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Cell phones can be useful

Contrary to my recent rant about cell phones, they do come in handy in more than obvious ways.

For instance, more and more parking lots around England allow you to pay your parking fee by calling an automated processing service, so you no longer find yourself in a pickle when you do not have enough coins to feed the ticket machine.

Yesterday, we went to an ice ballet performance of the Beauty and the Beast with our friends Mila and Andrey and their children. The venue was in Reading, only a dozen miles from where the guys live, but a good sixty miles drive from our house. We started on our way well in advance, and made sure we had everything we needed with us for a day out. Except a stash of coins, of course.

When we pulled into a parking lot by the theater, we realized both that it was a regular Pay & Display one and that we had exactly zero coins needed to feed the parking automate. We noticed, however, a sign that suggested that we call a number and pay by credit card, for an entirely negligible convenience fee of 20p.

I dial the number, spell out my license plate, articulate the make and color of my car, punch in the location identification code, the number of hours that I plan to stay, and then my credit card information, and voilá, my parking fee is paid. The procedure takes maybe two minutes, but is as straight-forward as they come.

What’s more, later on, I have to extend my stay at the same parking lot. When I dial the service number, the automated response immediately asks me whether I am calling to extend, rattling off my car’s description, the location, and the time through which I’m currently paid. All I have to do is press ‘1’, then validate security code of my credit card, and I have enough extra hours to last through the restaurant meal. The repeat call takes maybe 30 seconds.

I’m a fan. We should be using this as often as we can.

On a corollary, the ice skating performance was very impressive, with elements of circus interspersed with well-choreographed dances, but some of the emotional sequences were too drawn out and we all – Becky included – wondered how little kids, plenty of whom were sitting in the audience, were able to sit through it all. Kimmy was quite mesmerized, however; her affection for all things figure skating is currently very strong.

Posted in Chronicles, Expat Archive