100% perforations, 200% perspiration

Tax disc problems
Tax disc problems

By Phil Weir

Yep. That’s them to a tee. Toilet paper and the car tax disc.

They are the last two items on the planet that require the owner to rip carefully along a line of perforations if he or she is to stand a sporting chance of making them usable.

Now, I understand why the humble bog roll keeps faith with a primitive tear-on-the-dotted-line modus operandi.

After all, what other papier hygenique delivery system could be manufactured for it? Individual scented tissues in presentation boxes? Palm-sized and folded origami creations fired in your general direction by a machine closely related to a clay pigeon trap shooter?

Or maybe your Russian oligarch-ish coffers stretch to a white-gloved flunkey paid to rip and pass the paper to you, sheet by sheet, through a discrete hatch in your architect-designed cludgie wall: “More leaves, Jeeves; there’s a chum.”

No. For most of the human race, the perforated, one-must-tear-it-oneself-and-be-done-with-it variety of posterior parchment is what we’ll be living and coping with for the forseeable future.But the car tax disc? Give me strength!

I had cause to tax the car again the other day. I handed over over £500 for 12 months’ worth. I know. I hear you. Get a moped. But I love my car, despite its Eek! Ohh! petrol thirst. So I’m resigned to the cost of taxing it. But what I did get for my half a thou? An engraved disc of platinum edged in onyx, to emblazon my windscreen? Alas no, sire. Perhaps a circle of fine durable plastic? Sorry, guv’nor. Perhaps a circle of high-quality paper which peeled with maximum simplicity off a background base, just as modern stamps do? You havin a laff, mate?

What I and all you other drivers out there got/get, was something that looked like it came out of The Ark – a tax disc seemingly designed by the same guy, Dr Cyrus Papyrus, who invented perforated toilet paper.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you. As with toilet paper, so with a tax disc, the latter being a circle of paper that must be freed from a greater square of paper by ripping along an arc-ing line of perforations. But, of course, these perforations, as they have done since time immemorial, act against all known laws of physics and cause the paper to sunder anywhere but along the dotted line.

So back at the Post Office counter I handed over my wad, scuttled off to my car and started the surgery on the disc. From the edge of the square I tore in and reached the perforations. So far so good. I then began to edge around clockwise. At a snail’s pace. Within about three holes, I was heading off course, ripping into the disc itself, then, taking fright, I veered wildly back out into the suburbs of Greater Square Paperville. Then, with a U-turn I was back on the dotted line again, but it was only a brief flirtation with the highway of holes. In no time I’d gone off road again and was plunging into the interior.

Pretty soon, I realised that if I didn’t call a halt I was going to have something shaped like an anorexic shamrock to stick to my windscreen. I also concluded that Michelangelo probably had less trouble 
freeing his statue of David from its block of marble.

I gave up, drove to the house, got a pair of curvy nail scissors, returned to the car, and manicured the disc all the way to its freedom.

Of course, now that the ordeal is over and I’ve upped my medication, I’m much calmer. In fact I’ve even come round to the view that perforations, on occasion, are a good thing.

And to that end, I’m currently seeking out the address of the government ministry that persists in producing tax discs with perforations, and when I find it, and find it I will,I’m going to put a long line of perforations along its no-doubt scrubbed, pillared Regency facade. With a howitzer.