Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Some years ago some spoilsport involved in the siting of those awful Gatso cameras decided, cynically, to locate one at the beginning of a short straight stretch of three lane carriageway near where I live. There isn't a building or pathway within a country mile of this camera, no schools, Residential Homes, hospitals, churches. There is virtually no extra risk on this piece of road as far as the eye can see. The reason for its presence can only be through certain knowledge that drivers will anticipate the inviting opening in the road and scandalously creep over 60mph by the time they hit the spot where this insidious blight has been placed. An assemblage of foliage, signposts and carefully factored in slight kinks and cambers ensures that this monster is practically hidden from view. Until it's too late and you happen to be the unhappy recipient of the dread double flash as if a giant paparazzo had emerged unseen from a low cloud and freeze framed an instant of your life, as a driver, driving. Ever so slightly, ever so slightly, illegally.

A few months ago this cold, automatic device of instant unquestioning justice turned the garish yellow of cat vomit and sickening, milk fed babies stools. How the road planning advisors and police authorities must have hated the decision to high profile these cash generators, which after all, operate most successfully catching hapless motorists unaware of their presence: grey, disguised, anonymous.

This particular camera bothered everyone. Its presence seemed to flout every rule behind their idea. There was no real justification based on the notion of added safety for it to be there. It bothered everyone but it bothered someone more than most. Tentatively driving into its field of view today I was quickly struck by its changed shape, colour, complexion. No longer its erstwhile DOT grey, not even its new fashionable sunny-side-up hue; more black now, blackened, charred. A piece of sculpted coal, the trunk and box together now a lifeless parody of its created role. The yellow -- it had been sticky tape all along -- had obviously battled bravely against the flames, now fluttered gamely in little raggy strips of yellow black, black yellow. Even uglier in death than it was in life, its stubborn visage seemed to try to nail the lie that it was now impotent and that it was no more a catcher outer, no longer an over zealous school prefect, slimy jobsworth or paid nark. It's shape still threatened, but now only an empty threat.

Perhaps it had "ping-pinged" one too many of the frustrated locals. Perhaps just a piece of random vandalism. But for the time being one of the more contentious of these monstrosities stands lifeless, blinded and stripped of its arbitrary powers of judgement.


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