I thought I was lucky to grab a parking slot on the edge of a row, with a yellow crossed box marked on the passenger side. This kind of thing matters if you’re moving from place to place with a growing bairn who is hard to manoeuvre into his seat at the best of times.
I got back to the car to find a large van snuggled up alongside, leaving me enough room to get the door open about one and a half feet. Aware of the potential havoc to my back I cautiously got the bairn strapped in and closed the door. I then heard the van driver approaching to say ‘You alright there mate?’ I grumphed audibly. ‘Where do you want me to park?’ he says, ‘on the roof?’
Er, well how about legally?
‘Oh what you gonna do?’ says he, ‘call the police?’
Which epitomises the problem of respect and civility in public spaces. It’s impossible for any system of government to oversee all potential disputes, so our society depends on most of us taking other people into consideration in the first instance (citizenship), before questions of legality come into play. Some people seem to see inconsiderate acts first and foremost as either legal, or illegal-but-can-be-got-away-with.
One of the popular questions of our time is whether the proportion of the population in the latter category is increasing. I’m more than ever persuaded that this perception is related to the amount of time we spend cocconed in our cars, a peering position which subtly alters the relationship to the Other. And if it is increasing, I think the next question to ask is: where’s the tipping point?