Monday, November 28, 2016

Design by the Devil

Friend of mine was fond of posing this question, when running a training event for children's leaders in an old church building. How, do you think, would the devil have gone about designing a building for worship and ministry?

He would then suggest that perhaps the seating would have been made rigid and uncomfortable, the heating unreliable and the leader of any event put as far as possible from those engaging with it, maybe even up a flight of steps. If enough separation of leader and led was not established he posited a screen being built between the two to further cut down visibility. I think people got the point.

I revisited this question in a traffic queue recently as I wondered if the very Devil himself had been involved in the Southmead Hospital car-park.

Arriving, an hour or so earlier for a routine visit late afternoon, I had been unable to park not because of a lack of spaces but because the queue to leave prevented anyone from getting in.

On arrival I checked the payment system and saw the costs. I also checked that change was given. I established that I needed to use a payment system at a pay station before trying to exit.

I did my visit.

I got back to the pay station. On the walk stress point 1 reared. Reports had bothered me that 500 yard queues had built up recently because two of the three pay stations had been out of order. There was no queue but then I hit stress point 2. I had to enter my vehicle registration number at the pay station. I don't always recall my current reg although FWK 616L and UOF 247S are etched in my memory, my first two cars. Luckily an appalling obscenity is a good mnemonic for my current registration.

After paying, a message said I was free to leave and had over an hour to do it in. I was issued with no token or ticket.

I drove out, trying to leave appropriate gaps for vehicles entering the car park to get in but (stress point 3) impatient people then overtook me and blocked the gaps.

As the queue reached the exit I saw the cars stopping at a barrier. There was a machine next to it which some people touched and others didn't. Stress point 4 - had I failed to memorise a code or pick up a token?

Getting nearer I found that the machine was simply a 'call' button and that cars seemed to have to wait a while (15 secs) for the barrier to raise. I had to (stress point 5) put my faith in automatic registration plate recognition software. I also (stress point 6) had to be sure I had entered my registration number in the machine correctly. I was sure I had but in the queue the doubts built up. Was there a precise place to stop to make this easier? Who knows. The barrier rose after a brief wait.

Bearing in mind that people trying to leave this car-park are either already stressed because they have been ill and are going home, maybe still uncomfortable, or have been visiting a sick relative and are sad, might I humbly ask if hospital car-park design might be made as easy as possible for those who are in a bad way already.

I have heard of one visitor, catching up with a husband who has just had a serious illness diagnosed, having a complete meltdown and leaving a car on the grass and having to be helped by security and treated by nursing staff. Automated car-parks may well be a false economy. People in trouble want to see people who can help.

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