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Friday, September 23, 2005


Night Work

There’s always something a bit dodgy about working late at night. Traffic Wardens who work nights! I hear the cry of horror. Is the world coming to an end? Not really, we’re just there to keep the silly sods who think it’s their god-given right to park on double yellow lines, taxi ranks and disabled bays on their toes.

Late shift, as we call it is always more entertaining than days. The working atmosphere is a bit more relaxed from a personal point of view because the office wallah’s have gone home and are busy doing whatever they do when not working. There’s no management presence (Thank God.); just us, CCTV, the occasional Police patrol and the general dyslexic, amongst whom there seems to be an opinion that parking restrictions don’t count after 6pm.

When darkness comes, work takes on a differing pace. There’s generally only three or four of you on at any one time, so you have to cover more ground, usually from a van. Lone working practices mean that you have to keep within shouting distance, although we often have to ignore the strictest interpretation of the protocols when two of you are working different streets on a busy night.

The drunks are quite entertaining sometimes, and I’ve often broken off doing what I’m doing to watch two of them acting like rutting elephant seals, bellowing loudly and comically bouncing up and down against each others chests. It’s about then you give CCTV a quick call, tell them what’s going on, and indulge in a little sotto voce piss taking. Sometimes it gets a bit more serious, where two or three heroes try to kick the crap out of another, then the piss taking stops, and you make that call and get clear.

Such an incident occurred last night. Just about to return to base after patrolling some disabled bays I passed a noisy scene taking place in a side street. One guy was on the floor, out of it in more senses than one, and three others were attacking him. In these instances, we are specifically told not to attempt a solo rescue, as its firstly a breach of health and safety procedures and secondly the quickest way to start looking for your own teeth in the gutter. What I did do was watch discreetly after drawing CCTV’s attention to the incident with a call from my mobile phone until CCTV got a camera on the incident and told me a Police presence was on its way. This time I knew the guy who was on duty so didn’t get told to call 999 myself.

What I noticed about the assault was the following: each time an attack was launched on the guy on the ground it went like this; Much confused shouting made up mostly of ‘fookin’ this and ‘fookin’ that (That’s what it sounded like). Attacker lunges forward and makes a threatened kick, victim cringes into tight foetal position, second dummy kick followed by two or three badly aimed and very poorly executed kicks which either miss completely, or glance off arms or legs. Attacker retreats about four or five paces then repeats the pattern.

“Okay 515, Units on their way.” My radio suddenly came on full volume, loud enough for the distinctive ‘crackle - beep’ to be clocked by the attackers, halfway down the street. Fortunately, I must have been in silhouette so they weren’t to know that I was just a Parking Enforcement Officer and not real Police. Result; three heroes get spooked and leg it down the street, right into the welcoming arms of approaching real Police patrol, presumably where they got entertained by a night in the cells and subsequent visit to the magistrates court. I get told to stand back by CCTV. Ambulance arrives as my oppo Asif turns up in van to pick me up and get us both back to base for the end of shift. ‘Casualty’ gets unsteadily to his feet and staunchly refuses any help from Ambulance crew. So pissed those attackers couldn’t have hurt him much. Asif looks at me and shrugs (He doesn’t drink), all I can do is mime hopeless exasperation at alcoholic stupidity in general.

Must confess I was getting a bit nervous for a while about being stuck out there on my lonesome facing three hostile and volatile pissheads. The funny thing is, I’d still have done it the same way no matter if they’d suddenly decided that it was my turn to be their target for tonight. I think I was afraid, but I’m not so afraid as to stop patrolling the same street at the same time of night.

I think I must be going mad, but much as I sometimes hate the often statistic driven mindless street bashing and less than ideal management, I think I’d find it really hard to go back to doing any kind of office job.


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Location: British Columbia, Canada

Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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