Winning at an away ground is a great feeling. The form book has invariably been upset, you’re waving at the home crowd leaving in droves and all there is left to do is applaud your team off the pitch and declare to any home supporters left in the stadium that your team is the best in the league and you would like to play them every week. All that remains is to get back to the car, tune in to 5 live and enjoy the possible misfortunes of your nearest rivals.
It is usually at this point that a nagging reminder of where you left your car starts to interfere with your natural desire to be joyful and untroubled. Memories of that unlit back street where you hurriedly parked it flood back, along with the sight of those unkempt youths eyeing your pride and joy with murderous intent.
You recall stories of exorbitant fees charged by garages to respray ‘keyed’ cars or worse, still, you could find your only option of getting home propped up on bricks with the wheels missing.
There are certain grounds where groups of youths exercise an entrepreneurial scheme, where they take money off you in return for not damaging your car. I met such a bunch of young tycoons at Gigg Lane last Saturday.
I’m not doing such a great job of describing them as ‘youths’, they were considerably younger and seemingly new at their chosen venture. After stowing anything that looked vaguely saleable in the boot, I locked the car and was met with the sight of a handful of beaming young faces. “We’ll look after your car for £5, er £3,” said one of them offering me a reduced rate whilst hardly pausing for a breath.
“Why would I want to pay you that? I replied knowing the answer before it came. “It might get damaged“. I had two choices here, tell them to take a running jump (or words to that effect) or cough up. I chose something between the two. “Tell you what, I’ll give you 50p now and when I get back I’ll give you the rest if my car is ok” I offer, with no intention of keeping my part of the deal.I was amazed that they accepted this impasse so readily, their budding scheme seemingly faltering on the first rung of the ladder.
The game held my attention for the next three hours and I didn’t even think about the car, given that Oldham had put in another highly questionable performance and scuppered their chances of getting anything out of this season.
However, as I approached the car I was pleased to see that it was untouched and still had four wheels. As I was about to get in I noticed the kid who I had given the 50p to sat in the bay window of the nearest house. Surely he hadn’t stuck to his side of the agreement and been watching my car for over three hours?
I was immediately stricken with guilt at my intention to drive off, so I knocked on the door intending to make his takings up to a pound. The door was answered by a woman who was singularly unimpressed by my explanation of her son’s financial dealings. “Get here you!” she shouted. “Have you taken money off this man?”. He nodded”. “Give it him back and say sorry“. He returned my 50p and I was left on the doorstep facing their closed door.
“Get here you!” she shouted. “Have you taken money off this man?”. He nodded”. “Give it him back and say sorry“. He returned my 50p and I was left on the doorstep facing their closed door.
He may have been taught a valuable lesson but I was taught several. Don’t succumb to extortion. Don’t assume you’re doing the right thing when you know it’s wrong and last but not least – stop being so tight and pay the £5 to park your car!