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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

A little local difficulty

There are times when events push things right onto your doorstep. So it was with me last week. For a change I’d managed to organise my beat so that I could get home and eat, instead of putting up with the bullshit and stale smells of our mess room at lunchtime.

Dave, one of my neighbours, caught me on street and collared me. “Hello Bill. Back for tea break then?” He asked just as I was opening my front door.
“No, I’m just about to get a spot of lunch mate.”
“This early?” Dave queried.
“I’m just making sure I get a lunch break. You know what my jobs like.”
“Yeah, glad to catch you on duty, I’d like a word with you about something.”
“No problem.” I was still in uniform and hadn’t signed off, so what the hell.
“You know that property at the top of the street?” Said Dave.
“Which one?”
“You know, where that blonde woman used to live; that divorcee with the two little girls. Moved out when she remarried?”
“Yes, I know the one, what about it?” Said I, wondering where all this was heading.
“The new owner’s got the builders in and they keep on blocking off our parking spaces overnight.” I knew who Dave was talking about. Three weeks ago I’d had an in-uniform run in with two of this particular builders labourers and almost ended up calling the Police.
“He can’t do that.” I responded. As an officer of the Civil law I can, if I feel it necessary, ‘suspend’ or block off an on street parking bay (But I have to clear it with the office first). Police officers can do this as well I’m told under road closure orders. The rest of the population does not have this right. The rule is, if it isn’t your property you can’t play with it.
“Can you do something?”
“If I see them at it, yes. If I don’t – no.” I saw his face fall. “Look, tell you what, if I see him doing it, I’ll read him the riot act and field it upstairs – okay?”
“Cheers Bill.”

Ten minutes later I’d had a word with one of my oppo’s whose beat crossed the offending parking bays. Turned out the night shift had picked up this builders cones and cleared the bays two nights before. Now, according to Dave, every night this builder had planted breeze blocks in front of the parking bays so his lads could roll up and park there at ten to eight every morning, much to the annoyance of the top half of the street. My problem was that they had a legitimate parking permit so we couldn’t book them once they were in. The other problem was that this unlawful blocking off of bays was happening when most of us had finished work. The natives were going to get restless, and guess who was in direct line for the flak? Got it in one.

On that evening, I took my dog for a walk and made a detour past the offending bays. Sure enough, there were the breeze blocks. Despite the fact I was out of uniform, and not currently (When not in uniform) legally empowered to do so – I chucked the offending blocks in the builders skip and stuck a wooden pallet over the top of them. Just after I’d finished and was halfway down the street to my house, three cars, one after the other slid into the now vacant bays next to this guys skip. Did I mention that parking spaces in our area vie with hens teeth and rocking horse shit for rarity value? Well they do. News of vacant parking places also breaks the light speed barrier in our neighbourhood. If Einstein had done my job instead of being a Patent Clerk, modern physics might be a whole lot different.

Notwithstanding, I paid the same area a visit the following evening. This time only two bays were blocked off. Same drill, breeze blocks in skip, cover them over. Dog stares at me like I’m more barking than he is. Walk down street, cars pull into spaces. Job done.

Following morning, it being my day off, I walk the dog past the top of the street. Four coppers, two pissed off residents, one incandescent builder and one labourer wondering whether to leg it or piss himself. Lots of effing and blinding with Coppers ready to pounce if it all kicks off. I wander past trying not to crack up. That night, more breeze blocks end up in the skip. Again the empty parking bays fill before I’m out of sight.

Three days later I’m doing my home beat past my own front door and patrol the street in question. Builder is having to find a vacant bay in the next street and hoik his kit fifty metres to where he’s working. New owner of house has been listening to builders tale of woe and decides to take it out on the nearest passing council employee. To wit, me. Mistake. Very big mistake.

“Oy you!” Came his outraged cry.
“Morning sir, how can I help you?”
“See that?” He demanded.
“See what sir?”
“My parking space.”
“Beg pardon sir?” Say I, trying not to grin.
“My parking spaces are taken up – you do something.”
“Such as sir?” I’m enjoying this.
“Those cars are in my parking spaces, the ones my builder uses. Book them.”

For my sins I made a bit of a performance of it, walking carefully around both vehicles before pronouncing them legally parked with valid residents permits.
“They’re in my space!” New owner insists. “My builder needs to park there.”
“Just a moment sir. I’ll check with my office.” So I walk ten paces down the street and phone my office. Their comeback was that the spaces were for any resident with a permit, not just him. That is what I relayed to him. New owner is joined by builder, who starts giving me verbal for not booking the cars in ‘their’ spaces.

“They’re my spaces. I’ll block them off so you can park there.” Says new house owner to builder, right in front of me.
“Hang on.” I butted in. “You can’t do that.”
“Why not?” Demanded new owner. “They’re my spaces!”
“No they aren’t.” I responded. Your property sir,” I told him; putting enough spin on ‘sir’ to cut through a log “Ends there.” I indicated his garden wall. “You do not have a right to the parking space in front of your house.” I pointed out. “If you have a valid permit and the space is available, you may park there, but it is not yours.”
“Yes it fucking well is!” He’s almost having hysterics, I’m wondering if I’ve pushed matters too far. However, I wasn’t going to let some petty little sod mess around with my neighbours. Not in my street. “No sir. You get in touch with my office, and tell them what you just told me.” I pushed a Parking visitors card at him. “They will give you the exact same answer as I have.”
“I can do what I want!”
“No you may not.” Is that my voice? “I am a duly appointed officer of the law sir and I am telling you that unless you have written permission to do so, you may not block off or suspend parking bays. Only a duly appointed Council official like myself or a Police Officer may do so.” I think I’m angry; this certainly doesn’t sound like me. “I am officer 515. You have my Managers direct line there. I will wait here while you call.” Is that Dave over there in his front window? I can see his shit eating grin from here. I turn my face away from the house owner and builder and give Dave a slow wink. In return I get a thumbs up. A couple of other faces peer cautiously out from behind net curtains. House owner is trying to shout at my Manager, but Kerry is not having any of it and tells him that he has no right to do what he wants. I can hear House Owner’s voice dopplering in through his houses front room while first browbeating, then cajoling and begging fail. After a while it all goes quiet. I hang around for two more minutes before carrying on down the street in the direction of a well earned cup of tea.

My work mobile rings. “Hello Bill.” Oops it’s Senior Manager. Fan. Shit. Incoming.
“Hello boss, what can I do for you?” I respond cautiously.
“Kerry tells me you’ve just had a problem.”
“No, no problem. Just someone who thought they owned the street, that’s all”
“Can you do me a favour?” A favour, for Senior Manager?
“Sure. What do you want?”
“Just before you finish today you can borrow a van and check your street after five. If he’s blocked off any bays, report directly to me on my mobile.”
“Of course.” Bloody hell.
“Oh and er, well done Bill.” Senior Manager rings off.

Well after that I needed a sit down. This praise from Senior Manager is heady stuff and fragile as thin blown glass. My mobile rings again, it’s Kerry. “You okay Bill?”
“A bit shell shocked.”
“Why?”
“I got a ‘Well done’ out of Senior Manager.”
“That’s one for the record books.” She replied.
“I think I’m going for a lie down in a darkened room.” My last remark is greeted with her laughter. A little stunned, I carry on patrolling.

Later that evening I run into Dave and another couple of dog walkers on my regular round. I’m greeted with smiles and “Here he is.”
“Cheers Bill.”
“Well done mate.”
“You got your parking spaces back then?” I asked.
“Yeah. Thanks again.”
“We take back all those horrible things we said about you.”
“If you’ll forgive me I won’t ask you what they were.” My guarded comment is greeted with multiple guffaws.

I’ll enjoy the plaudits while I can. Sometimes being a Parking Enforcer has it’s benefits. It’ll never last. Next time one of them parks on double yellows I’ll be a complete bastard again. Such is life.

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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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