Moments of Extreme Emotion: A Lunatic in London

I knew we were in trouble when the rotary path took us around Buckingham Palace and not directly to the Comfort Inn, Hyde Park, where we were aiming to roost for our stay. Never mind that the steering wheel on our dark blue Vauxhall was set to the right, opposite the American style. Or that Cliff drove on the left side of the road in order to turn right. Or that I as volunteer navigator was gripping the fine print of a touring map of London, my head bobbing up and down trying to match street signs with landmarks, occasionally screaming.

Our kids were through college, we had celebrated Joel’s wedding just days earlier, so as empty nesters off to London we flew in early August. We were not exactly neophytes to travel out of the country. After all, we’d been to Montreal, Banff, and Jasper in Canada. Why England should be a snap. They speak English there too, and I love the British accent.

We got some rest that evening and were up the next morning eager to explore London. The concierge at the hotel recommended a nice place to get some lunch. We finally found a car park (aka parking lot) close to our hotel before having lunch at the Swan Pub.


Now we had to figure out whether there was a parking time limit on the spot we had chosen. Okay, it looked like we were in a 2-hour time limit parking zone, plenty of time. So we got a sticker for one hour from the kiosk and affixed it to the windshield as directed. Mind you, we paid in British pounds sterling (clinky-clanky coins – not paper) so we heard the payment registering in the kiosk like in a slot machine.

Lunch was taking longer than we expected, so I leaped over to the car park to buy another windshield sticker to extend our parking time. Of course, we wouldn’t want to get ticketed on our first full day in London.

On our return, we were relieved to see that there was no parking violation displayed on the windshield. But we looked again, and “Oh, no,” we groaned, “there IS a suspicious piece of paper hidden under one of the windshield wipers!” I sprung into action and yelled to Cliff, “This must have just happened. I’m going to track down the policeman who gave us the ticket!”

Galloping down the sidewalk with citation in hand, I spied a London bobby who looked as though he could be on our parking patrol.

“Sir, (trying to hold my emotions in check) you gave us this parking violation ticket, but we have paid for two hours of parking, sufficient for the time used.” I urged him to check our windshield and he complied, walking back to the car with me.


With careful scrutiny, he replied, “I realize, Ma’m, that you paid the full amount, but the total parking time has to be reflected on one sticker, not two, even though the amount you paid was sufficient.”

“Well, that makes no sense at all,” I retorted. “We have paid the City of Westminster/London the full amount, why should it matter how many stickers are displayed on the car?”

Unruffled, the gentle bobby restated his case, emphasizing once again the city’s policy.

Now I have shifted into a higher gear of ire. “Well, I am shocked that you do not recognize that you have received payment in full. This is not right. I want to speak to your supervisor,” I insisted.

Reasonable, the patrolman made an effort to accommodate me. “I can call him, but you’ll have to wait. He is not available right now.”

“Fine! I’ll wait for as long as it takes,” I retorted, now more determined than ever. With this assurance, Cliff and I drove back to the street by our hotel, awaiting justice.

Soon I saw two bobbies both in black jackets, official hats, and shiny badges heading toward me.


By now, husband Cliff, usually the confrontational one, had ambled slowly toward our room in the hotel. Oh, so I see he’s not getting involved in this brouhaha. In fact, the next time I saw my husband was out of the corner of my eye as he was filming the spectacle from the second floor of our hotel while I was shouting at the bobby and his supervisor on the street below.


Determined, I stated my case again to both, and I was going to make sure that Mr. Bobby Supervisor saw my point of view. “I want you to rescind this ticket. The City has gotten more than enough pounds for the time our car was parked. It is unjust to give us this citation when we have done nothing wrong.”

And so it went on:

They: But you . . .

Me: But we . . .

At one point I was aware of being out of control but felt powerless to stop myself. So, like a crazy woman, I dug myself in deeper.

Apparently the officers had met deranged travelers before and to be conciliatory, they concluded that “By the time your case comes up in court, you will be gone.” Were they going to shoot us?

Moral of the story: When jet lag and culture shock collide, watch out for an explosion!

Can you relate to this experience? Do you have a tale of your own to tell? Add your story to my confessional . . .


Clear skies and smiles on both sides of the law
Another day, clear skies and smiles on both sides of the law


Coming next: Finding Silver


59 thoughts on “Moments of Extreme Emotion: A Lunatic in London

  1. This is very funny. Even though they speak English in England, it is not the same English we speak in North America. I have encountered a few misunderstandings myself, although none have as yet involved the local constabulary.


    1. Maybe the transition from Canada to the British Isles is not as severe, but in my right mind I would certainly have behaved better. I’d like to hear your stories sometime, Darlene.


  2. No stories to add, but thank you for the morning chuckle. I wish I could have seen you in full “crazy woman” mode. That is not how I picture you at all. 🙂
    I know I wouldn’t even dream of attempting to drive there, and I don’t think my husband would either.


    1. When I told the story to my colleagues, no one quite believed me because I’m usually much more tolerant and conciliatory. Even my husband could not believe how I was behaving. That’s why he took the picture. Ha!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story. It’s all true, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That black jacket, wool hat, and shiny badge is very beguiling. Readers, you can click on Darlene’s name for her website and book descriptions. She has written a series starring Amanda.


  3. Sorry but I have to laugh as I can just picture it and I agree with what you are saying but rules are rules.. I will try and find a funny one I watched that someone set up if I can and post it to you 🙂


  4. Good for you for standing you ground! I wouldn’t drive in London if you paid me. We always get the train and underground.

    On our first visit to France 21 years ago, when my son was only 18 months old, we got off the ferry at Calais early in the morning and soon got stuck behind very slow moving tractor on a 2-way road. It was a non overtaking zone, but giving there was no other traffic on road so early in the morning, We overtook tractor. Unfortunately, there were 2 gendarmes hiding in lay-by and immediately pulled out and flagged us down. They explained what we’d done and demanded 900 francs on the spot, which at the time worked out roughly at £100. We said we didn’t have that much cash on us and they replied they’d escort us to nearest bank. That they did and we insisted on a receipt as we didn’t want our money to go in their pockets. They said they didn’t have receipt book in car, so we said we’d follow them to police station and make it official, which we did.

    We were so angry after all that that we kept on driving all the way to Spain, 12 hours in total!


    1. Oh, my goodness, Fatima. You really got the run-around. From what you describe, it sounds like you were relieved of over $ 200.00. We also had an unpleasant incident with a French taxi-driver, but that story will have to wait. Bad times = good stories though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am happy to report that we have been travelling extensively all over France in our motorhome for the last 6 years and we haven’t had another incident since, but we still laugh at when the Gendarmes said “No money, No car!” 🙂


  5. This is hilarious. I think. I just can’t see you doing that from what I’ve learned of you from your blog but yes, jet lag will do that! Great story. Reminds me of the night my husband, daughter (who was studying aboard in Belgium) couldn’t find a hotel in in one part of Germany we hadn’t reserved ahead of time, and when my hub was no longer rational, my daughter and I took off to find a place, leaving him in the rented car in a parking lot, with severe warnings to him NOT TO LEAVE the car. I wasn’t sure we’d ever find a hotel or him and the car again, but hey, we’re still here! Never funny at the time, but in retrospect, an endearing memory.


    1. True, my readers think this is out of character for me and they are right! I was completely blown off course by jet lag and culture shock. On later trips, I factored past experience into my reactions and just went with the flow so to speak. (If anyone is going to confront authorities, it would usually be Cliff, not me.)

      I’m glad you can relate, Melodie.


  6. This is hilarious, Marian! Yes, I’ve been there. I used to just throw away the tickets we got in Italy. Their system was so chaotic, bogged down and crazy, I never had any cops come to arrest me – though I might if we ever go back! lol!


  7. I LOVE this story and like Laurie can’t imagine you being mad. I, on the other hand, have often made a crazy fool over myself over similar circumstances, with Bill, slinking away in embarrassment. But I have gotten free overnights at a few hotels. Once in Boston, when I was awoken at 12 AM by a crowd that were celebrating a wedding in the lobby, I called down and told the folks at the desk that I’d be calling the police and charging them with disturbing the peace. They moved the crowd along and the next morning we weren’t charged for the room. I never called the police but I did feel like an idiot.


  8. Yes, as an eye witness it was an interesting moment/s to observe. When ticketed initially I was shocked but my calm, cool, collected wife took it from there. It truly was a joy to see steam coming out her ears, as opposed to my usual reaction to a situation like this!


  9. Only in London could you receive such patience and listening ears. Try it in Berlin or Rome…oh-oh. We have a friend who spent several hours in “Public holdings” in both places for similar arguments. I’d say you’re very persistent, Marian, and very lucky! 😉


    1. Yes, in retrospect I realize that I was fortunate. The officials’ willingness to cooperate probably fueled my contentiousness; I’m guessing I subconsciously viewed their attitude as a willingness to see my point of view.

      Thankfully, I learned my lesson in London. By the time we got to Germany and Italy, my world-view had broadened. Thanks for the anecdote. It certainly dove-tails with the theme. Like me, I hope your friend has gained some wisdom in the process.


    1. Thank you for the support, Rebecca. But I broke the biggest law of all by not abiding by the maxim “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” London, the same. Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca.


  10. I will take full responsibility for the terrible welcome you had from our London bobbies Marian . They can be a a law to the highest over here . I do agree with Darlene that there is a language barrier with The British and Americans even though we speak the same language …do you get my my drift ?…no? …see I told you so 😃
    Love the story , it does a lady good to have steam coming out if her ears once in a while😁


  11. Marian … I would have been angry, too. Even though you feel you might have gone over-the-top, good for you for opposing an indefensible decision.

    We don’t drive when we go overseas. But I do have a car story to share. A few years ago, when we were dropping off our rental car in Las Vegas, they charged us for a full tank of gas – even though the tank was clearly full. It turns out in the fine print – which I hadn’t bothered to read before I signed – the rental agency requires that you bring in a receipt to show WHEN you filled the tank last. Well the car rental agency got a few DOLLARs more, but they never again got our business. I make sure to ask before I sign anything about any requirements involving proof of gas purchase. I understand that a few other car rental places are guilty of the same practice. Beware!


    1. Some rental companies are notorious for scams of this sort. Once we were accused of returning a car with damage though there was no such thing. On a subsequent trip we made sure to photograph the car when we turned it in. Otherwise, the case devolves into a he-said/she-said situation. The rental companies have the upper hand because those who lease don’t want to dispute and thus pay the additional charges.

      The other alternative is buying additional insurance which frugal folks like us resist doing. Live and learn – so the old adage goes!


      1. After I totaled a rental car in Alaska, we always take out the additional insurance. In that accident, our insurance company paid the tab. Unfortunately, nine days later back at home, a car sideswiped our car that was parked on the street and took off. Then, our insurance company put us in assigned risk. This happened about 1996.


  12. As a native Brit, I would never dream of driving in central London and neither would most non Londoners I know. Commando and I spent ages driving round and round a roundabout in Putney before my last Moonwalk because the drivers are so aggressive he couldn’t change lanes and he is a very experienced driver, unlike me. The parking rules here are nonsensical. You are not allowed to buy a second ticket or refil a parking meter for some bizarre reason. In the situation you were in it would have been ok to drive out of the car park and drive straight back in again and buy another ticket though. Stupid I know, and not something a tourist would know. Luckily the average British Bobby is fairly calm. They’ve seen a lot worse than a slightly angry American tourist, and they don’t have guns. As for the common language, American English is not at all the same thing as English, English as far as I can tell. Goodness knows how I’m going to get on in Canada in October!


    1. I was eager to get your perspective as a Brit and also as a well-traveled person. So thanks for the comment here, Marie.

      I may have been a lunatic, but my husband is crazy too. He also drove in maniacal Rome.

      My prediction: You will do well in Canada. All the Canadians I have met in our travels and online are extremely warm and gracious!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Good for you for defending your position. And it seems as though those bologna rules are related to some of our own Canadian bogus methods of poaching money from citizens. Well you know what they say Marian, ‘You can’t fight cityhall.” 😦 Great post!


    1. So far most of my readers have defended my outburst against authorities. I guess since I wasn’t put into stocks, it was okay that I blew my stack; however, I don’t think I will change any London parking policies. Ha!


  14. Very funny and you’re letting your wild side show. The rules are the rules, you know. I love it, since who likes to feel alone in their wildness. In the very first image, you look like you’ve had way too much coffee. Wheee… She’s wired. In this country, you might be taken to jail for less. I’m glad the bobbies are civil and that Cliff had the foresight to stand back and take photographs.

    Wonderful post, Marian. I applaud your experimentation and creativity.


  15. When I pushed in photo into its pocket in the London album in 1996, I missed really seeing my wild expression at the Pub, a tell-tale sign of madness often seen in the scary eyes of serial killers. Thank you for your observation at this post being a departure from my usual sedate, peace-loving self. Ha!

    Every so often I do sound off. Injustice just ticks me off, most notably in a constructive way though as when Walmart’s expansion was going to cost our placid neighborhood 3.14 acres of ancient oaks, pines and other wildlife. I notice on Facebook that you too speak out in defense of the environment. Tiny squirrels and rabbits can’t speak the language of City Hall. They need a mouthpiece, poor things.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun putting it together knowing it may jar some readers and amuse others as the comments attest. Thank you for being such a reliable sounding board, Elaine.


  16. As old hands at the parking game now when there is an option for time we always allow for more than we need to save us coming back to the car. I’m not sure I’d want to do that in London though with their charges. I’m sorry the bobbies or wardens whichever they were couldn’t be more understanding but of course the choice isn’t theirs.
    If you didn’t pay the fine and won’t be in court I hope there won’t be a criminal charge awaiting you should you ever return. You don’t want another brush with the law.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx


    1. Yes, you are an old hand at the parking game, and yes, we should have certainly allowed more time for lunch. Lesson learned!

      No, we don’t want another brush with the law. Thank you for a British perspective on car park decorum, David!


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