Jonny McCambridge: Multiple problems in the multi-storey

Regular readers may have picked up by now that I can on certain occasions display an irregularity of temperament.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

To be more specific, it does not take a lot for me to exude signs of distress and resulting inexplicable behaviour when I am feeling panicked or under pressure.

Any such symptoms are magnified when I am behind the wheel of my car. For reference, see my previous columns about taking my motor through the MOT or getting a flat battery while at the drive-through cinema.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

To be honest, I could fill several columns with such mishaps. From the time I tried to overcome my fear of driving abroad by renting a car on a remote Greek island, and then promptly crashed it into the side of a mountain, to the occasion when I was trying to find my way out of a car park in Dublin and drove into the middle of the pedestrianised concourse in a shopping centre.

Jonny McCambridge and his battle with multi-storey car parksJonny McCambridge and his battle with multi-storey car parks
Jonny McCambridge and his battle with multi-storey car parks

My unpredictability is enhanced when it comes to multi-storey car parks. Everything about them, it seems, is designed to threaten my mental stability. From the moment the barrier rises, and I drive into one of the harsh concrete structures, I can feel my already strained relationship with rationality becoming more distant. I have a constant fear of getting stuck in them. I can’t shake the feeling that there is not enough space and I am bound to knock off a wing mirror or scratch the paintwork.

On one occasion, in a multi-storey with my son, the key fob on my car failed. When I tried to open the car the old-fashioned way by inserting the key, it set off the burglar alarm which blared incessantly for more than an hour. I called a mechanic. When he finally arrived, his van was too big to gain access to the level I was parked on. Someone reported to the police that an alarm was sounding and a patrol car soon rolled past. I was in quite the state as I tried to explain to the officers that I was not a car thief and that I had not kidnapped my own son. The incident left scars.

Then, there is the ongoing issue of finding my own car when I return to it from shopping. No matter how many times I park in a multi-storey, I never remember to make a mental note of where I have left the vehicle. This has resulted in many long periods with me walking up and down concrete aisles and scratching my head while trying to locate my motor. It is not unknown for me to search on the wrong floor. On one occasion I even went to entirely the wrong car park and was on the verge of reporting the vehicle stolen until I realised my mistake.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sometimes it only takes a little thing to set me off on the wrong track. I am standing at the pay machine on the floor on which I hope I have parked my car. But the automated system is not accepting the small white card I was given when I entered the car park. I try to insert the rectangular piece of cardboard into the thin slot, but it won’t go in. I step aside and a young couple approach the machine.

‘I don’t think that’s working,’ I advise.

They go ahead regardless. The machine accepts their card without complaint. I shrug my shoulders and go to pay at the manned desk. Then I go to find my car. I am on the right storey, but it still takes me the best part of a quarter of an hour to remember where I parked.

I drive to the barrier on the exit lane and try to insert my card. It will not fit in the slot. I try again, and again. I use a little bit of pressure but have to pull back when I see the card beginning to bend. I think about the conundrum for a second before trying to insert the card again. It still does not work.

I press the help button. There is a low, crackling sound.

‘Hello? Hello?’, I say.

There is no response, just more crackling.

Then I have an idea. There are two lanes of exit in this car park. It seems like a plausible hypothesis to me that even though the card did not work in the pay machine, and did not work at this exit lane, that it may well work in the other exit lane. It’s the best I can come up with.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

So, I begin to reverse. This manoeuvre is going well until another car drives up behind. I notice in my rear-view mirror that it is the same young couple from the pay machine. The driver waves an arm at me. I wave one back, trying to signify that I am trying to reverse. Eventually, he begins to reverse too, which results in the car which had driven up behind him also having to reverse.

Mercifully, I get back far enough that I can pull my car into the other exit lane. I slide my window down and try to insert the card into the new machine. It does not work here either. I begin to panic and try to force it. The card slips from my fingers and glides slowly to the ground like a leaf falling from a tree. It goes underneath my car.

I have to retrieve the card, so I hurriedly try to open the door. There is an ugly thud as the side of the door crashes against the metal safety barrier which is there to stop foolish people from trying to open the door. I have to reverse a little to make enough room so I can get out.

I am on my knees, and then flat on my stomach, as I search on the cold and grimy concrete for the missing card. I can’t see anything in the dark under the motor and my hand is blindly rolling along the rough surface. I can feel something wet against the side of my face. Eventually, I locate the card.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I haul myself upright and notice that there are now several cars queuing behind me. I wave at the drivers cheerfully, attempting to portray that all is well, and hold the little card up in triumph.

My face darkens again as I get back behind the wheel. I try to insert the card again. It does not work. I try to push the help button. It does not work. Behind me there is an angry blast of a horn. I offer up a silent prayer to anyone who will listen.

‘Please, please, please, please….just work.’

I take a moment before trying to insert the card again. There is some resistance before it finally slides into the machine. The barrier rises. As I begin to drive off, I notice the electronic window on the card machine is displaying the message ‘Have a nice day!’ I grip the steering wheel tightly.

Related topics: