‘How was your week?’ I asked my friend as we rode our horses to Bookham Common. ‘Fine,’ she said. ‘Except the other day I got caught in a yellow box. £65.’
‘Me too!’ I said. ‘Where was yours?’ ‘Kingston,’ she said. ‘Mine was in Raynes Park,’ I said. ‘£65. Junction of Coombe Lane and Durham Road. No idea how I did it. It was at night so I never had a chance. It won’t have been well lit.’
‘Mine was during the day but I only just got stuck in it. The bumper was overhanging for about three seconds. I’ve requested the video footage.’
‘Good for you. I paid mine. I don’t have the time to mount a challenge this month, what with moving house.’
And on we chuntered about our yellow box fines, as we rode our horses to Bookham. Two ladies who lunch having a good old natter about our weekly law-breaking.
It occurred to me that this is very much the shape of things to come so far as the middle classes are concerned. Very soon we will all be asking each other:
‘How was your week? Many fines?’ ‘Yes, I was caught in a bus lane and got a littering penalty for feeding a piece of leftover sandwich to a pigeon. How about you?’ ‘Not bad. I only got one parking ticket, for being 30 seconds late back to my car after visiting my dying aunt in hospital, and a penalty for not putting my food composting waste out on the right day. I don’t know what possessed me. I thought it was Thursday but of course Thursday is the plastics and card recycling, not the food waste!’ ‘Honestly! What are you like?’ ‘I know! You would think I would have learned by now! I’m up to £500 in food waste fines this year alone!’
Of course, while all this is happening, members of the non-working classes will walk down the street smoking skunk with impunity, supported by the liberal elite who believe more drug use is the way ahead. Those of the diversity classes, meanwhile, will be allowed to do anything they like so long as it is linked to their religion. If the rest of us had any sense we’d come up with a religion that required us to enter yellow boxes. Or an affliction to do with skunk smoking that made us put our rubbish out on the wrong day.
That’s the only way we’re going to get any mercy out of the system. But we don’t. We just troop meekly into the yellow box, hang our heads in shame, because we’ve learned to be ashamed of everything we do, then get our debit cards out to pay.
When I rang the phone number it was like a shopping-channel ordering service.
‘Welcome to Merton council. If you want to pay your council tax press 1. For yellow box fines, press 2.’
After I’d input my ticket number, all the voice said was: ‘Please enter the amount you would like to pay in pence.’
Nothing about the registration number of my car, or what the ticket related to. Just: ‘If you want to pay £25, for example, please press 2500.’
It sounded very unlikely. The inference was that I could choose any amount, rather as one might elect to pay for a new dress or sofa from Littlewoods. Perhaps the hard-pressed masses are now paying their fines off at 35p a month over several years.Who knows?
I entered that I wanted to pay 6500, to get it over with. When I had given my card details the voice said: ‘Thank you! Your payment has been taken.’ For all I know, the whole pence thing was a ruse, and they’ve charged me £6,500 for entering a yellow box.
But I suppose that is where this is all heading. At some point in the future, the middle classes will have to pay yellow box fines of several thousand pounds a time to keep the country going.
Hospital car parks will charge £50 an hour, or £500 possibly. Dropping a piece of sandwich crust will incur a £1,000 fine and a suspended jail sentence. Allowing your dog to foul an open space, including your own garden, will set you back a couple of grand. Never mind that foxes and underpaid minicab drivers are doing the same thing almost everywhere.
Anyway, it’s all moot. Because there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. If recent events have taught us anything, they have taught us that there is no point trying to put our hands up to say we’re not happy with the system using us to wipe the proverbial floor. There is no point arguing. And there is certainly no point trying to think outside the yellow box.