We will make a melodrama out of a crisis
`I could never resist the appeal of RAC men at motorway service areas. I joined four times in all'
Friday 04 December 1998
To give you some idea of the issues involved, I am bringing you part of yesterday's proceedings.
Counsel: Now, you are bringing this action against Directory Inquiries, are you not?
Plaintiff: I certainly am.
Counsel: What is your name, please?
Plaintiff: My name is James Witherspoon of 27 The Avenue, Broadport, I am 43 years old, and married with two children, and the registration number of my green four-door Nissan is...
Counsel: Do you always give this needless data when asked for your name?
Plaintiff: I do, yes. As a business traveller I do a lot of signing into hotels, and I find that they usually want to know everything.
Counsel: I see. And on 17 July were you driving down from London to Malvern?
Plaintiff: Yes, I was. I was going to a very important business meeting.
Counsel: How important?
Plaintiff: All business meetings are very important.
Counsel: But what if a meeting is not really very important?
Plaintiff: Then we call it something else.
Counsel: Like what?
Plaintiff: Like lunch. Or touching base.
Counsel: I see. So there you are, driving from London to Malvern... Plaintiff: And my car breaks down near Cirencester.
Counsel: Did you attempt to mend it?
Plaintiff: No, I did not. It would invalidate the insurance. I am a member of the RAC so I determined to ring them for aid.
Counsel: Had you been a member of the RAC for long?
Plaintiff: Long and often. I joined the RAC in 1988. I joined again in 1990, and twice in 1992.
Counsel: Why did you keep joining the RAC?
Plaintiff: Because I am soft-hearted and could never resist the appeal of the RAC men at motorway service areas. They looked so cold and unhappy standing there, that I joined four times in all. Took out life memberships every time, too.
Counsel: I see. And on this occasion did you ring the RAC of which you were such a multi-serving member?
Plaintiff: Unfortunately, I had left all my documents at home, so I didn't have their telephone number. I rang Directory Inquiries on my mobile and asked them for the RAC number. They gave it to me and then I rang the number I had been given. They answered, and I asked them to come to my aid. They wanted to know if I was a member. I said I was.
Counsel: What happened next?
Plaintiff: I gave my position and they said they would do their best. About 40 minutes later a van arrived and five people got out.
Counsel: Five people? That seems rather a lot to mend a car...
Plaintiff: That's what I said. I said that five seemed a lot to mend a car. They said that only one of them was any good at mending a car. He started looking in the bonnet.
Counsel: What did the others do?
Plaintiff: They put on make-up, changed costumes and performed an extract from Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Counsel: Isn't that an unusual thing for garage mechanics to do? Plaintiff: Yes, but it turned out they weren't garage mechanics. Upon questioning, they turned out to be from the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Counsel: Why on earth...?
Plaintiff: Because the idiots at Directory Inquiries had thought that when I asked for the number of the RAC, I was asking for the RSC! The do sound very alike, admittedly...
Counsel: Let me get this straight. You dialled the RSC instead of the RAC and asked them to help you get your car started?
Counsel: And they came?
Counsel: Why do you suppose a company whose main skill is theatrical would offer help to a motorist with engine trouble?
Plaintiff: My guess is that the Royal Shakespeare Company has been having a lean season and would do anything to sell tickets. So they came to do my car.
Counsel: And did they mend it? Plaintiff: No. But they sold me four tickets for their new C S Lewis production.
More of this fascinating case soon, I hope...
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