Between Blinks

Observations of a modern-day hermit/law student/traffic warden.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pot calls kettle black: pt2

Case 2
Same shift as earlier. I've just met my friend, who needed to borrow my super-fat ADSL connection for the evening. I gave her my keys, and she drove off.

A couple of minutes later, i'm issuing to a dark-blue Avensis outside the bookies. It has an long-overdue ticket, which i suspect won't be renewed until the owner unsticks his eyes from the racing results monitors. My mobile rings, and my friend says she's on her way back with my keys; she doesn't need my net connection after all. I say "cool" and get back to my ticket.

It's raining so hard, that i'm huddling over the pocket-book to keep the pages from ripping, and the pen from seizing up. My friend pulls up in front of the Avensis in her Renault and honks. I shout that i'm nearly done, finish pocketbook, print the ticket, and note down the ticket number. As i am about to place the ticket in the envelope, the owner comes out of nowhere and goes straight to the door of the car, jumping in an starting the engine without even closing the door again - no convo...he's planning a runner! As he's done all of this, i've already put the ticket on the windscreen and stood off in a nearby alcove to finish my notes.

I then go to my friend's car (in front of his) and get my keys back through the window. He jumps out of the car screaming: "You got her to block me in! You did it on purpose!" I just look at him, trying to understand his point. "I'd have driven off if you didn't get her to block me in! I'm gonna to report you!"

I laugh, and ask him how he suggests i managed such a thing. By now he's standing pretty close, and scribbling my shoulder number and her registration number down on his ticket. "I'm gonna complain. That's wrong! You shouldn't do that!"

At that point, i get quite firm - trying to snap him back into reality. "How, do you suggest i managed to get her here to block you in so quickly? Look at me! Does it seem likely that i have a team of drivers on-call for situations such as this? Hmmm?! You were an hour late back to your car, and you want to blame everybody else, except yourself, for getting a ticket. Does that seem rational to you?"

He just stands there, with rain dripping off his face...absolutely stunned. For a few seconds he considers the possibility that he might actually be wrong, and then reverts to: "B..But she was in front of me." I laugh again, and say that he has everything he needs to appeal, but that he should try and reason the situation out later.

It's strange how guilty people react to situations in which they are caught red-handed. I am sure that those who try to divert responsibility away from themselves in parking situations, must do the same in other situations too. I'm studying for a law degree, so i guess i'm likely - in conjunction with my natural tendencies - to end up being a 'it weren't me, guv' kinda guy. All things being equal, it seems that the difference between the dishonest (and often rude) 'but i was only there for 2 minutes' drivers, and those who accept their punishment gracefully is the ability to take responsibility for their actions; which is why certain groups of individuals are the worst - and often the scariest - people to give tickets to. Some people just have no respect for the law-enforcers.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pot calls the kettle black

I've been away for a little bit and didn't update about my eye. But to shorten a very short story - it was a huge anti-climax - as by the time i had my next shift, the major swelling had gone. Plus, a black eye on a black guy, isn't so obvious. Joe P couldn't care less anyway, and probably doesn't even look me the in eye. I am a uniform - no more, no less. The only person who noticed (and said something) was my local shopkeeper, after i'd finished work - but he's just odd.

A couple of shifts later, the two funniest drivers i've bumped into recently showed the crazed, (usually) repressed rage that mark us out as true, queue-joining UK residents:

Case 1
I'm walking alongside a long stream of traffic when i see (or rather hear!) a silver saloon haring down the wrong side of the road, and turning into a side road - narrowly missing an oncoming Micra being driven by a very scared looking Indian chick.

Silver Saloon guy decides that after making such a scene, it is best to park on the nearest double-yellows and go about his obviously 'very urgent business'. I observed, i logged, i issued. (That's going to be my new motto - it would sound great in Latin! Translation anyone?)

About 15mins later, i again hear the revving of engines and look across the road to see the same Silver Saloon trying to back out of the narrow side-road - onto the main road - forcing the 206 driver behind him to reverse too. The Saloon guy literally bullies the 206 into backing out. Saloon's window's wound down and he's shouting expletives, but i just assume that it is temporary frustration at being given a ticket...it happens! I look away - continuing to scribble in my pocketbook. When i look back about 15 seconds later i see his car straddling the main road - door open - and he's out of the car running past buses and MPV's down the middle of the high road - shouting and swearing away. He then throws a punch - while he's running! - at a car about 10metres away. Along with the rest of the onlookers, i'm just stunned at this point - the guy is plainly nuts.

As he swaggers back up the middle of the road to his waiting car he sees me. All of the rage and frustration that he obviously had, crystalized into a look of utter contempt and a barrage of asterisk-filled metaphors. In his twisted 'pot-can-call-the-kettle-whatever-he-wants' logic...i'm the bad guy! At this point i say - stifling laughter - "Have a nice day sir!" in the most professional voice i can manage. It was raining, windy and cold...but Silver Saloon cheered me up nicely!

I'll tell you about the other guy in the next post.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I've got a black eye but you should see the other guy

After yesterday's rather eventful game of football, i'm going to be walking around for a while with a tasty looking black-eye. Didn't think about it at the time, but being a PA who looks like he's been beaten up will surely change the oh-so-delightful on-street experience. I'm guessing that i'm going to hear at least (brain whirs into action and plucks random number) 5 times on Monday: "Ha, ha. Thats what you get for being such a ruthless bastard!" - or a more acute variation.

The harsher forms of Joe P like to pick on us at the best of times; talk about looking like an easy target! I'm going feel like the bullied kid at school whose mum insists that flourescent cycling shorts would be a great idea for muftie (dress-down) day. Or the kid whose parents didn't go to specsavers, but rather, shopped for her glasses at Morrisons in the strawberry preserve section.

At school as a boy, scars, scabs and black-eyes were badges of honour. Now my most prominent badge is not only that of my council - which some regard merely as a sign of undying honour amongst sneaky uniformed thieves - but the mistaken sign that somebody else, somewhere - snapped. For some irate Joe P's it'll be a sign that someone braver, managed to do what they are scared to do. I can hear the cheers already.

I need some good comeback lines...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The bosses think we're out fishing

Around here ticket counts are plummeting. Just like around there. The reason is simple really: They over-enforced when the picking was easy. For a while, it was easy for everybody to walk about picking up a decent amount of tickets to keep the boss' frowns to a minimum - smiling is out it seems. Then, after months of seeing loads of us 'stealth-tax collectors' pounding the pavement, disguised in funny uniforms, people got smart.

Tickets have dropped, and while the management scratches it's collective, groupthinking head completely perplexed, i'll solve the riddle:

The bosses liken being a PA to fishing. The motorists - like fish - will be caught by us wardens, mainly because we are smarter than them. We know the laws and regulations, so are in a superior position. We are the predators, and they are our numerous prey.

The busy, car-filled CPZs are like ponds and lakes in which even an amateur PA can learn to fish with ease. Once (s)he learns how the fish behave, and where in the pond they like to congregate, it is simply a case of casting a net and waiting. The more PA's fishing, the more fish caught, right? Hire more PA's; give them equipment and send them out! The more fish caught; the more money made! Give the attendants minimum quota's to meet and you're laughing all the way to the bank, right?

Well, no! Overfishing has inevitable consequences. The management didn't seem to learn from the many North Sea fishermen, who now rue the 'grab-as-many-as-you-can-carry' policy that has left cod stocks shockingly low. The fishermen now have to stick to EU quotas to make sure their practices will be sustainable.

What the bosses didn't grasp was that (although i meet lots of people on the street who this rule may not apply to) people are smarter than fish. They have long memories, learn and will eventually learn to spot a predator and his traps.

Over time, it's become impossible for Joe P to drive through the town centre without either being caught, or seeing at least 3 or 4 wardens on his way to Argos. Eventually, even the most ignorant begin to pay attention to the ravenous nature of the council and either go elsewhere, or take less risks.

There are contrasting two remedies:
  1. Reduce PA numbers for a while to allow the ponds to replenish.
  2. Create more CPZs; extend the enforcement areas.
Which on will they pick? It's obvious...the one that'll cost the public the most!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The odd couple

Had a long, rain-filled shift the other day. Many miles in, as the sun was setting, i spotted a gleaming Merc 4x4 in side-street. Resident's bay, no permit...simple. Observed. Made notes. Slapped on a ticket. Took some pictures. Job well done i thought.

While i was scribbling away finishing my pocketbook, i spot the owners approaching from my right. You can always tell who they are, because they walk differently to innocents. She's pacing down the middle of the street and he's on the footpath. I can tell that she's vexed, but that's usual. She starts telling me that she's done nothing wrong and she knows the law. Which is usual too.

While she's ranting, i'm trying to figure out what relation this smartly dressed, white lady has to the dishevelled black guy standing behind me. I do my usual routine of listening, waiting for her to draw breath and trying to explain to her the reasons, and how she can appeal but she keeps going on. Which is usual.

By this time i'm fed up of playing the samaritan and decide to leave her to it. Let her pay for continuing ignorance, and screechy arrogance.

The guy now - who's been silent throughout - pipes up telling me to "cancel it bruv". In my head i'm thinking 'for what?'. 'For the courteous, ladylike nature that you're lady-friend approached me?' 'For us sharing a skin tone?' 'What precisely could be the reason for you getting your ticket cancelled ambre?' I smile and lie that it can't be done (anything's possible!).

After a few more attempts at coercion he gives up and tells her to leave it, insulting me for doing such a lousy job. Which is usual. She keeps on of course, and says something, to which i - rather unprofessionally - reply: "If you would listen and learn, and not be so ignorant, you might be able to avoid one in the future." Whoops!

He gets very angry, very quickly! While he squares up to me, i look down on his short, middle-aged frame and smirk to myself. He's only just realised that - although it might look good to play the knight - any duel will likely end with his tatty clothes getting creased. So he just shouts.

Pops decides to change tact, and pick on my employment instead - as if that is something that'll rile me. "You've got no future, son!" I laugh and say that i've probably got more than him, and by the looks of it, all his good years are behind him. I'm enjoying it now, and am quite proud in the way the next line rolls of my tongue: "Back off old man. Get into the passenger side, of your girlfriend's ride and go about your business."

Blondie, who's been standing there looking quite fearful for the guy, pipes up again:

"See! You don't know anything. He's my husband act-u-ally, and we've been married for 27 years!"

"Ok? Congratulations." I say, hiding my shock. (I'd thought i was being cheeky calling her his girlfriend. Prejudiced me! I should be quite proud at their courage through the racist times. Kudos to them. But they won't win this argument...)

"We've got kids older than you."

"And i've got a mum older than you, what's your point? Go...about...your business! I'm working!"

Quite oldly as an attempted insult, the guy says: "You're nothing. Look at you, having to put up with abuse like this in a job."

I say: "Even if i played for Man United i'd still have to put up with abuse. What's your point boss? Have a nice day!"

I ignore them and they drive off. As if to rub it in, fate decides to intervene and places them in a long queue of main traffic on the main road, so they see me walking by filling in my pocketbook. As i walk past, i can almost smell the anger pouring from their car, and the slow realisation that the scene the caused was obviously futile. This is my job, and i've already moved on. But neither them, nor their bank balance will forget me for a little while yet.

First rule of approaching wardens: Be nice - We're underpaid to work in testing conditions, and any opportunities to rub it in will be taken efficiently if it's believed you deserve it.

^^^^^ I've just read that back to myself and smiled at the difficulties drivers face. I'm one of the nice, honest ones! Some PA's wind people up for kicks...but not me. Never!