Communal need draws us together; wealth, in money or parking spaces, drives us apart

Now, this is clearly a genuine attempt to meet the requirements of local motorists, and, of late, Camden Council seems to be trying hard, where it can, to be responsive to our needs. However, this seemingly benign improvement to local parking has, to my mind, highlighted a central contradiction in Enlightenment notions of progress.

Previously, when parking bays were scarce, my memory is that all local car owners tried to maximise the available space by parking as close to the car in front as possible. In the neighbourhood, there existed a spirit of enlightened self-interest in which each motorist was sensitive to the needs of every motorist, and because they were being considerate in this area, it spilled over into other aspects of their lives. People on my street smiled more, were kind to children of all nations, and would lend you a cup of injera (Ethiopian flatbread) flour or balsamic vinegar, often without you even asking them to.

But now that there are acres of spaces in which to put your motor, that spirit of co-operation has evaporated. Drivers now leave huge gaps between each vehicle, tying up three times as much pavement as they did before. Whereas, previously, neighbours all smiled and waved at each other, they now snarl and sneer, urinate on people's doorsteps (in my case) and make hurtful comments about others' clothes.

Pretty soon, those who once possessed small, economical city cars will be trading them in for Maybachs, Humvees and monster trucks as long as a bus with tyres 12ft high.

There's your problem with capitalism - communal need draws people together, but greater wealth, whether in money or parking spaces, drives us, literally, apart.

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, the staff of the Chinese vegetarian all-you-can-eat restaurant persist in believing that I own a thriving business renting luxury cars. I thought I'd cleared up this confusion, but last week, attempting to drive to the restaurant, my Alfa refused to start so I had to walk there. "Where's your beautiful car?" a waitress asked as I entered. "Wouldn't start," was my reply. "But why walk when you have so many other beautiful cars?" she enquired.

So, the confusion isn't cleared up after all. They're not going to believe that I "write" about cars rather than "rent" them, so I've decided to do something to end the confusion forever. I'm going to invent a beautiful, almond-eyed, young bride for myself called Mei Ling. Next time I go to the restaurant, I'll say, "Ah, if only Mei Ling was with me tonight. I tried to persuade her to come and sample your delicious tofu-based cuisine, but she has taken the beautiful car to visit her handsome cousin Wang Feng at his big house in Hounslow.

"I would have come here in one of the other beautiful cars, but she has the keys to the rental business with her and isn't answering the diamond-encrusted mobile phone I bought her because I'm a foolish old man with a much younger bride."

The following week, I'll tell them about Mei Ling's father who lives on Iron Shirt Mountain and is urging me to put the rental business into his daughter's name for "tax purposes". I'll act all stupid and happy to do it, but in week three, break down over the garlic broccoli and blurt out, "Ah, I've been an old fool and am ruined! My beautiful young bride and her handsome cousin, in league with her wicked father, have robbed me of my business renting beautiful cars. All is lost, all is lost!"

That'll stop them ever asking again about my car-rental business, and I might, out of pity, get a free meal.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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