(And no... not just because it adds ten pounds of weight to whatever it captures.)
Over the weekend, I drove down to Stellenbosch’s downtown shopping centre, the currently-being-revamped Eikestad Mall.
My chariot, a mid-90’s model Honda, is blessedly fitted with such luxurious features as an immobiliser, central locking and an alarm. I don’t know if this is the norm or not – forgive me, for I’m neither well-versed in car jargon (cargon? Nyar har), nor particularly geared up when it comes to car-related tech – but I operate all of it from the same remote control.
After parking in the mall’s outdoor parking lot and getting out of the car, I pressed the button on the remote to lock the car and to activate the alarm. I pushed it once, waiting for the alarm to squeak its acknowledgement that it had been activated and for the car doors to lock. Nothing happened. Well, that’s not too unusual. Sometimes – due to static, weather (it was really hot that day) or whatever other gremlins decide to interfere – it takes more than one attempt to get it to work.
However, when it remained unresponsive after several attempts, I became a bit worried and agitated. I knew that it wasn’t the remote’s battery, because I had a new one put in just last month. As I was about to press it one last time, the car guard – who had apparently witnessed my struggle – strolled over and said: “It’s not going to work.”
Before I could even open my mouth to say something eloquent along the lines of: “Huh? WhadoyouMEAN it’s not going to work?”, he pointed to the one corner of the mall’s rooftop where a security camera gleamed in the sun. “It’s that new camera. It interferes. Many people have problems.”
Ah, so apparently my car is just as horribly unphotogenic as its owner.
I pressed the button again, just to check. (And yes, I’ll admit, I was a bit sceptical too about his theory.) Still, nothing happened. So I thanked him, locked the car door with my key and went on my way.
Upon my return, I unlocked the door by hand again. Only to jump back in fright as the ear-splitting sound of the alarm suddenly pierced the air. I couldn’t understand it. I thought that, since I had not locked the car with the remote, the alarm had not been activated. I pressed the button on the remote to make it stop. It didn’t.
Totally flustered and unnerved, and with the incessantly screaming alarm beginning to draw annoyed glances from passersby, I hurriedly got into the car. I thought that inserting the key in the ignition would somehow do the trick. It worked! But not immediately. I had to press the button on the remote a number of times before it finally silenced the alarm.
And then, my unlucky streak continued when the car refused to start. In vain, I pressed the immobiliser. Someone knocked on my window. It was the same car guard as before. “I’ll have to push you until your car is pointing away from the camera.”
It must’ve been a combination of the oppressive heat and my frayed nerves, but I immediately agreed. I didn’t even care that I was going to be pushed into the lane, where my unresponsive car could potentially block traffic. I was so desperate to just get started that I was willing to try anything. I put the car in neutral, released the handbrake and he pushed me out of the parking spot.
“Try now,” he said.
IT STARTED! Just as he had said it would! I fumbled in my handbag to give him a tip and thanked him profusely. He gave me a beaming smile and said: “See? It’s because your car is now facing away from the camera.”
No one I have since told the story to has ever heard of – let alone experienced – a security camera having such a paralysing effect on a car. My sister and brother-in-law have certainly never had any problems with their (much newer and more luxurious than mine) car at that – or any other – mall. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
I went back there again on Monday. I asked some of the other car guards about the camera. They said they had never encountered anyone experiencing security camera-related car troubles. Perhaps it was just my car? Dare I hope that it was a temporary technical glitch? Maybe it was some sort of a weird coincidence? I don’t know. But just to be safe, when I returned to the mall on Monday, I literally went out of my way to park on the far side of the lot, way out of range from that camera. Trying to stealthily dodge the eye of the camera like that made me feel like a right criminal!
On the bright side: since I’ll never experience the luxury of scoring a parking space close to the mall entrance ever again, I’ll be getting some much needed exercise when I hoof it all across the lot.
Of course, this whole incident has only added to the fear and aversion I have about ever appearing in front of any sort of camera.