There used to be a notice at each end of Summertown saying “Welcome to Summertown”. There were various reasons for disliking these, apart from the vulgarity of that superfluous “Welcome to” – for a start, it doubled the amount of metalwork in a road already full of silly little signs.
The main reason, though was the mismatch between the proclaimed welcome and the reality. Here, for example is what you find if you actually try and visit Summertown.
I followed another traffic warden down the pavement today – I don’t mean I stalked him, I mean he was walking in front of me as I went about my business. He wore a black uniform and a black motor-cycle helmet. He was hung about with equipment and chains like a paramilitary Goth, and walked with a kind of swaggering roll. He looked extremely sinister, as was no doubt intended.
Why do we accept this as a society? I don’t mean “why do we have traffic wardens?” I mean why do we tolerate them dressed like the people whom our parents’ generation fought to keep out? I doubt we will ever be pleased to see a traffic warden, but they might be less hated if they went about their business openly. Oh, and stopped hiding behind walls waiting for us to go. And were bright enough to exercise discretion where appropriate. And didn’t make you feel they had scored a personal triumph.
The only time I got a ticket in Summertown, my fury was not so much with the council, nor with the principle, but with the smirk on the traffic warden’s face as he pointed to the new little sign which had silently changed the parking spaces to residents’ only, making last week’s legal parking place into this week’s fixed penalty spot. To him it was a victory – he had put one over the white middle classes. I could easily see how people forget themselves and punch the bastards.
At least the little man in the picture above was not hiding behind a wall or beneath a paramilitary helmet. He is enough, however, to persuade you to give Summertown a miss and drive a mile or two on to Sainsburys.
They may have taken the “Welcome to Summertown” sign down because of the realisation that it did not accurately represent the council’s attitude to visitors. Now, however, there is not even a sign (at the southern end anyway) to tell visitors that Summertown is where they are at.
I did investigate a sign which was completely concealed behind two hanging baskets. It pointed to the car park and was quite invisible. The idea, presumably, is to drum up trade for the wardens – a visitor who has no idea where he or she is and who cannot find anywhere legal to park helps boost the quota of parking tickets.