My sister arrived at Wellington airport last week to help me celebrate my birthday. We hugged and kissed and gossiped all the way to the machine where you pay for your parking. We laughed at our attempts to put one note after another into the slot to find we were putting it in the wrong one. Out came the change when we finally got it right and I made sure we scooped that up and on we went chatting to the car, wheelie bag in hand, delighted to see each other, when…
‘Oh crap, the ticket!’ I said, dread coursing through me colder than the wind (and it WAS cold). I rushed helplessly and hopefully to the machine to see if the ticket by any miracle of a benevolent God was still there. But all I saw was a happy smiling guy walking away from it, looking like he couldn’t believe his $3 luck. My sister laughed, but I didn’t, because this could only mean one awful thing.; a trip to the ticket booth, and a conversation with the duty manager ensconced within.
Walking to the booth has much the same feeling as walking to the gallows after committing a heinous crime. It doesn’t matter that you have paid your parking fee, you are presumed guilty before you start; your head is full of how you will hold yourself, the tone of voice you will use, the smiles and puppy dog eyes you might employ to have them pity you and raise that barrier arm. I might have done fairly well with that strategy, except my sister accompanied me, and well, she’d had a long hard week in the corporate world and was in no mood to be jerked around. There were two people in the booth; a long lean studenty sort of lad and a small spikey woman in a puffer jacket perched on a stool looking like she’d spent her shift plotting how to have her husband whacked for his adultery. I think she’d got to figuring out the hit man rate when we arrived.
It went like this:
Me: (smiling and looking sheepish) Hi, I’ve done a silly thing- I paid for my parking ticket two minutes ago and I think I left it in the machine.’
Studenty Lad: So what actually happened?
Sister: We tried to put the money in the machine and there’s no clear slot for it!
Studenty Lad: so you tried to put the money in?
Me: Yes, we were confused at first, but we finally found the right slot and paid $3
Sister: And it didn’t give us a ticket!
Me: Well it might have but we didn’t see it come out; we were busy chatting...
Spikey Puffer: (fast and nasty) Well there’ll be a missing ticket charge then (btw this is around $30)
Me: (smile falls) But we paid already! I can’t afford that- my husband’s been out of work for over a year and I have none either! We are broke! (giving her more info than she needs and suddenly aware of the very nice jacket I was wearing that I bought in a sale 2 years ago but how was she to know that it wasn’t this year’s full priced one)
Sister: (hands on hips) And I’ve come all the way from Auckland for her birthday and we don’t need this!
Studenty Boy: Look, we’ll just see if…
Spikey Puffer: They’ll need to pay.
Sister: Bloody Hell!
Spikey Puffer: Don’t you swear at me!
Studenty Lad: (to Spikey) Shut up!
Spikey Puffer: (ignoring him) It will teach them to be more careful.
Sister: We just want to get to her birthday dinner (which was at home cooked by my son not at Martin Bosley’s but how would Spikey Puffer know that?) and now you are just being bloody vindictive.
Spikey Puffer: You keep swearing at me and I’ll keep you here all night.
Studenty Lad: You paid you say?
Me & Sister: Yes! We told you that. We just left the ticket by mistake.
Spikey Puffer:Thats what happens when you aren't being careful.
Me: (now indignant) Look, I come to this airport heaps to pick up people- I made a mistake one time, I know how to be careful. Don’t treat me like a child!
Sister: (nostrils flaring) Yeah, where’s your bloody compassion?
Almost scuffle as Spikey Puffer and sister start towards the barred glass partition ready to tear each other from limb to limb. Studenty Lad bravely places himself between them.
Studenty Lad: Let’s have a look on the monitor, 5 minutes ago did you say?
And up comes video tape of everyone who had paid at the machine in the last day- scrolls through and finds us laughing over putting the money in the wrong slot and the eureka moment when we put in the right one.
Studenty Lad: O.K, so clearly you paid, so I can give you a new ticket. Here you go, and have a lovely birthday.
Me & Sister: Thankyou, YOU have been most helpful (daggers looks at Spikey) Have a good evening.
Spikey Puffer: And next time, be more careful.
If I hadn’t wanted to get away for my birthday dinner, I would have reached through that booth…