I'm away from my computer -- at Denvention, where (I'm here to tell you this never grows old) I'm up for the Hugo -- so I thought I'd leave you guys with a small reminiscence about that moment in Zagreb when I felt my pride in American technology crumble. My son, Sean, can post it for me on Friday.
Marianne and I were sitting at a table in a sidewalk cafe with our friends, Petra, Mihaela, and Vlatko. Coffee, wine, or an extravagant dish of ice cream may have been involved. In Zagreb, you're not so much buying something to eat or drink as renting the table for the afternoon. We'd been talking for hours and were prepared to continue for hours more when Vlatko suddenly turned pale. "How long have we been here?" he asked. "I only put enough money in the parking meter for two hours!"
Vlatko whipped out his cell phone, dialed up his parking meter, punched in the numbers for his credit car, and bought two more hours. Then he leaned back in his chair and reached for his coffee.
Okay, I understand how this happened. Back when Croatia was a part of Yugoslavia, there were far fewer cars and no parking meters. So when the meters went in, they were state-of-the-art. It makes perfect sense.
Still. Every now and then, when I'm in a restaurant, keeping an eye on the time, or forced to pay for a parking garage because a movie's going to run for more than two hours, I can't help but yearn for that happy day when Croatian technology finally reaches the United States.