Parking meters and head scarves

Sometimes a country modernises too quickly. Innovators forget that there’s a difference between theory and practice. In Morocco, the best example of this can be found on the streets: the work of the parking attendants.

These self-appointed kings of the curbs have created their own job in their own universe: the parking universe. Some operate in lucrative city locations, but usually it’s a meagre job that will earn you about five euros per day. For that money, you rule your own territory.

But what if the government decides parking meters should be placed in your area? That people should put money in a machine rather than pay you for the privilege of parking their car? You let them go ahead while continuing to kindly help every driver. You ask them how long they will stay, collect their money, and request to leave the window rolled down a little – just in case. So when a police officer turns up to check whether every driver has paid and displayed, you can quickly place the ticket in the car. You may still have one from when a previous driver stayed shorter than planned. That’s how you keep money in your pocket. And when someone leaves, they will often tip you too. So that’s double earnings, while the government has its paid parking and you’ve kept your job. Genius.

Stubborn tradition can hamper progress, but other times tradition embraces innovation. Take the phenomenon of Moroccan women with mobile phones dangling in their head scarves. In the supermarket, the car, the bus, the taxi, while cooking (I imagine), walking down the street and hauling groceries: whatever they do and wherever they are, these women are chatting away into their phone that is wedged between head scarf and ear. Hands free calling wrapped in tradition. I’ve said it before: the first person to develop a head scarf with a built-in mobile phone pouch will fill a massive gap in the market. The ‘Apple-head scarf.’ At the moment, it still looks a bit odd, unsightly and mainly practical, but any creative entrepreneur could fix that in no time at all.

Published on online magazine Global Connection 28 may 2018

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