I had to drive into Brighton today, and after a search to find a space, found one in William Street, by the Law Courts. But where were the meters? Uh-oh. They'd been taken away. It was exclusively 'parking by phone' now in this particular street.
But that's OK, I thought. I'd already configured the PayByPhone app on my phone. This had needed the registration number of my car, and my credit card details. The app was set up, and ready to be used. I simply had to fire it up and follow the on-screen instructions! It would be the first time I'd paid for parking by phone.
And do you know, it worked. All I had to do was enter the five-digit location number for the row of parking spaces I was using, check that the location and registration number of my car (both automatically shown on screen) were both correct, enter the parking time needed (two hours, the maximum allowed), and then enter the security code for my credit card. An email showing what I'd bought followed almost instantly. It amounted to an on-screen electronic receipt that I could show to anyone interested. I also saw that for this 'convenient service' I'd been charged 10p by PayByPhone, so that my '£2.00' parking space actually cost me £2.10. But hey, what's 10p?
I was now free to walk away to the shops. But I wasn't quite easy. Because of course there was no paper ticket to display. Any Parking Officer that came along after I'd gone ought to be be thinking 'PaybyPhone only here - I'll check my handset to see whether the owner of this car is legally parked'. Well, some of these officers are joyous, pleasant people just doing an unpopular job as well as they possibly can. They'd be conscientious, and check thoroughly before assuming any parking offence. Exemplary citizens.
But others are vicious, predatory sharks with razor-sharp, blood-stained teeth, who see life through a red mist. Poor Fiona might attract the latter. Would they check? Or, triggered by the lack of any visible evidence of payment, just issue a Penalty Notice? Could they restrain their savage instincts? I felt they could not.
So I got out a pen, found a scrap of paper, and wrote 'I have paid by phone' on it, then left it on Fiona's dashboard. It didn't look very convincing, but it was something. A reasonable shark (who could read) might hesitate, might close his gaping maw, and do the right thing. I decided to chance it.
One hour and forty minutes later I returned, and with profound relief saw that no Penalty Notice had been affixed to either of my windscreen wipers. Phew. A literate and forbearing shark had come and gone without inflicting pain. Perhaps he'd made enough kills already that day, and was sated.
Back home, I considered this lack of a paper ticket further. It really did seem a good idea to create an eye-catching card that I could display prominently in Fiona's windscreen. So tonight I have made this:
It's in red, because that's the colour of gore, and a shark will naturally give it attention. It's for them. Ordinary, benign, sensible, calypso-loving Parking Officers will smile and regard it as superfluous.
Even this may not prevent an incorrectly-issued, knee-jerk, red-mist Penalty Notice that I will have to appeal against at some personal trouble. But what more can I do?
I hope the god that protects out-of-town parking persons is fully on the job.