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Thursday, January 12, 2006


Walking and talking

A lot of the guys I work with often return to base complaining about the crap they get from the public. I’m puzzled. Nowadays I rarely get the aggro that they complain of. Of course, it could be that I just don’t notice it, but on the other hand it could be that I don’t set myself up for abuse.

While I’m not the biggest booker, I do hit the average more often than not. Put me in a ‘target rich environment’ and I can equal even the most avid ‘Ticket hound’.

There’s the no-nonsense approach I adopt on street. Move ‘em or book ‘em. Doesn’t matter which. My job is to keep people off the restrictions and keep the parking spaces cycling over.

Then there’s the human side, the non-punitive side. Man, it is said is a tribal animal; to be trite “People need people.” We have to communicate; it’s hard wired into our beings at a biological level. Those who do not or cannot communicate will always find themselves sidelined socially. For my part, if a member of the public wants to talk to me – fine. Not a problem. It can be a bit embarrassing when some lonely little old man or lady unloads their life story on you. You smile politely, but inside you’re wincing, thinking “Please stop – I don’t need to know this. Too much detail.”

Yesterday was an absolute classic. I paused outside a bookshop to ogle some of the titles in the window when an old lady who had lived in the town as a girl in the 1930’s and 1940’s approached me. She related how she got married and moving to Bristol where she found herself in a thirty year plus relationship with a man who did not know how to love her. The tears ran down her face as she let it all out. Tears literally rolling and dripping onto the collar of her blue coat like raindrops. I mean why me? Why tell me about her problems, including a graphic account of her ex husbands collapse and near death from a burst ulcer. I didn’t and still don’t understand why she needed to go into such graphic detail to a total stranger. I know my face is recognised around the town when in uniform, but there is such a thing as discretion and decorum. Still, it was quite disturbing to see this woman crying in front of me – not because of anything I’d done, but just because she needed to unload thirty years of unhappiness right there and then.

Just before I managed to steer the conversation back to the present day the tears stopped, she blew her nose and said “Thank you.” I nodded, smiled sadly at her and moved on, a little shaken at the revelations of a total strangers life.

This isn’t the first time. I’m not an unapproachable person, and always try to put on a positive face where duty allows. Perchance that is it. Maybe word gets around that certain of the Parking Enforcers are human beings, not analogous to the excretory end of the gastro intestinal tract as some might have you believe. I do know that I get more smiles than scowls than I used to, or maybe the scowlers are just not in evidence at the moment.

Despite that, it’s events like those that leave you shaking your head in perplexity at the complications of the human condition. Certainly has me foxed.

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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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