Pay and Dismay
A lot of our car parks and on street car parking are what is called ‘pay and display’. You park your car, go to a pay and display machine, pay for however long you might like to stop and stick the printed ticket on display on your dashboard. Simple isn’t it? Well in theory perhaps. The operational side is a bit; well how should I put it, more complicated. Life would be far easier if the machines themselves were;
a) Better built and designed
b) Not quite so old and knackered
Furthermore, their state of decrepitude would not be so acute if they were not routinely subject to;
1) Coin of the realm so battered that it looks as though it has recently passed
through a black hole
2) Repeatedly being struck by members of the public who think that hitting the outer casing of a machine can actually ‘fix’ a mechanical fault
3) Superglue (Or other foreign matter - Euww) in the coin slots
4) Attempted break ins
5) Ham fisted attempts to ‘fix’ problems by Officers who were never taught how
to do it properly in the first place
6) Being hit by someone’s shiny pride and joy at speed
7) Rain, hail, sleet, snow, sunlight and next doors cat
All the aforementioned being taken into consideration, you can quite safely bet your twinkling little booties that at least one of the machines on your beat will be hors de combat when you begin your shift. If it’s a really bad day you can find yourself dealing with whole streets and car parks being out of order. Such bad days are not that uncommon.
The worst bit is that everyone wants these machines fixed right now because they are very busy and haven’t the time to wait five minutes until you can get all the way across town on foot.
Once upon a time when we had a full crew, this would be within the realms of possibility. Member of Public or Officer would put in a call, Supervisor would leap in his van and bimble across town to the fault location and everything would get done inside five minutes. Result, machine would be fixed and happy (Well not quite so unhappy) customer would be sent on their way rejoicing (Or at least not complaining quite so much).
A routine call would go like this;
A mobile phone rings and a beat officer (Me) answers; “Good day, Parking Department, how can I help you?”
Member of public; “Your machines broken.”
515; “Which machine is this sir / madam?”
Member of public; “I don’t know.”
515; “Okay, which car park are you in?”
Member of public; “Erm, the one just after the traffic lights on the right. Come quickly, your machine’s broken.”
515; “Which traffic lights?” We have several; it’s a very cosmopolitan town.
Member of public; “I dunno. Your machines taken all my money.” Call the Police! It’s a crime wave!
515; “Is there a number on the machine?”
Member of public; “I don’t know, I’m not in the car park any more.”
515; “Okay, where are you now?”
Member of public; “I’m in Marks and Spencer.”
515; “Are you parked anywhere near there?” Give me a clue – please.
Member of public; “No, your machine’s taken all my money and it didn’t give me a ticket.”
515; “Was it in a multi-storey?” Here we go, twenty questions time.
Member of public; “No.”
515; “Which was the closest shop to it?”
Member of public; “It’s up by the bus station. By the traffic lights. You know.” News to me. Wish I did. Well that narrows it down to two.
515; “Right, I’ll exempt your vehicle until we can get the fault fixed. Do you know the registration?”
Member of public; “No! This isn’t good enough. I’m making a complaint!” Line goes dead. Oh God. Arse map their without a can’t find.
And they’re going to let people like this use credit cards and text messaging to pay for parking? Well there’s an accident waiting to happen.
Hi-ho, all this and no sodding body armour. Especially for the poor sods who work in London. My sympathies to this poor guy in particular. You know what really pisses me off? He’ll be forgotten long before the current media frenzy ends over a spoilt rich kid who just did a little well deserved time for pissing on the law. Makes me want to spit.