Schadenfreude Or pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.
Earlier today, I was trying to park in the very inadequate carpark of my local supermarket here in the UK. This is one of the new generation of German upstart traders that have entered the UK market and are wiping the floor with the well-established traditional UK brands. Unfortunately, they are mostly built on small, and now over-subscribed sites.
The carpark was full, and I was at the back of a line of vehicles cruising the site, looking for someone who was packing their trunk and getting ready to leave. I had to do an emergency stop when a local taxi driver drove into the carpark and aggressively forced his way in front of me.
Anyway, by the time he had straightened up and moved forward, a car started to pull out of a parking place and I drove straight in! If he had behaved sensibly, safely and politely, and joined in behind me, I would have missed this spot and he would have got it.
Five minutes later, he was still driving round the carpark, getting more and more angry. Thank you to the patron saint of car parking, whoever you are.
I have now been involved in the design of carparks for something over 30 years, and I don’t think that I have ever seen this before. It seems that the floor slab is laid over blocks of lightweight expanded polystyrene insulation, which had been laid on the ground. Unfortunately, a nearby 24-inch water main ruptured, and expanded polystyrene floats.
A dozen or so vehicles were damaged, probably written off, and the unexpected change in floor level seems to have also damaged the local gas supply. I suspect that the structural engineers’ insurer might just have cancelled that Christmas cruise that they were planning.
Talking of gas leaks, the local gas emergency engineer turned up outside my house recently. A cheerful chap, he told me there had been a report of a gas smell and he was there to make sure that, if there was a leak, he found it and got it fixed. After a couple of hours of prodding and poking holes in the paving and “sniffing” with his state-of-the-art gas sniffing tool, he happily told me that my side of the road was fine, but on the other (downmarket) side, there was a small trace and “the team would come out and fix it tomorrow.”
The next day, two guys turned up and dug a hole. They spent the next three days splitting their time between sitting in their van (80%) and sitting or more accurately looking in the hole (20%). At one point, one sat in the van whilst the other sat in hole with a gizmo making a noise in the back of the van, out of the back of which a canvas hose reached part-way to the hole.
One day a management level gas man (wore a tie) spent about an hour looking into the hole and talking earnestly into his mobile before disappearing.
Finally, the tension got too much for me and I had to go and ask how they were getting on? “Can’t find the pipe” was the response, and indeed, later that day, they barricaded the hole and left.
To date, our sad lonely hole with the lost leaking gas pipe has remained alone and unloved, although a couple of days ago a delegation of gas company glitterati turned up in hard hats and Day-Glo (noticeably not dirty, as in management for the use of) jackets and holding clip boards, stood looking down the hole before leaving. I do hope that they fix it soon; after all, starting in two weeks the gas board is to replace the whole gas main, and I would hate that to be delayed by a broken pipe!
I am trying to become retired, but so far, people keep forcing me to work on interesting projects by attacking me with money. Two recent projects highlight just how difficult this parking stuff can be. I won’t break any confidences, but one is a university and the other a coastal area.
First, the university. Like many other similar places here in the UK, their parking is taken as read: bits of land where students and staff have left their cars since time immemorial. They have a windscreen sticker to legitimize their presence (probably photocopied), but no one has ever suggested that they should pay, and free parking is taken as a right. Now, reality has arrived.
The university wants to expand, and the only land they have is the parking lots. So, can we design and build a parking garage to replace the lost spaces? Yes, of course we can, but there is a small issue: cost. In current UK terms, this parking structure will need to return about $10 per space per day to pay for itself, and this concept has to be sold, by me, to staff and students who see free parking as a right.
I know all the arguments, but I still think that I would like an armed guard for that meeting. This is going to be a long slow sell.
The second project is really interesting. It’s a very beautiful part of the UK coast and happens to be somewhere where I have been going as a tourist since I was about 10 (57 years since you ask). The coastal area is one historic grand estate, and they have allowed very little commercial development — meaning, of course, that more and more people visit to enjoy the unspoiled historic English countryside. It has all the credentials as well: World Heritage Site; Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; Site of Special Scientific Interest, and so on.
The problem is that this tiny village has nowhere that is really suitable to park up to 1,500 vehicles and coaches on high days and holidays. For sure, there is an edge-of-village carpark, which is just above a field in terms of layout and quality; and there is a further field that opens on busy days as an overflow. But both sites are on the side of a hill, with gradients way above anything that would be accepted in a modern carpark.
So I and my colleagues have to try to work up a design that doesn’t have a bigger impact visually than the present “field,” which won’t have to have cars towed out on wet days (but no blacktop or concrete). No structure, it’s a field in an area of outstanding natural beauty, remember, and something that will deal with water runoff from the hillside. At present when it rains, the hill dumps the water straight down the main street and into the sea. This one I want to do.