Kristin Palitza
Kristin Palitza

Of parking metres and foreign languages…

I parked in the inner city of Durban the other day where there are parking meters installed everywhere — every 30 metres, I’ve been told by a local police officer. That makes it extremely expensive to park your car. Most of the time, I try to avoid them.

But last Friday I couldn’t steer clear of what I think is a major citizen hassle and a clever way of robbing people of their money. After finally spotting an empty parking bay, I found myself standing in front of one of those ticket machines (it actually turned out to be broken, but that’s a whole other story), not quite knowing which button to press to be told how much money I needed to insert.

Needless to say, I pressed the wrong one first. It brought me to the language menu, which offered the following three options:

  • Castellano (a Spanish dialect spoken in and around Barcelona)
  • Français (French)
  • English
  • No isiZulu, no Afrikaans, no other African language on offer.

    I was flabbergasted. Where in the world (literally) did the Durban municipality get these meters from? English, French and Spanish in combination — that smells European to me! The ‘Castellano’ clue leads me to suspect that they are perhaps discarded ones the city of Barcelona didn’t want anymore…

    But couldn’t the guys from Ethekwini have at least adjusted the language options? I don’t know for a fact but I reckon the percentage of South Africans speaking Catalan is rather negligible. And I highly doubt the French language option was chosen out of concern for our brothers and sisters from francophone Africa.

    Just imagine all of those for whom English is a second language, or who don’t speak English at all, standing in front of these parking meters, wracking their brains trying to figure out how to work them. And perhaps even getting traffic fines because they end up making a mistake and not getting a ticket for the right amount of time.

    What were they thinking? Were they thinking?