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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Sensible Citizens' Lobby

I drove into the car park of the superstore and noticed one remaining parking space. The letters SCL where painted on the tarmac - initials with which I was unfamiliar. I nevertheless parked in the bay.

A staff member in a florescent jacket approached my driver’s window. ‘Hello Sir’, he said, ‘can I ask why you’re shopping here this evening?’

‘Well,’ I replied, ‘it’s six PM on Christmas Eve, and so I thought it was about time to buy some cards and presents and food for Christmas.’

‘In that case, Sir,’ he responded, ‘I’m afraid you can’t park in this space.’

‘Why not?’

He pointed to the sign in front of the space. It read Sensible Citizens Only. I looked puzzled.

‘There’s been a recent change in the law,’ he explained, ‘brought about by the actions of a pressure group called the Sensible Citizens' Lobby or SCL.’

‘Who are they?’ I asked.

‘The SCL is made up of all those organised people who plan well in advance to avoid last minute panics.’ He looked furtively around and then whispered conspiratorially, ‘The Smug, Condescending Lot, we call them. Typically, for Christmas, they will have bought all the things they need, or ordered them on the Internet, by the end of October.’

‘My Aunt Elsie’s like that,’ I said. ‘I always receive her Christmas card on 1st December.’

‘Exactly,’ my informant concurred. ‘The SCL argued that, despite advance planning, there would always be items that they unavoidably needed to purchase from shops at periods of peak business, and that it was totally unfair that they should have to waste their time queuing with morons like us who gave no thought to turning up, like sheep, at the busiest times.’

‘So the SCL get priority for car parking?’

‘More than that,’ he replied. ‘Because they were so organised and had so much free time to campaign, the new law contains numerous special rights for them. For example, Store Security moves other shoppers out of the way for them, and they get served at special, high priority checkouts.’

I glanced at my watch. There was no time to learn more, so I accepted my banning from the parking bay and spent the next half-hour looking for another parking space. I then battled my way into the crowded store and commenced a three hour shopping expedition. It would have been quicker but Store Security kept roping-off aisles to allow members of the SCL to quietly shop, undisturbed.

As I stood in an hour-long check-out queue, I noted the almost empty SCL checkouts and a few relaxed and unhurried member of the SCL passing through them.

I had no time to think further about the SCL during Christmas and New Year as there were so many last minute jobs to do. I was so exhausted by the first week in January that I was ill for a week. When I finally recovered, my Christmas shopping experience came back to mind.

I Googled the SCL and discovered that their privileges extended beyond shopping. For example, SCL members would naturally organise their daily activities to avoid travelling during rush hours. Should they be compelled, due to some unusual circumstance, to travel at such times then they were able to use bus lanes or drive on pavements to avoid association with the mindless, habitual occupants of traffic-jams. In addition, they were provided with exclusive seats on public transport. I now remembered the signs on busses which instructed commuters to give up their seats if needed by the disabled or members of the SCL.

At first I was furious that these smug, arrogant advance planners could have priority over the rest of us. Then I began to examine my own behaviour. Why did I manufacture Hell for myself with last minute shopping for Christmas and other events? Why did I spend an hour and a half commuting to and from work when I could do the journey in twenty minutes if I left suitably earlier or later?

I bought a year planner and completed it with the timely activities required to prepare for the year’s predictable events. Shopping for next Christmas was substantially complete by the end of March.

Furthermore, I was able to use the planner and my early Christmas shopping receipts as evidence to support my application to join the SCL.

Christmas Eve arrived once more. My phone rang at five PM. It was Aunt Elsie with whom I would be spending Christmas Day. She explained that Great Uncle Walter had unexpectedly arrived from Australia and would be joining us for Christmas dinner. I noted that I had no present for him.

Ten minutes later, I drove into the car park of the superstore and parked in an SCL bay.

A staff member in a florescent jacket approached my driver’s window. ‘Hello Sir’, he said, ‘can I ask why you’re shopping here this evening?’

I explained my unexpected necessity to get a Christmas present for Great Uncle Walter and showed the young man my SCL membership card. ‘I thought I’d get him a case of reasonably priced claret,’ I said.

‘No problem, Sir,’ said the willing attendant. ‘You just wait here, and I’ll run and get it for you.’

He returned within five minutes with Walter’s gift.

Whilst he was away, I had watched the crowds of shoppers struggling to push laden trolleys back to their cars through the snow.

‘Why do they do it?’ I thought to myself as I drove from the superstore entrance into the bus lane for my five minute journey home.