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Saturday, April 29, 2006

 

Brick walls and bricking it.

This post is about events which took place over a year ago, but drawn from two particular incidents, just to muddy the waters for anonymities sake. This is my tale.
“I drew the short straw yesterday and got landed with everybody’s least favourite patrol; I won’t give our name for it, just call it beat Z. It’s characterised by low brick walls, round the front of council and housing trust houses, around the industrial estate without much green growing stuff in between.

Beat Z is not popular because it’s mostly limited waiting and single yellows bordering a Council estate. However, it has restrictions and we have to patrol them. Fortunately, apart from the double yellows it’s all Monday to Friday, so if you get beat Z on a Saturday or Sunday, you can leave this area well alone. This is where (Reputedly) a good many of the local low life’s live, and a uniformed presence on it’s own might as well have a target painted on it’s back. Some of our lot just won’t bother going there unless there’s a specific complaint. For my part, I just go in and do the job and get out again as quickly as possible. Most of the time there isn’t a problem, and the pigeons scatter the moment I’ve passed by, if you know what I mean. Normally speaking that is. Sometimes, despite careful ‘trouble avoidance’ strategies, I get caught out.

On the industrial estate close to the averred to residential streets of the salubrious beat Z there are several stretches of double yellow lines. It was mid afternoon and I’d spotted two cars parked right on a corner on double yellows, blocking the line of sight for anyone who wanted to get in or out of the road. I’d just finished taking observations and set the observation clock ticking on my hand held when I was accosted thus.
“Oy, what are you doing?” I look up to see a man in a T-shirt, shaven head and muscles, lumbering towards me at a trot.
“Booking these cars.” I respond, looking up and taking in the background detail of three or four other people emerging from the houses and flats along the road. “What for?” Oh dear, here we go.
“They’re on double yellows.” I said simply.
“You can’t do that.” Welcome to the delegation from planet bozo.

Again, I look up from my notebook, I’m outnumbered with more of them popping up all the time. I’ve got a choice – run, get beaten up, or bluff. You can’t run (Well I can’t) with all the kit you have to carry, I don’t want to get beaten up so Ma Stickers second son goes into full bullshit mode. Inside I’m quietly bricking it, but I daren’t let these sods see a moments weakness or else I’m in for a kicking.
“It’s my mates car.” A voice complains, as if this is a lawful excuse.
“If your mate don’t want a ticket he’d better get a move on.” I respond, pitching my language to their level.
“Fuck off jobsworth.” Someone feels brave enough to belly up and try to push me.
“Take your hand off.” I said, enunciating each word in a sharp bark. Well it works for sergeant majors. I get eye contact with the putative pusher and stare him down. The hand is duly removed and my assailant takes half a step back. I’m not too worried at this stage about getting written complaints about my ‘attitude’ or ‘conduct’ as this lot don’t look like they know what a pen is for. I get shoved again and brace my right foot back so I don’t stagger. “I said.” My hand is on the panic button now, but guess which idiot turned his radio down so he didn’t spook the natives? This idiot here. “Back off.” We are nose to nose at this point, and for me to back off now will get me kicked to hell for sure. My mobile goes. Miraculously they back off further as if there’s some unspoken code about interfering in other people’s mobile calls. Kerry has heard my ‘Emergency’ call and has phoned when she can’t raise me on the radio. She sounds more worried than me. “You okay Bill, you need help?”
“Corner of Melville and Oberon. I’ve got some people who don’t like their parking restrictions enforced.”
“What?” Complains a voice from the aggressive group who overheard my comment.
“Hang on.” I say to Kerry, taking the phone from my ear.
“We’ll come and get you.” I hear her say.
“What did you say?” Says the complainant again.
“I said, you don’t seem to want your restrictions enforced.” I’m facing them all now. There are a ripple of negative noises as if to say that’s not what they want at all. “Well do you or don’t you?” I say, putting my fists on my hips, leaning slightly forward. Roll the dice mate, best of luck. “I’m here to do a job of keeping your roads clear so you lot can get in and out. Do you want that, or do I piss off and let you think we don’t care?”
“Council don’t care.” Comes another voice, to this there are motley noises of assent, but the temperature has dropped from just about to kick off to mildly defensive. I relax a little and go into my ‘I’m listening’ stance, arms folded, half a step back. Kerry has rung off.
“Well I care about what I do.” I told them. “I can’t speak for everybody else on the council. You’ll have to talk to them.”

For the next five minutes I’m on the receiving end of complaints about what the council should and shouldn’t have done, bitching about their housing trust the lot. Stuff that is nothing to do with me or parking at all. You know, housing repairs late, rogue feral children, crime, next doors noisy dog, loud parties, every bloody thing except parking. The two cars I came to book are still there and I can see the works van at pull up the end of the road with Bernie, one of our heaviest built guys at the wheel. I give him a warning look and a sharp shake of the head in answer to his ‘do I come and get you?’ look. “It’s no good having a go at me.” I tell the complainers. “Have you contacted the council?”
“We’re telling you ain’t we? You’re council.” Is one response.
“Look, I only deal with parking – right? You need to talk to the right department. They won’t listen if I tell them.” Is my rejoinder.
“They don’t listen to us.”
“You and me both.” I sympathise. “Have you tried talking to your local councillor?” I ask. This brings a muttering of negatives. They don’t know who he or she is. “That’s who you want to be talking to. They can kick people’s asses and get things moving, not me.” I think I’m winning this argument at long last.
“Dunno who it is.” They let these people vote? I bite back heavily on my instinctive reaction.
“Phone up and ask the council. They have to tell you.” I suggest.
“I’ll do that.” Says one of the angrier voices, who disappears towards a front door. One down.

That broke the impasse. There was a general drifting off and I’m finally left with one bloke who pins me down for another ten minutes as I walk him through the intricacies of calling the council on his mobile and navigating the ‘Helpline’ phone options. Funny that, these people can set up their mobiles to do fancy tricks and yet navigating a simple menu system gives them a migraine.

Entertainment over, the Parking Enforcer isn’t going to get duffed up, so for the other onlookers it’s back to watching TV, eating pizza and drinking beer or whatever it is they do behind closed doors, although I did catch the sour smell of cheap cider on one of the guys pushing at me. They all wandered off - I even got to book the two offending cars which weren’t anything to do with the locals at all.

Afterwards I walk up to where Bernie has been sitting in the van for the best part of half an hour, open the door and slump into the passenger seat. “Drive.”
“Close one Bill. You look like you were pushing your luck there mate.” He comments.
“I got the job done didn’t I?” Bloody hell, I don’t want to have to go through one of those every day. I’m shaking. That was close, very close. “Anyhow, where was our Police backup?”
“Major incident mate. No units available.”
“Tea break time eh?” The lame joke breaks the tension and I’m still howling ten minutes later when we get back to base where the drudgery of incident form filling awaits.

“Bricking it were you?” Asks Bernie, not without a little schadenfreude. While I’m trying to recall what was said, not for my benefit, but to make sure the council, or more importantly me, doesn’t get sued at some later date.
“Er, yeah. Wasn’t it obvious?”
“Why didn’t you run?”
“Come off it Bernie, when was the last time you tried to leg it in full kit?”
“I see your point.” He’s still grinning at me. Bernie’s one of the old hands who has been a parking officer since well before decriminalisation. It’s like he’d seen me pass some test or other. He even made me a cup of tea (Although I won’t ask him to do it again – his tea making is foul.). Then he pushed off and left me to enjoy my writers cramp in peace.

Afterwards I felt slightly light headed and oddly unafraid. A personal Rubicon had been crossed. Had I seen any weapons I might have made a run for the van, but I didn’t see anything and didn’t give them an excuse to escalate. Job done. Phew, got away with it that time.”

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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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