in all likelihood its first word. ‘W-w-w-w-w
…wi…wi…wi…whip…l-l-l-l…la…la…’ it appeared to gurgle.
Just my luck. My no-claims bonus was about to be flushed down the toilet by Wayne and Waynetta Slob and their baby daughter Spudulike.
But I wasn’t going to let it go without a fight. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘if you are alleging serious injury, then of course I will have to allow you to call the police. ‘Nah, that’s fine…’ he said. ‘Oh, but we have no choice. This is now a very serious matter. Please go ahead and make the call. I will, of course, let you do the talking.’ The woman exploded: ‘You’re a *!@*ing cheeky caaaaaaah, you are!’ ‘That’s as may be, but the fact remains that we must notify the authorities that you are seriously injured.’
Naturally the police operator couldn’t make head nor tail of how the Slobs had been almost killed in a road accident involving no damage to either vehicle, but she informed Mr Slob that there was a police station minutes away.
‘We can’t *?@*ing do that. We gotta get to a funeral,’ screeched the woman, showing me her missing molars.
‘I’m afraid you must,’ I said, ‘or you will be fleeing the scene of an accident.’ You could see from the intense looks on their furrowed faces that their brains were now seriously shorting a circuit. So off we went.
When we got there I nobbled a policeman standing outside and asked him to be a witness. I took his details because I just knew that once inside that station a truly useless service would follow.
I was right. A female desk sergeant who could barely be bothered to speak told us that we were both to fill out accident reports.
‘Officer, if you will just come outside and look at our cars I think you will be able to settle this immediately.’
‘I can’t,’ she slurred catatonically. The air of ambivalence around her was so strong it was viscous.
‘Well, can anyone come?’
‘No, you gotta fill out the forms. It’s procedure.’
‘Do you drive?’ I asked her. ‘Have you ever wondered why your insurance premiums are so high? These people are the reason. This is a fraudulent claim.’
‘It ain’t,’ Mr Slob shouted. ‘I’m going. I gotta get to a funeral.’ And off he scampered. I can’t decide whether he will get a friend to smash a crowbar into the back of his car before the funeral, during it, or after.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated December 3, 2011