Confessions of a benefits manager: Parking predicament

The daily battle to find a space in the office car park degenerates, until Candid decides some Machiavellian tactics are called for. However, the threat of more redundancies may not be entirely bad news

Big Bad Boss looks pointedly at his watch, then gives me a short lecture on punctuality. Fair enough, but my colleague Lazy Susan slides in at 10am every single day, and no one even blinks. I am a mere five minutes late and a huge fuss ensues. Life just is not fair.

I had even arrived early today, but I could not find a parking space. I drove round and round our car park with five other cars on my tail like some sort of corporate convoy. There was only one space, right next to the door, but that’s where the Highest Being, our president, parks. It really isn’t a good career move to park there.

At one time, the space nearest the door was reserved for the Employee of the Month. This was not a recognition programme introduced by my team, I hasten to add; the whole idea is cringeworthy. Some poor unfortunate from customer services who made the mistake of doing a good job would be picked out for public humiliation at the monthly meeting. Then, rather than give them something they would appreciate, like cash, their reward was the opportunity to park near the building for a month. This went on for several years until someone realised that most of the poor unfortunates in customer services came on the bus, because they could not afford a car on the amount we pay them.

Since the programme was scrapped, an unofficial executive parking area has been created. The Higher Beings were very canny about this. They simply came in earlier than everyone else for a period of time until it became established in the company collective consciousness that those spaces were specifically for Jaguars. No one in a lesser car presumes to park there any more.

The next day, I have the same problem parking. I am driving round the company car park looking for a space in vain. I am not going to be late again and risk a telling off, so I nip round the corner to the supermarket car park. I can do my shopping at lunchtime and then move my car back. However, it is also full there.

There are about 10 cars cruising round, waiting for someone to leave. I even spot one of our IT guys in his ridiculous off-roader. Each waiting car marks a territory near a row of parking bays, so as to be well-placed when someone pulls out. The problem is, no one does leave. The few early morning shoppers returning to their cars can barely back out for the scramble trying to get into their space.

I see a funny little bay next to the recycling bins, but I am not sure if it is a proper space. There is an official-looking guy standing nearby, so I ask him. No, he says vehemently, I can’t possibly park there. So I carry on driving round. Then I watch, open-mouthed, as the ridiculous off-roader parks next to the recycling bins and the official does not do a thing. Get him, I mutter to myself, give him a ticket. Did I say already that life isn’t fair? Driving back to our car park, I imagine I am going to have to double-park or, worse, risk going into the Higher Beings’ area. But wait: I have another idea. Next door there is another company. Like us, they have significantly downsized, but have not yet sublet their offices. Their car park is a vast sea of empty tarmac. It is almost too good to be true. I tentatively poke my bonnet in. There are no signs warning of clamping. There are no closed-circuit cameras. Could I get away with it? I decide to park purposefully next to the other cars as though I am one of their employees. I examine the nearby cars closely. They do not appear to have any special parking permits. I walk nonchalantly towards reception. I could be a new employee or a visitor, who is to know? At the last minute, just before reception, I veer off to the side and scramble through the hedge to our own car park. It works.

A week later I am still parking next door, but I notice there is not so much space as there used to be. Oddly, there is one of those ridiculous off-roaders parking there too. And there is a car that looks just like Big Bad Boss’s. And another like Creepy Caroline’s. A clear path has been worn through the hedge to next door. This will never do.

It doesn’t. Predictably, the company next door gets fed up. It puts up parking notices and issues stickers to its employees. After another week circling supermarket car parks and getting huffy looks from Big Bad Boss, I am seriously considering forging a car park sticker.

All I would need to do is download a copy of their logo, add my registration and hope they do not check their records. You can see how desperate it is getting to park round here, we are resorting to criminal activity.

When Big Bad Boss lets slip that there will be another round of redundancies, as many as 100 employees from head office, my first thought is not, as it usually is, will I be one of them? It is not sympathy for the poor souls who will have to try to find another job in a recession. It is not even, how will we manage to get anything done with 100 fewer people in head office? You know what I am thinking. A hundred more parking spaces – fantastic.

Next time…Candid has to do battle with technology