Monday, August 10, 2009

At the Airport Ticket Barrier

I mentioned a few weeks ago how Leeds-Bradford International Airport had put into place a new parking system, where you only got five minutes to drop off your passengers before the airport started charging you for the privilege.

So you had to speed in through the barrier (taking a ticket as you revved the engine) screech up to the drop-off point, open the car door, push your eighty-five year old mother out onto the tarmac, throw her case after her and zoom off to the barrier, weaving in and out of any slower cars on the way, to get there at about four minutes fifty seconds, giving you just time to stick your ticket in the machine so it would let you out without charging.

After a week or two of squashed suitcases, crushed cars and mangled corpses they graciously extended the time to ten minutes and I for one admire their thoughtfulness and generosity.

They haven't changed the barrier on the way out though.

Now, I admit it, I am short. Five feet four. Little short legs. Crucially, little short arms.

On the way out of many car parks, there is a machine that you have to put your ticket into, in order to raise the barrier.

Now then. Because I am short, when I am sitting in the car, I can never reach it.

The machine at Leeds-Bradford International Airport is higher than most. In fact, the top of it is usually hidden by clouds. Eagles circle round it. The maintenance engineers who come to mend it need to use oxygen.

So I can't reach it from the car, okay?

I drew up to the barrier today, having dropped my brother off for his trip back to Amsterdam, and I couldn't reach it. So I tried to open the car door to get out, but the lane is too narrow for such things. So I stretched up as high as I possibly could, nearly climbing out of the window, and just managed to put the ticket in the slot.

Then a gust of wind caught the ticket, and it blew away.

So I signalled to all the cars behind me to move back, and then I backed out carefully and with incredible slowness - - the kind of slowness that only a woman driver with years of practice in Incredibly Annoying Slow Manoeuvring can accomplish - - and I parked the car nearby and started looking for my ticket.

And I found it in some nearby undergrowth! It had to be mine, since you can't get out without a ticket. So I joined the queue of cars, and when they'd all got through the barrier I got into the line again, and I left my car just a little bit back from the barrier so I could get out and walk to the machine, and I put my ticket in the slot and it said - - that'll be £96 please.

So I realised that this was not in fact my ticket - - it was some other vertically-challenged person's blown-away ticket. So I repeated the whole telling-the-queue-behind-me-to-back thing, and parked the car nearby, and watched in shame as the driver behind me - who had not understood my Don't Use This Barrier frantic waving - tried to get out of the car park, and found that it was asking him for £96, and called the Machine Man, who was mystified but let him out.

And then I found my ticket on the ground - - and this time surely it HAD to be mine! - - so I tried this ticket - - and it asked me for £96, please, AGAIN, because lo! it was not my ticket.

So I signalled to all the cars behind me to move back - - and I backed out carefully and with incredible slowness - - - oh, look, I think you've got the picture - - . And then I looked a bit more carefully and found four more blown-away tickets in the nearby undergrowth. And this time, the driver behind me had more sense and used the other barrier. And now Leeds-Bradford International Airport only had one working barrier, and a queue was building up nicely.

So then I drove up to the first barrier, and called Machine Man over.

"My ticket has blown away," I explained dramatically, "because I am too short to reach your machine! So I cannot leave the car park. I have found a ticket, but it is the wrong one, and your very high machine is trying to charge me £96, which I do not plan to pay."

He looked at me blankly.

"Well, you need to go up to the terminal building - - "

"Perhaps," I said sweetly, "but if I do then my ten minutes will have expired and they will try to charge me, and it is not my fault, because the ticket machine is too high. Look, a Jumbo Jet has just swerved to miss the top of it."

He looked at me blankly.

"And, further," I said, "I have four more tickets and one of them might just be mine. Shall I try them, one after the other?"

He opened the barrier and let me out.

On the plus side, if the CCTV footage ever makes it onto Youtube I expect that many people will find it most entertaining.


Blogger Silverback said...

If anyone....ANYONE....else told that story, I'd call them a jolly big fibber.

But knowing you're a short arse and a woman driver to boot (not literally) and have seen you in action, so to speak, I believe every word of it.

Except for the reversing bit. YOU ? Reversing ? Oh no, I'm not 'avin' it. You'll be telling us next that people landed on the moon !

7:14 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Like water dripping onto a rock, you wore that Machine Man down.

This was my laugh for the day! Oh, and congratulations for beating the system!

7:37 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Silverback - - yes, I am afraid it was all entirely true, and I expect the CCTV exists to prove it: they're probably sobbing over it at this very moment. And I CAN reverse, oh yes. Just very, very, very slowly. I can find fourth gear, too, I'll have you know. Sometimes.
Bob - I'm glad you enjoyed it. I have no plans to drive in Georgia, you'll be pleased to know.

7:47 pm  
Blogger Jennytc said...

Good on you for beating the system, Daphne! Are you really going to let Silverback get away with all that male chauvinist pig stuff???

9:35 pm  
Anonymous Milo said...

LOL, I shouldn't laugh but you do have a way of telling these stories. I'm just imagining you asking the cars to move back so you can reverse!

Car parks seem to create serious amounts of stress.

11:41 pm  
Blogger WendyCarole said...

Sorry but i was giggling so much by the end of your tale.

If we saw it in a sit com we would thik how ridiculous.

Thanks for cheering m eup

9:44 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

Jenny - it's not actually that Silverback is a male chauvinist - - more that he's witnessed me driving a motor vehicle - -
Milo - car parks ARE stressful but on this occasion I was just "Well, this isn't my fault, they'll just have to sort it."
WendyCarole - yes, I think much of my life is too unbelievable to be in a sitcom!

10:00 am  
Blogger David said...

We have the same drop off system at Auckland, but thankfully no automatic ticket barrier. They are manned.

10:28 pm  

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