Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Oh, Happy Day . . .

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.



Richard Mason said...

I say we leapfrog Croatian technology and automatically charge you for exactly how long you were parked, regardless of whether you remembered to use your cell phone at the two-hour mark or not.

Some municipalities may need to be coaxed out of a predatory model in which they want you to run out of time on your meter so they can hit you with a fine. Where I live, parking meters typically have a maximum time limit and you're theoretically not supposed to feed the meter past that point (whether by cell phone or in person).

Skeletor Dongle said...

Quite a few U.S. cities have adopted this technology over the past few years: Redwood City, CA; Riverside, CA, Coral Gables, FL, Houston, San Francisco, Las Vegas... to name a few.

Even better is when meters can be dynamically adjusted to market demand so that there are always 10% or so spaces available. That cuts down on traffic congestion and pollution enormously. Google Donald Shoup for words of wisdom from the parking guru.

Ire said...

apparently the Zagreb Parking company invented this way of paying for the parking ... go figure :)

Irena from Zagreb

rant said...

Yeah, and apparently Zagreb Parking bought it from two Zagreb guys and than spread it all around. There is a time limit in Zagreb as well, depending on where you park, but if you are in a 3 hour zone, for instance, you can prolong it at your leisure. ;) Mihaela