We all know we aren’t allowed to park on campus. Unless we have a permit or a very viable excuse, that is. But many of us seasoned second and third years have illegally hidden our vehicles on campus in the past, dodging security vans like the plague, and suspiciously eyeing up anyone wearing a florescent yellow jacket as if they were going to shoot out our tyres to prevent us from entering. Last year it was all quite amusing, a bit of a game, avoiding getting clamped and sighing with relief once the car was securely situated with a pay and display ticket in the Clive Granger car park.
But this year, the mood has changed. It is now virtually impossible to get your car onto campus without undergoing a Spanish Inquisition-like interrogation by ‘the man on the gate.’ Gone are the days of the friendly North Entrance Man who cheerily waved cars through the barrier, even getting to know your face and giving a particularly enthusiastic smile (sometimes even the odd wink) when he saw you in the morning. This man has disappeared and has been replaced by a younger, somewhat more austere and much less chirpy individual. Granted, he is only doing his job; granted, the old entrance man probably was a little too free and easy with his barrier; and granted, it would be ridiculous if all and sundry were allowed to gallivant around campus and not be questioned about their destination on point of entry. However, the degree of questioning and forbidding nature of this new system seems a little extreme.
Our campus is huge, and a few more cars populating the pay and display car park is not going to cause major disruptions. Moreover, the car park is virtually never full and if we are willing to pay to leave our cars there then surely we should be permitted to do so. Many of us would not be parking there all day, but merely for the duration of a lecture of two, or perhaps for a meeting with a tutor. I am not advocating that every student with a car should bring it to campus every day, nor that taking the bus or walking are inferior modes of transport. They are environmentally friendly compared to driving and seem to be what the University would prefer us to do. This is understandable, to some extent, because it de-clutters the campus. Yet it also seems more than a touch pedantic to stop and question every single vehicle that attempts to cross the sacred divide between the outside world and the campus.
In fact, the whole situation has become mildly ridiculous. Students are now forced to invent wild and fantastical excuses about why they need to get past the barrier. When I drive in, I demand my passenger come up with the excuse (as the man lurks on the passenger side of the car) so I tend to have a less stressful time of things than them. Recent ideas have been that we were all going for our MMR booster jabs and were in a mad rush in case we had missed our appointment, that we were going to the gym (despite clutching textbooks and being dressed in jeans) and finally that we had to get to the Trent Building to hand in a module form before 4pm or face drastic and earth-shattering consequences. The new man begrudgingly let us through, but others are not so lucky. If you have not got a response prepared/you aren’t a particularly good liar/you attempt to ignore the man at the gate and bomb straight past him, then you will have problems. He simply will not raise the barrier. You may shout, argue, rage all you want, damage your car in the process; but unlike his predecessor, this is a man of steel. Being refused entrance, especially ten minutes before a lecture commences, is more than frustrating, as returning to Lenton and catching the bus would take at least half an hour. One of my friends was so determined not to be beaten by the system that they parked in Beeston, perhaps even further than Lenton from campus. But it seems the system is beating many of us, and unless we can continue to come up with new, inspired and simultaneously believable excuses, our cars will have to remain tucked away in Lenton, useless and dejected. We can only hope that the nice North Entrance Man will soon return, because he wasn’t interested in our lies and only asked for a cursory wave to return his own. I, for one, am rapidly running out of excuses.