When a pound just isn’t the ticket...

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’s WORLD: By John Ward

I knew it was looking like being an educational day from the word go or if you prefer, start. The call on the mobile was how I like them - no woffle about claiming for this, that and anything to do with the other, asking for three pounds a month to ‘adopt an aardvark’ or want my opinion about the sink plunger I brought recently and how my ‘experience’ went, so none of that lot but just a good old fashioned plea for help.

A friend was desperate - he was clearly upset as he told me he was close to despair or then again, it could have been datpair as the reception was a bit broken up - as he was at crisis point as he told me that he was ‘going through the change’ and wanted my help (I assumed International Rescue, the Thunderbird lot and Lady Penelope were working on other important events) quickly as time was running out and knowing I was in Boston (for those reading this in, say, Peru or on the mid-night camel heading into Belgrade, I refer to the Boston as in the one in Lincolnshire, England UK.com and not to be confused with the other Boston of the same name and spelling as in the colonies in the US of A and possibly where they know how to dispose of used chewing gum in a proper manner) and so he knew I was close to hand in a manner of speaking.

He quickly told me where he was and being only a few minutes away, I was on the way to him in his minute of need. On getting to him it all became clear as once again the dreaded Parking Ticket Machine Lurgi was playing up and not accepting his coins, as usual the pound ones and hence he was indeed ‘going through the change’ quite quickly as no sooner did he bung a different pound coin in the slot, it was rejected with a clanging noise as it went into the reject coin chute and oddly the opening is so minute as in small, it’s a job to get your fingers in and retrieve any coins that get this short shift treatment and I have encountered quite a few up and down the land that have the same size hole or chute, but it’s the machine makers at fault.

As he pointed out, if a good coin was found, he rejected it and kept it for the set of others to go with it as he could not leave it as other contestants were lining up to play mechanical “The Price Could Be Right” to gain a ticket and also having the same sort of results, hence he was parked but due to the picky way the machine was going through his coins, slightly upsetting as he could see he could be hit with a fixed penalty for not displaying a ticket as spaces were limited. He pointed out he did put a ‘dodgy’ looking pound coin in a seaside slot machine ages ago and he had a whoopee whistle with a feather in the end fall down the chute as his ‘winnings’.

However the scope for anybody with flat fingers about, say, five or six inches long, has the potential to start a one person business up by sitting by these machines and then wait to be called out on duty to retrieve coins for an agreed fee as it seems these machines are only interested in taking coins and not wanting to give any back when it happens and it makes me wonder how many give up retrieving them because I know I struggle at times.

Interestingly we both realised the implications in some respects and felt sorry of anybody who had set out with the correct amount of coins to pay for their ticket but faced rejection as the mechanism is so delicate to certain coins it seems, that between us we went through nine pound coins to pay for the three required plus the odd change that always seems to go through okay as it seems to be able to gorge on fifty pence coins and similar with no after effects and it makes you wonder if these pound coins could be counterfeit as to be honest once the ticket was spat out, we looked our pound coins over and they seemed okay to us, true we did not have our Acme Gold Prospectors Weighing Scales with us or an alchemy testing kit, but they looked as good as the ones we did get it to accept eventually.

While we were going through this minor and irritating set-to, a couple walked past and we overheard one mumble that as he was going to get a ‘tatt-hoo’ (tattoo we assume) applied at the weekend or could that have been ‘weak end’(?) and he thought he wouldn’t be able to go out and ‘party’ afterwards as ‘it might still be wet’ (?!) and he was having ‘quite a few colours as well’ (bless) so we both looked at each other and thought should we have got his address and to pop round later on at the week or weak end, to see if it had ‘dried’ and to help celebrate with whatever might be going.

As I said to Dave based on this passing verbal exchange, there is life here but whatever it is, it’s amazing to think that there are other life forms millions of miles away who are desperate to know about us, our way of life, our shopping ‘experiences’ and are willing to travel here to study us and what we have to offer although mostly, if we are to believe the assorted ‘experiences’ so far, they only manage to land in some almost deserted farmstead in Arkansas US of A, based possibly on parking availability.

Then farmer Seth and his ladee wife Shurlene Lulu Belle wander out and see if it’s ‘may-be some-fang being die-livered’ that they have ordered via the ‘in-toe-net thang’ (this has been left in Americanese and not translated, yo, but you get the general idea I hope) but are then abducted and taken on board a space ship or craft which has available free seating spaces, but only after they spend four galactic hours or a whole day in earth time, sorting through their coins to pay for a parking ticket first, and whiz away and after X number of days, they are returned safe and mentally disturbed with their tales of what happened to them but none so far have cited their ‘tatt-hoo’s being wet as a reason for their return.

Dave shook my hand for turning up and I recalled the last time he rung, he said he was ‘in Dire Straights’ which surprised me as I didn’t think he sung or could play a musical instrument but as it turned out, he had locked himself out of his car with the keys in the ignition – it was an old car to be fair – but happily we found a passing five year old, whose mum offered his help, who knew how to get in and it was sorted.