Allow Me Just This One

Having proclaimed that I would not write about my in-laws’ recent excessively lengthy visit, I find I am unable to control myself.

How we came to be on Waterloo Bridge on the hottest day of the year arguing about parking restrictions is a long and irrelevant tale, so I’ll move swiftly on to summarise the context.

London parking restrictions are legendary for their inconsistency and poor public notification.  Should you find you have accidentally transgressed an anti-parking rule, there is no way of knowing in advance the precise nature of the penalty that may befall you.  It may be the comparatively palatable £80 fine.  You might return to your vehicle to find a large yellow lump of metal clamped to its wheel.   If you get things really wrong, you might return to find an empty space where your vehicle once was, and scant notification of where it might now be.  If you can track down your vehicle, it is likely to cost you an amount roughly equal to your weekly salary in order to retrieve it from the sweaty hands of a private contractor with no accountability and no conscience.

If you happen upon something that at first sight appears to be a perfect parking space, that is the time to be especially cautious.  Scan the locality for partially or fully concealed signs, or a lamp-post that looks as though it may once have had a sign attached.   Anything that has a symbol on it instead of words will require reference to the internet to decode.   A misjudgment will result, the moment you step away from your vehicle, in a vampiric warden swooping from an alleyway to suck your bank account dry.

So.  Two cars disgorged four adults, two senior citizens, and two fractious children upon Waterloo Bridge on a Sunday.  Sundays are a special subcategory of parking restriction interpretation.  Sometimes, all restrictions are void and you can tap-dance a fandango with joy.  Sometimes they are in full force.  There is unlikely to be a sign telling you which is which.

In our case there was a sign of particular incoherence and apparent internal self-contradiction.  Google revealed the sign have two possible meanings: you may park here, or you may not park here.   An internet forum of disgruntled parking fine recipients gave similarly indeterminate information.

As every Londoner knows, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.   Parking spaces on Waterloo Bridge (in a cycle lane too), just a staircase from the bustling South Bank, definitely fall into the category of Utopia.  I was busily pointing this out to the non-Londoners among us, and while we were debating the relative likelihood that we would descend into the hell of towed vehicles and public transit home with two septagenarians and two tired and unruly children, a car pulled up behind us to park.

Hm, said someone.  Are they assuming we know what we’re doing? 

Maybe, said someone else.  If they are parking here, maybe they know it’s OK.

Maybe, said my mother-in-law, but are they even British?

 

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3 Responses to “Allow Me Just This One”


  1. 1 Deborah August 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Oh my. Parking rules and restrictions are a pain in the arse but I can’t even imagine trying to figure them out in another country. Now, by any chance is the “large yellow lump of metal clamped to its wheel” called a “Denver Boot” where you live? Apparently the trend of using these devices began in Denver, my hometown, and now they are used everywhere. I’m not sure if the name stuck, though. My apologies. Denver really is a cool place. Too bad this turned out to be one of our biggest contributions to modern culture.

    • 2 Nic @ Life, Smudged. August 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

      Hi Deborah! It’s not called a Denver Boot here – just a ‘wheel clamp’ – and I had no idea they began use in Denver! So, I learned something new today.

      @Jenn: I love that you know how many months of parking karma you’re on. Long may it continue!

  2. 3 Jenn @ Juggling Life August 22, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    If only you had me with you–I am in my 20th month of amazing parking karma.

    There are definitely parts of town I don’t bother with because the parking is just too hard to figure out–though I would say our signs are accurate. But yes, unethical private contractors ply their trade here as well.


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