Friday 20 September 2019

ALS: 'Ontheffing'

17.05 exemption

I talk to the fluorescent man about exemption. His clothes are luminous, he can be seen from a great distance, he is entitled to exemption. In our neighbourhood, the secondary road N436 is being serviced, all motorised traffic has fallen silent – where there was always a din, everything has gone quiet. All the intersections are being watched over by luminous men and a single woman. I am a local resident – the term residential exemption applies to me. While I talk to the man about his family, where he lives and his mother, I realise for the first time that striving to gain exemption is of great importance in our kind of society. An official invalid does not have to pay parking money. A policeman has discretionary powers – in specific instances he is allowed to act as he sees fit. If you deal in apples, you eat apples. A car comes along, the controller makes his excuses, he opens the barrier, there is a woman behind the wheel, she delivers newspapers, she is allowed to cross the N436. He explains to me that a newspaper is a vital necessity, it is entitled to exemption. I ask him who decides that. His answer is: I do. A quarter of an hour later, the next car comes along, I see to my dismay a Polish number plate. I see him listen to the driver, he shakes his head, his lips do not move. The car turns round and drives back again. The man comes over to me again, he says without a trace of triumphalism: foreigners, I couldn’t understand them. That’s how it is – anyone who can’t be understood won’t get exemption.

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