Oil Slick

I was confronted in Edinburgh yesterday by one of those ‘green machine’ pavement sweepers. The problem for me – for both of us actually – was that we were in an alley barely wide enough for the machine. Had there been a proper confrontation then the machine would have won – not only was it spraying a cloud of dust-laying water, it was whirling a pair of steel wire scrubbers. I hate to think what they would have done to my new shoes. And to my feet. I smiled at the driver. I was further into the alley than he was, and he had an engine, it was only right that he should reverse. He glared back through his windscreen and backed along the alley. It was done with a degree of reluctance and I guessed he was following a council directive not to destroy too many council tax payers. Either that, or he shouldn’t have been in the alley with his machine.

It reminded me of something I saw the year before last in Edinburgh’s George Street. Someone (perhaps the same guy, who knows?) had filled up the water tank of one of these things with diesel. It was hardly an event to rival BP and the Gulf of Mexico, but it left a slick of scrubbed-in diesel fuel down the pavements of one of the City’s smartest streets.

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