I was once again near a traffic accident, though this time I’m not taking the blame as I wasn’t thinking about anything much at the time beyond the lyrics to Nancy Sinatra’s Some Velvet Morning. What made this accident notable, though, was that this time I was first on the scene. Aside from the victim, obviously.
It was a day like most others this year so far; bad weather had rendered London public transport either totally inoperable or so packed with commuters that every train carriage felt like its destination was Auschwitz so I was walking to work, mentally working my way through The Very Best of Nancy Sinatra: 24 Great Songs by Nancy Sinatra because I couldn’t be bothered to get my iPod out and listen to the album directly, when there was, right beside me, the noise of metal grinding against metal, a noise that had no business being in any Nancy Sinatra song at all.
It being an unusually terrifying and catastrophic sound, I turned to have a nosey, and found fragments of car heading straight toward me and the donor vehicle skidding to a halt a few metres away in a cloud of dust, having eaten its way through most of the metal barrier that divided the road. Naturally I did what any coward would do and ran away before I remembered that running was what fit people did, and stopped for breath.
So there I was, just me, the car, and a guy making sweet unconscious love to a recently-deployed airbag. Not knowing any first aid as such I figured I wouldn’t be able to do much beyond give the man a comforting pat on the back and maybe an eye-rolling ‘tcha!’ noise at the whole state of affairs, so, I thought, here I go, and dialled my first ever 999, which, on an iPhone, turned out to be a bit of a faff. Unlock screen, open phone app, wait for phone app to load, press the keypad button, wait for keypad to load…but I got there in the end.
Admittedly in a bit of a panic and not yet caffeinated, I asked for an ambulance on Archway road in London, as there had been a car accident involving one car crashing into the metal dividing barrier. For good measure, I said it was the end of Archway road nearest Archway tube station.
“What postcode is that?”, I was asked, which gave me pause. Was that really something I was supposed to know? Would my parents’ generation tut at the youth of today and their lack of knowledge about postal districts? I walk along many roads during my day to day existence and I couldn’t tell you the postcode of any of them apart from the one I started on and probably the one I ended on. At best I could give her the postcode belonging to 15 minutes in either direction but that didn’t seem particularly useful. After all, the accident was here, in this postcode no man’s land.
“I don’t know the postcode,” I reply, feeling a little perplexed and imagining that the man in the car was going to end up with his brains on the floor just because I had the misfortunate not to work for the Royal Mail or come with some form of GPS. I try and throw in another landmark to see if that helps matters.
“It’s Archway road in London near Archway tube station and next to Archway Campus,’ I said, because this was true.
“Is that a university?”
Well now. Good question. Is Archway Campus a university or is it a former polytechnic? This doesn’t seem like an appropriate time to start discussing the philosophical issues of what exactly constitutes a ‘university’ and what doesn’t, and anyway I’ve no idea, because, and here’s the thing, I never fucking enrolled at Archway Campus. It’s just fucking here, where there’s been a car accident. Any idiot with Google Maps could have found the place by now. Am I expected to believe that there are two Archway roads in London that are next to Archway tube stations and opposite Archway Campuses, except one of them is a bona fide university and the other one is more of a night school? This seems unlikely.
Fortunately by this stage of the conversation not only have other people turned up, some of whom are also phoning ambulances and hopefully having better luck than I am, but the driver of the car has actually woken up, risen from the car and luckily doesn’t appear to have a scratch on him, though he seems a bit stunned, as I suppose you would. I call off my ambulance. There doesn’t seem to be any point anymore, and I’ve run out of landmarks — the only one I had left was a disused tower block known as Archway Heights but it seems the emergency services have an abundance of landmarks to do with Archway and wouldn’t know what to do with it.
So I go on my way and try and get back into the music of Nancy Sinatra, knowing that next time I have to phone 999, I’d better first phone the Post Office to find out where I am.