2 December 2010

Causing Havoc in Tourrettes

Tan - my neighbour and friend
It was Tan’s birthday lunch in the village on Sunday and a very good time we all had, that was until we tried to leave the car park. In a gesture of amazing generosity, I grabbed Tan’s car park ticket and said I’d pay for it – all of €1.50!

Now I’ve not paid a parking ticket in our village square for a couple of years because I usually travel in on my scooter which I can literally park anywhere and whenever I have been in the car park, it’s been with J and she pays.

So I head up to the Caisse (pay machine) and see another couple heading in the same direction. I don’t want us all to be delayed as this other couple fight about who’s going to pay and then empty the contents of her handbag looking for first the ticket and then the cash to pay, so I quicken my pace and put Tan’s ticket in the slot. The fee, as expected, is €1.50.

I’ve only got notes and the machine spills out loads of coins in change so I stick my bank card in the slot and then I hear an audible gasp behind me. The machine immediately lit up with ‘hors service’ in large letters – it seems I’ve put my bank card in the parking ticket slot instead of the bank card slot.

I don’t think this is a major problem so I press the ‘return’ button to get my card back and the machine makes some clicking noises but no card appears.

There’s a ‘contact’ button which connects you to the person who looks after the car park so I press that and as I start to speak into the intercom, I notice that there’s quite a queue forming behind me. They all have something to say, probably most of it non-complimentary but I just keep saying ‘desolee’ (sorry).

The queue was getting longer by the minute .....
It’s not very warm out and the rain isn’t far away and there’s only so many people who can huddle in the Caisse so there’s lots of shuffling of feet and then after about a 5 minute delay, a man in his twenties appears. He’s not very happy that his Sunday afternoon has been disturbed but he opens the machine and after a few minutes manages to extract my card.

As he hands it back to me he points to an A4 sign on the front of the machine with arrows showing which slot to put bank cards into. I’m not too happy myself so I tell him where to stick his sign – 6 inches higher so that people like me are left in no doubt where to put the cards (most car parks take both the parking ticket and the payment card into the same slot).

He goes off and there’s more shuffling of feet as there’s an expectation that we’ll all be back in our cars in a minute or so but then I get a tap on my shoulder and it’s an extremely attractive Belgian lady I know saying she hasn’t seen me for ages. I’m momentarily non-plussed as I try and say hello, give and receive a peck on both cheeks and tap in my pin code. ‘Incorrect code’. I try it again as Isobel continues to chat to me. Incorrect code – last attempt’!! I’m in a bit of a panic now as I have one last try at my pin code and Isobel is still holding onto my arm and laughing and joking. If I get it wrong a third time, the machine will 'eat' my card and then the guy will have to come back again - wouldn't that be a laugh - not!

The queue is now even more upset as word of my pin code predicament filters back amongst their numbers so I turn away from Isobel, get my head back into gear (she is VERY attractive) and type in four more digits – success! My card pops out and a paid for parking ticket.

I’m sure I heard a small cheer behind and a few grumbles about ‘les Anglais’ but I’m not too worried – as long as we get back to Tan’s for the Spurs game, that’s all that matters.          

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