This is the tail and trial of my annual Christmas shopping adventure. Not my most popular thing to do, so I set out to get it over with as quickly as possible. I left home at 11 o’clock to go to Milton Keynes where the shopping centre is an enclosed mall with plenty of car parking. A one stop shop, hopefully!
My first task when I arrive is to find a space in the usual outdoor location, which is nearest to the entrance to Debenhams. The car park is full, but after only a few laps around, I find someone pulling out and in I go. Now I need to locate a Pay and Display meter. Where on earth could they have put them ? There is a sign with an arrow, but I still can’t see a meter. All I can find are a lot of strange red poles with nowhere to put your money. It just says cashless parking, pay by phone, which is all very well if you have brought your phone with you 😤
Looks like my shopping expedition is over before it’s started. There are cameras everywhere to stop people escaping without paying, so I will probably get a fine for not managing to park there.
So I am back on the cris-cross grid of duel carriageways around the Shopping Centre, which is now full of cars, doing a few more laps, when I spot a multi-story car park at the Debenhams shop. Only problem is I am just beyond the entrance …. so I do a few more laps to get back to the entrance again. Finally, a friendly lady in a high-vis jacket, who is guarding the entrance, tells my I can pay cash once I am inside.
I drive up to the first floor entrance barrier, but it won’t give me a ticket, so I figure I must have to put some money in. Only problem is there is nowhere to put your cash and I drop my pound coin trying to put it in any kind of slot that will take cash. Then a ticket pops out and the barrier lifts up, so I realise you have to pay on the way out !!!
So I have broken into the first floor car park, only problem is that after a few more laps I discover they are all reserved for disabled people. I consider breaking an arm or a leg, but decide that’s a bit drastic just to get a car park space😀
S I venture up to the second floor. At first all the spaces appear to be taken. I do a few more laps and low and behold I find six empty spaces all together. Magic! I pull in, turn off the car and then just as I am ready to go shopping, a man in a high-vis jacket knocks on my window and asks if I want my car washed. I explained I was only going shopping and he explained “You can’t park here it is reserved for car washing”.
So now I am off to the roof top car park. It is pretty full with all the people who are not disabled and don’t want their car washed, but eventually after a few more laps, I find an empty space. After all this circling around, I have completely lost my sense of direction, so I wander through the car park looking for an exit to the shops, carefully leaving a paper trail behind me so I can find my way back to my car.
Eventually I find a secret door which leads via a host of escalators down to the shops. PHEW !
SHOPPING OVER IN MINUTES I RETRACE MY STEPS BACK UP TWENTY ESCALATORS.
At the top of the escalators there is the cash machine, that takes real cash. I put in my ticket and it says I have been there for over an hour, which I can hardly believe, so I have to pay £2.90 for two hours. Since you can’t argue with a machine I reluctantly cough up the dough. Having paid the machine it tells me I have ten minutes to get out.
I follow my paper trail and discover my car, now all I have to do is find my way out. It should be no problem, there are signs everywhere. Arrows on the floor, signs to the left, signs to the right, in fact far too many signs ! I set off following the arrows on the floor, then after one complete circuit, I am back where I started. I decide to follow the arrows on the signs saying exit and do a few more laps, but I am still on the roof! They obviously don’t want you to get out.
I try a new escape plan and follow some arrows with a picture of a car and after a few twists and turns I come to the EXIT BARRIER. Just one problem…… there’s a car in front of me and he appears to be parked at the barrier ? I wait for a while as other escapee cars queue up behind me. The man in the car in front seems to be having an argument with the machine. After a further five minutes or so another driver goes over and asks what’s happening only to be told “ the barrier won’t operate and they are re-setting the system”. This might take a while, apparently it happens quite often.
At last a man in a high-vis jacket comes to the rescue, no red cross parcels, but he does know another way out 😀 He puts a big red cone in front of my car, which is a bit annoying, then he helps the car in front to back up and squeeze though a gap between a lamppost and a parked car. Then he tells me to “ follow that car down the tunnel to the second floor” . That would’ve been fine if I didn’t have such a big car with sticky out wing mirrors, but by the time I manoeuvred past the lamppost the car in front was long gone and the escape tunnel was nowhere to be seen.
So I did a few more laps of the rooftop car park, only to find myself at the back of the slow-moving queue that I had just come out of. After just another twenty minutes I get back to the exit barrier. This time I am at the front, so I put my ticket in and the machine says …. “timed out”. There is nowhere to put extra money in, so I wait and eventually the man in the high-vis jacket reappears and tells me “ the system is broken and I will have to go down to the second floor. He directs the car behind me to go through the narrow gap beside the lamppost, puts the big red traffic cone in front of the car two cars behind me and backs me up so I can follow the other car. This time I take off like Lewis Hamilton on the Monaco starting grid. I am not going to lose that car in front, he obviously knows the way to the secret tunnel out. After only a few more laps around the second floor we reach the alternative exit barrier and there is the helpful lady in another high-vis jacket, who I met at the start of my car park adventure. She lets me escape without paying anymore cash for over staying my time in their lovely car park by just another hour or so.
What a great experience Christmas shopping in Milton Keynes is and now for another year I am ……
FREE AT LAST.