Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Inconvenient convenience

There are a number of new inventions and such designed to make our lives easier. More often than not, they do just that. Want to check your bank account balance at 3:17 am? No problem! They have online banking! Want to buy tickets for that movie without standing in line out in the elements? No problem! Buy and print your own tickets at home! And so on and so on.

And then there are things that are good in theory, yet. . .

My mom, sister and her boyfriend flew into town recently. I had parked the car in one of those "press here to get a ticket" type garages at the airport. It turns out that their flight was on the far end of the terminal, so we figured they would stay there and I'd hoof it back to the car, leave, and then pick them up at the curb.

There are signs everywhere reminding you to take the ticket you got when you parked. Why? Because they had these automated machines inside the terminal where you could pay, get a receipt, and then when you drive out, you just insert the receipt into another machine, and tada!--the gate will open for you. No waiting in line behind other cars as the people rummage through their ash tray for coins. No more having to deal with rude and indifferent employees at the toll booth. (Note: to be fair, not all workers are like that). It’s a great idea!

Unless something goes wrong with the machines.

Which is exactly what happened to me.

I inserted my ticket. It then asked me to insert my debit or credit card (so it could charge me the grand total of $1.00). After I put in my card, it gave me an error message and it spit out the card with such fury that it nearly cut me in two. OK, maybe I'm a bit over dramatic about it, but still, it fired it out pretty quickly.

I tried to put back, but by that time, it said "please insert ticket". I had inserted my ticket--it was in the machine, but I didn't have a receipt. So, after looking over the machine for options, I hit the "cancel" button. Nothin'. I tried it again. Still nothin'. Of course, there weren't any employees anywhere close by.

Hello! What’s this? A small "help" button off to the side. So, I press this "help" button, in hopes of getting just that. After a moment, a voice from the machine says, "Can I help you?" (I almost got snippy and said, "I don't know, can you?" But I was nice.) "Yes, the machine ate my ticket." The response? A six or seven step set of instructions which resulted in me pressing the cancel button. Once I figured out that is what they were going to have me try, I explained I had already attempted that action.

They had me try it again, none-the-less, which I did. Still, no ticket. I was starting to feel like I'd have better luck finding a golden ticket in a candy bar wrapper. Finally the voice said, "We'll send someone right down."

15 minutes went by. I pushed the help button again. No answer. I pressed the cancel button again. Still nothin'. Finally, I got fed up and went to my car. I had family waiting at the other end of the terminal after all!

I get to the gate where you are supposed to put in your receipt. Again, I lacked one of those. On the far end were two lanes that said, "Assistance". So I went there. What does the less than enthusiastic worker there ask me? "Where is your receipt?"

"I don't have one."

"Where is your ticket?"

"It was eaten by the machine."

"Did you try and press the cancel button?"

"Yes. It didn't work."

"Did you try and press the help button?"

"Yes, and they said help was coming, but no one came."

She looked at me blankly. After a moment she asked, "How are you supposed to pay me if you don't have a ticket?"

I counted to 10, then to 11 just to be safe, and said, "I wasn't here long. The machine said I owed a dollar. May I please just give you the dollar so I can go get my family?"

"I'm going to have to call my supervisor."

So, she shut her window, made a call, and then sat there, looking at her cash register. She didn't even look over at me. Several minutes passed and then a man walked out of a side building and over to me.

"Where's your ticket?" he asks me.

Through what must have been gritted teeth, I told him.

"Hmmm. Did you try hitting the cancel button?" he asks.

(This next part has been edited to keep you from thinking bad things of me)

In the end, they got the maintenance man to open the machine, remove my ticket, and drive it out to me at the gate, but not before they had me back up to allow them to "assist" other people.

I finally was allowed to pay my $1.00 so I could leave. As I drove out, there was a sign that read, "Paying for parking is now more convenient than ever!"

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