An hour before I walked into 264 Old Kent Road and if Jesus had not the metaphor of Gehenna to call upon to describe the antithesis of fullness of life, he surely would have used Southwark's Parking shop to make his point. The atmosphere was tense, fraught as individuals paid their parking fines at one window with an incessant tirade of abuse to the girls on the other side of bullet proof glass. Individuals caught for all kinds of traffic offences vented, screamed, cried, wailed before paying anything up to £180 to get their vehicles back. The rest of us sat waiting to pay for our residents parking permits not really knowing who was next.
I sat in my uniform aware that in addition I had a fluorescent safety jacket with THE SALVATION ARMY across my back, I knew that I needed to me the model of patience! After nearly an hour I was beckoned to the window with an aggressive and bureaucratic "next...!". My form was correct, my proof of identification in place, I was getting out as soon as my permit was ready at the printer.
It was then that hysteria hit the lady behind me in the queue. "That's it ... I've had it ... I can not do this anymore, I've been patient up to now but I can not do it any more...!" her voice getting quicker, her breathing shorter her panic spread through the room like wild fire.
OK I may not have done this if my defences were not down -amazing what a bit of man flu can do for you really, I turned around and I found myself saying:
"Yes you have been patient and you are such a better person for it... aren't you ....well?"
I then heard my volume increase above all the shouting and cursing in the room.
"... in fact we would ALL BE BETTER PEOPLE IF WE WERE MORE PATIENT... THE WORLD NEEDS PATIENT PEOPLE...!"
In the silence of the moment I had caused I turn to the attendant who seemed to be reaching for a panic button, you need a chaplain in this place! She didn't even look up but said "Yeah problem being they would get beaten up as well!!"