I work near The Square, the shopping centre in Tallaght, which has a parking problem. This means that people who work in the vicinity of The Square, or who want to get a bus into town, or who travel on the LUAS tram, tend to use the free car park as a park and ride facility, occupying parking space that might otherwise be used by, say, ten shoppers over the course of the day.
The management of The Square is understandably miffed by this, as it has a real effect on the retailers who are its tenants. So a few years ago they put up signs which threatened clamping for vehicles which over-stayed their welcome. When this didn't work, they hired a number of parking attendants from a company specialising in the area of car parking problems. Their strategy has been refined in recent times to guarding the entrance gates to the car-parks and questioning each visitor who enters to find out their intentions.
Each morning, I am dropped off by Herself in the car-park of The Square and (except when she decides to go into the centre and buy something) she will generally drive off again immediately and go to work. As our consciences are clear in respect of nuisance parking, we have adopted an attitude of righteous indignation each morning when stopped:
"Good morning. Where are you going?" one man in bright orange asks Herself through her rolled-down window.
"Thank you. Have a nice day."
On another morning, we are asked:
"Excuse me. Are you going to The Square?"
"Yes. Yes we are."
"Go ahead then."
Driving on, she says to me:
"Bloody stupid question..."
We wonder what how much hardened parkers are discouraged by this soft-touch approach. Do they blurt out,
"Well, actually I was planning to park as near to the LUAS as possible, pay €5 to ride up and down on it all day, then return at five minutes to nine tonight and drive off from my free parking space. But now you've mentioned it, I'll just reverse out the gate, shall I?"
A couple of weeks ago, I was persuaded it was vitally necessary to visit a shop in The Square in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. As this flew in the face of 1) my unwillingness, as a man, to get off my armchair on any given Sunday for any given job, and, 2) the [man] logic of knowing that The Square, of all places, was NOT a good place to visit on any given Sunday what with crowds of shoppers, hoards of kids, (some even without wheels in their footwear), and blind-driving shopping trolleys, I was not in the best of humour to begin with. We joined the lines of cars entering the inner network of feeder roads in the centre. Up ahead was a man in an orange suit. Our weekday indignation arose unbidden.
"Use the indoor car park," he said.
"Yeah. Sure. No problem," we said as we turned LEFT, not RIGHT, and metaphorically socked car-park tyranny one in the eyeball.
We climbed up to the second level, oblivious to the lines of cars descending, their drivers looking about in frustration. There were parking places, we knew it! All it took was a little patience.
Herself stood on the brake pedal. We craned our necks along the lines of cars pulled in neatly among the painted lines on the tarmac. There were other lines, pulled half up on the footpaths, crammed onto islands on corners, even one resting under a bush in the shrubbery.
Bright reversing lights switched on and a woman in a mock utility vehicle backed in purposefully into the space.
"Blast! Those wans think they own the roads in them yokes."
"Yeah. Who do they think they are? Don't they know WE want to park there?"
A man came across the car park, nervously pushing a trolley full of shopping. He had the air of a lone zebra sniffing out a waterhole which he knew was surrounded by lions. Three cars whizzed in from three different angles, their drivers smiling encouragingly at him. He went to a space, opened a car door and began piling in groceries. Two of the three cars moved off as the fittest predator pulled in smoothly into the vacated space.
"How much petrol do we have?"
"We could be here a while."
We orbited the main car park for another ten minutes without success, then, inevitably, joined the stream of cars going back downhill to Level 1. The little orange-coloured man didn't wave at us or anything as we went by him and we climbed up the concrete ramps into the indoor car park. Lots of little screeches, whiplash, eye-straining later, we had found a spot.
"Should have listened to him in the first place," I said.
"Just. Don't. Start."
Ah, Joy to the World!
Now, have you ever tried to find a free shopping trolley on a Sunday....?