164. Parking Ticket

PLEASE INSERT YOUR PARKING TICKET

The monotone, electronic voice bellowed from the little speaker on the machine as a helpful display showed a card being inserted into a slot, bar codes facing upwards. Beneath the display, a flashing green arrow pointed towards a slot just wide enough for a card to fit through.

PLEASE INSERT YOUR PARKING TICKET

“Yes, yes; I know,” Martin said, annoyed, struggling with his wallet. Where did he put that bloody ticket?

There was a loud sigh that came from behind him, and Martin saw a little old lady tapping her umbrella against the ground impatiently, frowning off to one side, as though her sigh wasn’t directed at him. He turned his attention back to his wallet. Mary always reminded him to keep his parking tickets in the same place, so he’d know where to find them every time. He never listened.

PLEASE INSERT YOUR PARKING TICKET

“Oh, shut up!” he snapped at the machine, and a passing couple gave him a startled look. It’s fine, Martin. Keep calm. Look for the ticket. It must be in here somewhere. Tickets don’t just magically vanish.

Maybe he had dropped it?

He groaned at the thought of having to pay the lost ticket fee.

Another loud sigh – louder than the last – came from the lady. Martin turned to face her. “I’m sorry, can I help you?” he asked, irritated.

She rolled her eyes at him. “Don’t mind me,” she said with a look of contempt. “Carry on.”

PLEASE INSERT YOUR PARKING TICKET

“I know, I know!” Martin almost shouted at the machine, his patience wearing dangerously thin. In his head, he was already crafting a strongly-worded letter to the management of the shopping complex and the creators of the machine. He reached for his mobile phone to call Mary-

Phone.

Martin pulled it out of his trouser pocket and nearly ripped the protective casing off as he pried it from the phone. There it was. The little card with a magnetic strip down one side, and the mall’s name on the top side. He hastily inserted the ticket into the machine, and fumbled with his phone for a little as he tried to put the protective casing back on.

PLEASE PAY THE AMOUNT

“OH, SOD YOU!” he yelled, and from the edge of his vision, he saw the lady behind him back away a little bit. Martin clumsily jammed both mobile phone and casing into his pocket and opened his wallet again. The display now showed coins going into a vertical slot, and the amount displayed was a total of 5 pounds. Martin stared at the screen in disbelief.

“Five??” his voice rose, verging on rage. “I was here for… for barely two hours! You’re going to charge me five pounds for that??”

PLEASE PAY THE AMOUNT

He shook his fists at the machine, and then angrily tore a fiver out of his wallet and fed it into another horizontal slot, this one below the slot for the ticket, which also had a flashing green arrow pointed at it. The note went in-

And it came back out.

“Bloody hell!”

Martin took the fiver, flipped it around, and fed it into the machine again. The display showed that his payment went through, and out came his parking ticket from the slot it went in.

PLEASE COLLECT YOUR PARKING TICKET

“SHUT UP!” he screamed at the machine, and stormed off, cursing as he went. The little old lady stepped up to the machine, watching Martin as he left. She looked at the ticket that he didn’t collect.

PLEASE COLLECT YOUR PARKING TICKET

“If you insist,” she said, taking the ticket, and then hurrying away.

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