'Change car park regimes? Yes, we can!

Decades ago, a cousin of mine one evening left his car in a multi-storey car park near a Manchester theatre where the English National Opera Company was soon to start a performance. When my cousin went to get his car to drive home he found a chorus of opera goers doing the same. Quite a few of them had started earlier than him. The car park's one exit, scores of cars, and the helical exit ramp inadequately serving six or more floors meant that getting to the fee kiosk took around half an hour.

When David's turn to pay came he saw that the fee was for over four hours' parking and he knew that his car had only stood three and three quarter hours on the space he was asked to pay for having occupied longer. (More than once, he's described the evening in detail and that point never changes.) David told the car park attendant that he thought the fee asked was mistaken and he said why he did. The attendant adhered to that tradition of British service that, in the seventies and eighties, gave National Car Parks' its unparalleled reputation. David sat in his Volvo - one of those big ones, often built as estate cars - and said something like, "If I'm going to be late because of poor egress [can't be his word but his point] arrangements have delayed my starting the 30-mile drive home then I'm going to pay for the parking I had, no more." Drivers behind the Volvo began to ask what had ended their slow progress. They did so in growing numbers - some with threats, others with offers to 'pay the difference.' David rehearsed his intention, ignored the threats, and declined the offers. The delayed drivers' frustrations grew. Sitting in his kiosk the attendant came to appreciate that it was less strong than the Volvo; he 'phoned for advice and began to negotiate. (Not all traditions are inviolable.) David said if he were given the home telephone number of the area manager for the car park company then he would pay for 'up to four hours' and leave. 'Knowing my cousin, he may have remarked that he'd had time to form a clear memory of the attendant's face. For sure, he got a 'phone number and, to less than happy acclaim, drove off. Home again, about one in the morning, he rang the 'phone number and heard a man whose voice suggested the call had awoken him. David established the man worked managing car parks. He went on to mention that on this night, which they were enjoying, an opera had been performed at the theatre near the car park he had used and he explained that, with many similar users having to pay before they could each drive their car away, to get from the parking spaces to the fee kiosk took long enough to increase parking charges asked. Increases that were, David said, clearly objectionable. The man seemed to think being awoken in the early hours was the same. Certainly, he asked did David know what time it was. David said he did, even mentioned the time, and added that if he had not been so delayed leaving the car park he would not have been 'phoning as he was. The upshot of these delays and alarms was that on opera nights an extra attendant was employed to pencil on each driver's car park tickets the time he, or she, drove from the floor where they had parked the vehicle they drove.

From a 2007 visit to my native country, which I left 27 years ago, and from having there, for 12 days, hired a car, I guess that if anybody, for more than one minute, nowadays halted a queue of cars leaving a city car park he, or she, would risk being thought a terror suspect and becoming subject to detention without charge for interrogation lasting up to 28 days - or is it now 42? (Unlike the Pope, on matters of faith, or car parking agents, on new ways to get more money, I could be wrong*.)

* "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken", is a plea Oliver Cromwell made, on 3rd August 1650, in a letter to the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland. Remembering it when I'm perplexed has often been of use to me; saying it to anybody supremely confident and yet incompetent has helped me, too.


  1. Joey said...
    Your cousin is a real RocknRolla! ;-)
    Hongkonger said...
    That's what's called evolution and you can not forget that the "reason is always with the client."
    Good tale!
    Bloom * Creative Network said...
    Welcome to Bloomland Mr. G.! We hope we can see you here a lot. Feel at home and do what you like. Cheers!
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