Saturday, 16 December 2006

Foulmouth Car Park

Recently an elderly friend and her daughter visited the UK for a holiday, touring by hire car along the south coast. They are from the most northerly part of Italy where the first language is in fact German because the region was, until the end of WWI, the southern part of Austria.

Anyway, they eventually reached Cornwall and the town of Falmouth. They found a spot to leave the car in a busy car park and as she was opening the passenger door another car arrived, in the space next to them, so she quickly closed the door again to avoid causing any damage to their hire car and therefore losing the £500 deposit. The next moment an even older man appeared at their windows, red-faced, angry, and spitting foul obscenities at them. They got out to see what the problem was only to discover that he was accusing them of putting a scratch down the side of his brand new car of 3 weeks. His anger may have been understandable if the damage had in fact happened right there and then, however there was no contact at all between the two cars. The man's wife stood shrugging shoulders but called the police following the irate instructions from her husband who had now realised he was facing German tourists who were obviously ignorant, arrogant and in stubborn denial of damaging his car.

When the police arrived, they greeted the man as if they new him, and started taking notes of this dasterdly deed done by the foreigners. He went on to say that he had spent all his life savings on the car and that these Germans had driven into him. They didn't bother to ask the visitors of their account of what had or hadn't happened, so instead the daughter tried to offer it to them only to be told that the officers knew him to be an expert in this matter and trusted his word. Now, would it be cynical of anyone to think that this seemed like a stitch-up?

The daughter, who understood English very well, realised that she had to do something and asked the policemen to actually inspect the damage to the mans car, but they repeated that he's an expert in this matter and they believed him. So she gently squeezed one of the policeman's arm and politely guided him to the damaged area of the car and with a wet finger wiped away the dirt... "there", she said, "the damage has now gone, it was only dirt!"

Outrageously, there were no apologies from either the elderly man or the policemen. Who was this man? What kind of 'expert' was he? Did he own a car-body repair business? Was he a well known driver? An important politician? Rich? Or was he just a silly old man who has lost his marbles? Why didn't the Police look at the damage first (why were there two of them anyway)? And finally, how can someone who has made that mistake and screamed blue-murder at a total stranger not even accept his own mistake and apologise. The car should be taken away from him since he is in no fit mental state to be in possession of a driving license. Fancy that, spending your life savings on a car.

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