Monday, December 5, 2011

'Parking' isn't always fun

In major Ugandan cities, there is a parking authority that charges you per hour to park your vehicle along the streets. The charges vary from city to city, but the fee is usually pretty cheap. As is often the case when money has to change hands, there is no documentation available on how much it costs per hour. No signs, no pamphlets, no anything. So one has to largely trust the orange vest-wearing parking attendant to tell you how much you owe. Obviously this is a great opportunity for them to make a little 'extra' off your parking bill.

The last three times we've parked our car in Jinja, the city at the 'source of the Nile', we've had unpleasant run-ins with the parking authority. The first time the guy convinced us we had to buy five parking stubs, even though we only owed one. Not only did we buy the five stubs, we paid five times too much for them, as we'd find out later. The next time, just last week, the guy said each stub cost 1000 shillings and was good for half an hour. Amber's BS detector went off, and we told the guy we were going to the parking authority office to settle the issue once and for all. He protested briefly, but then realized we were determined not to be cheated. It might seem strange that he offered directions to the office until you understand that he gave us grossly wrong directions.

Not finding the office where he said it would be (surprise, surprise!), we stopped to ask some men where the office was. We parked, I got out, and Amber and Kate stayed in the car. In the sixty seconds I was outside the car, another parking attendant came up and wrote us a ticket. Amber asked him how much. He hesitated, thinking, and said '2000 shillings', ten times what we really owed. And since when do we need to pay for one minute of parking?

We drove to where the office was supposed to be but couldn't find it. We drove around the block twice and then asked a third person. He directed me around the corner, into an unmarked building, up a dingy set of stairs, down a hall, and into an unmarked room where a man sat behind a table piled with papers. 'Is this the parking office?', I asked. He said 'yes'. I told him their parking attendants were lying to people about the parking fee. Without interest or concern, he said 'you really have to watch those guys.' Great, thanks. At least he told me the real price: one stub costs 200 shillings and is good for 1 hour.

While I was in the dingy, unmarked office, we got a third parking ticket. What a circus. All we wanted to do was pay the real parking fee and get on our way. But it took us thirty minutes and three parking tickets, two bogus and one legit, just to leave Jinja without being deceived. While this is extremely frustrating, it's all just part of the deal. But today, as we got in our vehicle to leave Jinja once again, we had the pleasure of luring the parking attendant into a lie and busting him on it:

'How much do we owe?'
'Two thousand shillings.'
'You're lying. How much is it per hour?'
'Four hundred shillings.'
'You're lying.'
'You have to buy five stubs.'
'No I don't. I only want two.' I hand him four hundred shillings and two stubs. He walks away without another word.

Small but sufficient consolation for the embattled wazungu (white folks).


The Reeds said...

OH T always on the trail of justice!! Frustrating but funny (from this end). You should give a tally of where your quest for justice has led you. I mean.. not paying the bribe before we left got you an interesting day with the police right??

Kate said...

So glad that this time, at least, Africa doesn't win again (ADWA?)! I hope you're still planning to encourage the Eye to publish the prices for all the different cities...such a good idea.

Notinthewild said...

Sweeeeeeet ending

Jennifer said...

Asking the Eye to publish is a great idea! Thanks for tracking this down. Up to this point we've just paid about half of what they asked for thinking we were close and not wanting to spend the time to really find out the answer.

Anonymous said...

Even St. Paul wouldn't let his captors run over his rights as a Roman citizen. Keep up the good fight.