Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Once upon a time, in the latter half of the 20th century, aided by the work of Alan Turing, a magnificent device was invented. And I'll give you a hint, you're using it right now. Dreams of flying cars aside, here in the 21st century, computers power things. Pretty much everything. If it is vaguely electronic or could be vaguely electronic, there's a chip somewhere doing something. Fear this if you will, but unavoidable, inevitable, blah blah.

In the town of Port Chester, population 28,300, at their train station (a train which, just for those keeping score, uses computers to operate), a person wishing to park for the day is faced with the device pictured above. It is a metal box with tiny numbered slots that you put your money in. Let me repeat that: YOU PUT YOUR MONEY INTO A METAL SLOT. Please also note the "jabber," the metal device you use to wedge the previous bill all the way in the slot before attempting to add another bill. Exact change is a must unless you consider the parking facility a charity in which case, by all means let 'em keep your change.

But I think what gets me is the 4-step instructions. As if there was some confusion as to how this sophisticated device works. The manufacturers of the parking payment box have done market research and determined that you are indeed this stupid. Stupid enough to need instructions for putting wadded up dollar bills into a slot - like no one here has ever been to a strip club before. (Point of information: I have never been to a strip club, but I watch a lot of television.) As I do not work in the lucrative stripping industry myself, I now need to hoard my single dollar bills - I found myself buying a piece of fruit with a fiver just so I could get the four singles I would need for the next day's parking.

What I don't understand is how this device, a legacy of what can only be - no I take that back. I can't imagine any scenario under which this device makes sense. It's so very very primitive and therefore to my mind Soviet. Comrade puts money in slot. Computer operated machines are for decadent westerners.

It also is dangerous in that I doubt anyone even checks the boxes. There are probably thousands of uncollected dollars waiting behind those slots and the powers that be rely on my fear of receiving a $200 ticket for failing to pay a $4 fee to compel me to stick my money into the slot each morning - or at least each morning until I get my permanent parking pass.

I just hope that the inventor of this parking fee collection device is not whiling away his days on a tropical paradise; this really has added nothing to civilization and, if I may, has set us back at least 40 years. Much like its partner-in-crime over at the mall who is a computer but one that doesn't accept credit cards, these relics of a bygone era demonstrate ably why progress, even only for progress's sake is far better than apathy of convenience (ooh, I smell a book title: The Apathy of Convenience - you read it here first).

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