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Sunday, December 25, 2005

 

My Colleagues and I

“But you’re too nice to be a Traffic Warden!”
“Bill, are you out of your mind?”
“You’ll quit in a week, I know you.”
“You’re joking!”
Were some of my friends horrified responses to my revelation that I was becoming a Parking Enforcement Officer. That was just over two years ago.

To be honest; it was either that or bankruptcy court and financial meltdown. My business had gone down the tubes, and my three (Yes THREE) pension funds annihilated by the twin ravages of New Labours Fast Track Visa’s and Gordon Browns various tax raids. Well, that was my history anyway. I was surprised how common these circumstances were to most of my colleagues. The older ones like me, certainly. We were all financially scrambling on the edge of a precipice. No one else would hire us at over forty, even guys with degrees who can speak two other languages fluently; so we took the job that everyone loves to hate; that of Traffic Warden in all it’s guises.

Not only that but most of us have spent significant periods of our working lives as self employed. From a potential employers point of view; who might be the least risk? Jobsworth or job cutter? For my current employers; they had to pick people they thought were mentally tough enough to take the crap and still walk out onto the streets to enforce the on-street regulations without body armour. A jobsworth just can’t do it. You need a certain take-no-prisoners mindset to survive, mentally anyway.

Still, it would be nice if our ‘superiors’ eased off the pressure a little. Yes, alright; amongst the younger members of our motley crew there are one or two who take the mickey by skiving. As for the older guys, there is only one who can’t really cut the mustard, and he’s one of the old timers and close to his pension. The rest of us set our own goals, get out there and do the job in front of us.

Sometimes we think that we should have more of the powers of the old Traffic Wardens; say limited powers to direct traffic when needed, and cover all the on street restrictions including pedestrian crossing zig-zags etc. Say if we did all the static stuff while the Police did all the moving vehicle offences might not be such a bad idea instead of the current mess. Simple dichotomy really, someone stops where they shouldn’t – we take care of it; someone jumps a red light, speeds etc, and the Police deal with it. Sounds pretty reasonable to me, and I’m no Einstein.

Instead we have proposals that Parking Enforcement Officers become cut price versions of Traffic Police. If you ask me this is just plain silly; how can a man on foot nick an idiot who has just charged the wrong way up a one way street without the powers of stop and arrest? This is the sort of thing that has the rest of us scratching our heads in disbelief. Leave the ‘instant whizzer’ stuff for ‘on-the-move’ stuff like seat belts and mobile phones etc to the Coppers. We nick people who park unlawfully. Simple really.

Mind you, legally speaking there’s always the business with the 1689 bill of rights to clear yet. Are ‘instant’ fines such as fixed penalties legal or not? If not I’m out of a job, as are all my fellow travellers.

What the hell. Once you’re out on the streets you do have a slight degree of autonomy. Trouble is, you are always under scrutiny from the little gods of the tick box. That is common to all of us; it’s not so much the insults and abuse from the general dyslexic that annoy; it’s the ‘cheese paring’ and constant scrutinising from Management that does one’s head in.

So next time anyone lines up their ill informed prejudices to give one of us a mouthful or ‘have a go’, I’ll stand my ground, rather like most of my older colleagues. We’ve been there before and we don’t run. Probably because we’re too old and knackered to do so.

If all the above sounds a little disjointed and rambling – I am slightly inebriated having cooked Christmas lunch and had a nip or five of what I fancy. Who cares? This blog is my sounding board; and at the moment - I’m not too worried. God bless.

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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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