Saturday, December 16, 2017

Britain - A Nation of Selfish Parkers?

One of the lovely things about returning to the UK as a driver is the frequency with which other drivers let me in, out and through. In my particular part of the USA, to signal an intention to change lanes on the motorway/freeway was, for the most part, a cue for other drivers to bunch up as tightly as possible to prevent said lane change. Similarly, when wishing to turn out of a side street onto a main road, it was safe to assume that no car would ever let me out until it could go no further itself. Then, when a red light meant cars were in effect stuck, I was allowed to squeeze out between them. (I realize that this is a regional issue, by the way.) In the UK, all I have to do it seems, is turn my indicator on and a gap appears in the desired motorway lane, often accompanied by a flash of headlights. 
One thing that does not impress me much is the parking. As I mentioned recently, it’s one thing getting used to cars parked on the wrong side of the road, (which still gives me a slight moment of panic five months down the line), but quite another seeing cars dumped anywhere and everywhere. Seriously people, there are lines to help you figure out where to put your car you know. It might not seem much of a big deal to straddle that line if there are no cars around, but as the car park fills up, your straddling means that everyone else has to straddle and at some point there will be several parking spaces wasted. And that’s usually when I turn up looking for one. Grrr.
Then there’s parking on the pavement. I understand that many roads and streets in the UK were not built for cars so it’s all a bit tight. They were however, built for people, and pavement parking makes it very difficult for some people to use them. Leaving ten inches between your car and a hedge or garden wall results in blocked access for wheelchair users and pram pushers. Clearly the plight of such people isn’t enough to make these prattish parkers think twice, so local councils up and down the country are about to be given more powers to ban such selfish parking and mete out harsher penalties. You are warned!
Meanwhile, it seems those of us not parking selfishly are hopping mad at those who do. There are groups and web sites popping up everywhere to help shame these reprobates. The folks at currently have over four thousand photos of poor parkers, and over fifteen hundred members. Being the admitted geeks they are, they have broken down their finds into some interesting statistics too. A whopping 34% of cars posted have their own personalized number plate. Hmmm.
I asked the SelfishParker team how things work and what (if any) results they’ve had. “Currently we are seeing a high engagement of visitors spending their time searching for their own or (we presume) friend/family number plates.” Well, that’s a start, although I do wonder if such people care, given that they blatantly park where they do without so much as a backward glance. Some supermarket chains are also working with SelfishParker to help prevent shoppers taking up more than one parking spot; hopefully more of this type will return to the car park to find the badly parked car gone. These multi-space users make up 35% of the photos on their site, and that doesn’t include those who park over two Disabled or Parent & Toddler spaces. (Really, people? Really?)
And, just in case you think it’s just a bunch of curtain twitchers, Steve at SelfishParker echoes the thoughts of many -

“- you name me one person (whether they have ever parked selfishly before, intentionally or not) that when they are on the hunt for a space in a busy car park, sees a selfish parker across two bays, or in a disabled spot, or facing traffic on the wrong side of the road on double yellows (which causes a traffic flow block), or has to walk in the road as the car is blocking their path - looks at the car and thinks 'Man, that person is cool!'. they don't! It's the one human dislike trait all drivers share - well that and maybe middle lane drivers!”
If you're one of the many who've had enough of selfish parkers, you can print off this flyer and ram it under the wiper of the next offending car you encounter. And don't forget to upload a photo to the web site. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Repatriation Brain - Confusing Dates and Times

I've now been back in the UK for FIVE months. How did that happen, as they say. On the one hand, it seems like I've only been here five minutes, and on the other, it seems like an age. 

Except when I have to write the date. For some reason, even though I know that ..... oh wait, which way round is it? See, that was genuine. Every time I fill out a form, I second guess myself. It's even more embarrassing when I'm in a shop or office, ask the date and then still hesitate over the form I'm signing. It doesn't help that people generally don't say the date in number format when asked "What's the date please?". "December the eighth" is the helpful (not helpful) response. If you think about it, that response should mean that the month is written first, but oh no, that would be far too easy.

Apparently, despite it being eminently sensible, the US is the only country to use the month-day format only  (If you look at this map, it looks like Canada does both. How bloody confusing is that? If there are any Canadians reading, I'd love to know more.)

According to this article, "This condition is diagnosed as middle-endianness. Seriously. It comes from computer science where bytes are arranged according to their size. If the order has larger ones at the front, it's known as big-endian and so too are dates formatted with the years first (see the likes of China and Mongolia in the map above)."

I urge you to read this article as it goes on to talk about Liliputians being small-endians. Really! 

Unbelievably, telling the time problems have also emerged. Not that I can't tell the time, but I'm having the odd lapse when it comes to communicating in 24-hour clock fashion. Americans, on the whole, don't use the 24-hour clock; you just have to make sure that you have your am's and your pm's in order. (Most important when catching flights.) 

I grew up knowing the 24-hour clock, so it shouldn't be too difficult to switch back, and on the whole it isn't. My secret (and it might not be a secret) is that when the numbers are over 12.00, you just deduct two. 14.00 = 2 o' clock, 17.00 = 5 o'clock and so on. When I get to 20.00 I just have to rely on ingrained knowledge, which is looking a bit dodgy at the moment. 

Unfortunately, when attempting to book a restaurant for next week, I sat back, basking in the glory of finally having snagged a 7pm slot, and sent the confirmation e-mail off to dinner companions - only to have it pointed out that 17.00 is 5pm and not 7pm. I knew that! Really, I did. 

When you're already worrying about the amount of times you walk into a room and forget why, or you're always losing your keys, it only adds to the whole "Is it me?" problem. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Choosing My Melt Downs Wisely

A few weeks ago my maiden column for the web site "Anglotopia" launched. Anglotopia is a US based web site and blog for Anglophiles and I was talking about my recent repatriation, which will shock you, I know. One sentence was picked up in a lovely Tweet by The Displaced Nation, and it made me think twice.

"When you do a Transatlantic move, you choose your meltdowns wisely", was what I'd said in the Anglotopia column. How wise. Not always adhered to, I have to admit, but worth having it semi-permanently tattooed somewhere prominent when you're doing something BIG.

The potential for meltdown in question involved a rather lovely slim armoire I'd had in my US house, that is now stationed in my entry hall here. I would have liked it in my new bedroom as it has special drawers for jewelry; it's also not what I was going for as the first thing you see on entering my house. Problem is, our new stairs are somewhat narrow, and of course have two turns in them. The armoire (really not that big) is too tall to make the turns and no matter how the fabulous moving team tried, it wasn't happening. Perhaps it's because this is a rented house, but I just thought "Oh well" and moved on. Or was it that I was too worn down to care?

Or perhaps it's that, in the scheme of things, it just isn't that stressful? Some of the things we have gone through this year stretched me to the limit. Juggling all the moving balls in the air, so to speak, had me staring at the ceiling at 2am and getting up with my stomach in knots. Packing 25 moving boxes myself to then be told by the moving company that they only insured stuff they'd packed themselves. And this, two days before the intended move? Or finding out about a new Customs requirement of obtaining a TOR (Transfer of Residence) number to get your stuff into the UK without getting slapped with Cutoms tax? (Thought I was being rather clever there since no one else seemed to know about it, and then was told by the people in the UK that they were running about a month behind schedule. Of course they were.) 

It's a bit like raising children with the adage "Choose Your Battles" front and foremost in your mind. Man Child Two's whole class got a "tardy" the other day because they'd been horsing around outside after lunch and had forgotten the time. Most of them were quite upset about it, but hey - they were late for class. My reaction was, first "How sweet that they were playing outside", and then "Don't worry about it but make sure you don't get any more". I'm just assuming they weren't all smoking behind the bike sheds!

Or it could be that in my dotage, there are other things to worry about. But that's probably another post altogether. 

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