Whoever invented parking machines should be hung, drawn and quartered.
I didn’t always have an issue with them really, at least not locally, as they were simple affairs that required you to produce a ticket, be advised of the charge, and insert a few coins that guaranteed you and your car would be released. Since then, they’ve evolved.
The first indication they could be problematic was some years ago, when notes were first involved. “This can’t be too bad,” I thought, “just select a note that covers the value of the outrageous charge and Bob’s your uncle.” I did as requested, inserted the note into the machine and Bob, in this instance, clearly decided he was no relation at all as every note I inserted spat straight back out again.
After several iterations, a kind man offered to pay for my parking. Wow, I thought, the age of chivalry is not dead after all. But no… has anyone else experienced parking machines as a modern-day pick-up spot?
Fast forward several months and I’m beating a hasty retreat from a shopping centre via a new, and infinitely more complex parking machine, while at the same time having an in-depth discussion with my daughter. A case of female multi-tasking, however, in this instance it wasn’t working too well.
I was jabbering away while at the same time trying to ram the required note into the machine. The machine meanwhile was not being compliant, as I continued shoving the note into the hole with the idea that at some point it would grab it and produce the card that would secure my freedom.
Next thing, an arm reached between the 2 of us, took the note and put it into an entirely different hole. Jabbering stopped, 2 pairs of eyes swiveled around in amazement as the machine slickly grabbed the note, threw out some coins and delivered the get-out-of-jail-free card.
That was it, the defining moment. The point at which the machine had the upper hand and I was forever destined to fumble in its presence.
Roll on to a first ‘date’, which was all going swimmingly I thought until it was time to leave. Ever the gentleman my ‘date’ accompanied me to the parking machine. Terror struck my heart as I realised this was the self-same machine that had got the better of me previously. I gazed at it like a rabbit caught in the headlights and saw multiple holes, any one of which might be the right one. In my panic, I didn’t even notice the little pictures that might have narrowed my choice.
A brief glance at the ‘date’ indicated that my panic had been noted… indeed a look of puzzlement was flitting across his face. Looking first at the machine then back at me, his puzzlement swiftly turned to confusion as he saw no reason for my horror. Beads of sweat were popping out of my forehead as I tried to bury my face in my bag and talk myself out of running away, while at the same time pretending to look for money. Glancing up I saw his confusion turn to shock as he realised I was talking to myself with my head buried in my bag.
“Is everything ok?” he asked cautiously, taking a few steps back… I suppose to make good his escape if it came to that. “Yes, yes, all fine,” I jabbered, while at the same time yanking a note from my bag and shoving at the first likely looking hole.
I wanted to fall to my knees and kiss the machine when it swiftly grabbed my note and spat out the parking ticket. Fortunately, sanity prevailed and I managed to keep on my feet while bobbing my head deliriously. Mouthing my goodbyes, I beat a hasty retreat while making a conscious note never to darken the portals of this shopping centre ever again.