I’ve been sitting on this for a few months and it has started to fester but I don’t want it to define my life so I need to put it out there and let it go.
People who know me know that I lost someone very dear to me recently. It still feels very recent to me. During the time of my Dads illness, while he was in St Thomas’s Hospital, I drove my Mum to visit him some days. I parked at the hospital because it was easier for my Mum which was fine. On one particular day, a Wednesday, I had forgotten to pay the Congestion Charge. I am not actually gonna try to explain myself or make any excuses as to why I forgot, I simply wasn’t thinking. When I did remember on the Friday of that same week I called them up and spoke to a very lovely lady and tried to pay it. She asked, as I’m sure her job requires, why I didn’t pay on the day or within 24hrs after my journey. In hindsight I felt very sorry for her having to listen to what would’ve sounded like incoherent blubbering of a man trying to, badly, explain that his Dad was terminally ill in hospital and my thoughts and concerns were with him and my Mum and with our desperate need to try to get him home where he belonged so that he could pass with us, his family. This kind lady expressed her sadness and explained, far more apologetically than she ever needed to, that the system wouldn’t allow her to overturn the PCN that would be issued. However, in her hope to help me, she did say that I could appeal the PCN based on my circumstances and the fact that I tried to pay but just a day too late and it would most likely be overturned. I thanked her and ended the call; hopeful, as she was, that humanity would win in the days ahead.
Pop passed on the Sunday, two days later. At home surrounded by the people who loved him beyond words.
I had, again, forgotten about the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). But, as always, the bureaucratic wheel never stops turning and it arrived in my mail. I completed the necessary forms explaining my dilemma and sent it off immediately. I won’t waste your time with long winded words; it was refused. I then had the option to appeal to an independent person. It too was denied. Nothing was taken into account. Not my state of mind, not the fact I tried to pay albeit a day late, nothing.
Not one person who read my appeal thought that the imminent death of a loved one might be grounds to forget a few things. Not one human among the many that must’ve read my notes agreed that it might be acceptable to forgive this one time PCN. Don’t get me wrong I was willing to pay the later daily charge, I just thought that £130 was a bit excessive. I even optioned to be at the court and talk to someone but the court was in Nottingham and not in London. Essentially I received a letter from them stating that as TfL had done everything correctly and hadn’t messed up at their end then they were within their rights to uphold the PCN.
And this is where it gets crazy for me.
I never said TfL had done anything wrong, in fact I had complimented the lady I first spoke too. I had even suggested that I still be able to pay for the daily charge as I would have done had I been thinking clearly. But all they were interested in was that they had done everything ‘right’.
Right. Who remembers when that word meant more than just correct.
Is it ‘right’ that they have no one there with the humanity to consider an individuals feeling or circumstances? Is it ‘right’ that people, whoever you might be, are chained to a bureaucracy that only considers the thoughts and processes of the big working machine? Are we all robots now? Is everything now done with the passionless aurora and odour of a swamp? Do we simply turn our heads and look the other way so that the great mechanics of government don’t squeak a little for the individuals with independent thoughts and feelings? Are we simple the grease that keeps the cogs turning smoothly and noiselessly that to consider an alternative to the norm scares us beyond words. Or are we simply too without care to empathise with our fellow man and stand up for what is really and truly considered ‘right’.
Where has the humanity gone? I’m starting to wonder if there was any to begin with. Did we change from clubbing others with big sticks 200,000 years ago while dressed in dead animal hide; to being a government led society that is blind to everything of importance? Now we use words like ‘procedure’, ‘blameless’, ‘bureaucracy’ as our clubs to bludgeon the heads of those who aren’t automatons.
I’ve waffled on, made some spelling and grammatical errors that I won’t correct. I wanted to rant. I wanted to blame. I wanted justice of some kind. It was my fault, I should’ve been thinking about the charge.