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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

 

Public transport

One of the problems with public transport is that there isn’t enough of it at the right time and place, and what there is doesn’t really solve the congestion and pollution problems. The major problem facing any public transport system is that too many people need to get around in the same space at the same time at peak hours of the day. In my travels I’ve witnessed Oxford Streets’ notorious ‘People jams’ where footway traffic comes to almost a complete halt because there are just too many people vying for the same space; also packed railway platforms and bus stops all over the British Isles.

The same goes for traffic. The reason people like me are in a job is because there is too much traffic for the roads at peak times. They all want to go to the same places and park all day outside their favourite shopping haunt for next to nothing, or preferably nothing.

A simple solution would be to stagger working times away from ‘Bankers hours’. More flexible working hours with public transport cover staggered to cover these broadened peak times. Unfortunately this isn’t the whole story. Even with this kind of cover, the current infrastructures of public transport just don’t have the flexibility and timeliness required to cut congestion down to more acceptable levels. Besides, the problem with public transport is that in Britain at least it is often dirty, crowded and full of the ‘great unwashed’. Not to mention the fact that the nutter always seems to sit next door to you and want to be your ‘friend’, or you pick a train plagued by a bunch of half cut ‘lads’ whose idea of fun is making a lot of adolescent noise. Hells teeth, I’d rather walk! I often do.

Right; An old mate of mine and I were chatting about this earlier tonight (He doesn’t know about this blog incidentally) and has worked out a flexible solution to add an extra layer of relatively low cost lightweight transport infrastructure which he is willing to share. It’s been patented and his proposals look interesting; but he’s not really much of a businessman and hasn’t had much success generating interest in it. Me, I think the idea has legs, and if anyone wants a copy of his idea in PDF format or the patent office reference, let me know.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

 

SIXTEEN CARS

Recently I’ve found myself whistling “Sixteen Tons” an old Country and Western song when I’m walking some of the quieter streets, and I thought I’d have a go at rewriting the words for my current situation; don’t laugh too hard at my lyrical ineptitude

Some say Traffic Wardens are lower than mud
This poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bone
A mind that's weak and a back that's strong

You book sixteen cars, don’t they want more?
Another day older and my feet are still sore
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I sold my soul to the box tickers laws

Born one mornin' when the sun had no heat
Pulled on my uniform, walked out on my beat
Booked sixteen cars on double yellow lines
And the boss man said "Make more motorists whine"

You book sixteen cars, don’t they want more?
Another day older and my feet are still sore
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I sold my soul to the box tickers laws

If you see me comin', better get off those lines
A lotta folk didn't, and those people got fined
I’m out clearing bus stops so traffic can flow
You want to know where is? Do I look like I know?

You book sixteen cars, don’t they want more?
Another day older and my feet are still sore
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I sold my soul to the box tickers laws

One day I’ll get free of this whole sorry mess
Walking these Streets will be behind me I guess
I’ll free up my body and master my fate
Hell, maybe I’ll even try to emigrate

You book sixteen cars, don’t they want more?
Another day older and my feet are still sore
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I sold my soul to the box tickers laws

By Bill Sticker 2007, with a gargantuan shedload of apologies to Merle Travis

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

 

Comedy legs

Back when I was a wee slip of a lad (A very long time ago) I used to watch silent movies from the Mack Sennett era in the 1920’s and 30’s. See an example posted on Youtube here. In the ‘Chase’ scenes there was a stylised art of running; An exaggerated double take followed by a stylised grab at whatever headgear the person is wearing; in turn followed by wildly theatrical pumping of elbows and knees with a skidding about turn. Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy was next to Chaplin, one of the most skilled exponents of this art.

Now I never thought I’d ever see these movements in real life but I just did today. I’m patrolling past a one hour limited waiting layby outside a shop to see a car that has been there longer than it should. I’m just about to start logging in the details when a guy exits a house, takes one horrified look at me, grabs at his baseball cap, skid turns and runs inside in the aforementioned fashion shouting “I’m moving! I’m moving!” I was so curious as to what he’d do next that I stopped what I was doing.

Next thing chummy runs out of the house pursued by spouse, I swear, both making the best slapstick movements since Charlie Chaplin retired. He does this curious arms and legs pumping run, drops his car keys, goes on four steps, double takes, dashes back to pick them up, almost crashes into his panicking wife, she picks the keys up and they almost have a clash of heads; next he drops the keys again, she almost falls into the hedge, he gets to the car, drops the keys which nearly go down a drain cover; then fumbles them under the car before discovering he’s got the wrong keys. He runs back inside his house, almost bowling his wife over in the process and returns to the car before finally jumping in and driving away.

I was so busy trying not to laugh I clean forgot to book him.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

 

Pieds en feu (Feet on fire)

At every shift’s end you can hear the complaint “My fucking feet are on fire.” Or “My bloody feet are burning.” It’s guaranteed. We’re all dog tired at a shift’s end, and the pace has been upped to a point where it takes me over an hour to recover enough from work to cook or even write when I get home. I slump at my desk, literally exhausted. Even my rest days don’t give me enough time to recuperate properly.

I can’t speak for the others, but it’s a fair bet that many are feeling the same way. This whole new regime has us missing much needed breaks, simply because there is no way you can manage your beat properly and fit everything in. All the zinc oxide tape and talc in Christendom isn’t making much difference on the foot front either. In addition, an old Rugby injury is making its presence felt. In the words of Marvin the Paranoid Android “I ache, therefore I am.”

While I’m ranting on the subject of ‘targets’; first thing this morning I was reading about the new educational ‘targets’ being set for pre-school children and babies. Is someone having a laugh here? Is this a joke? If not; I’m bloody well not having any putative step-grandchildren of mine anywhere near a state monitored nursery. The powers that be can keep their inept and greasy mitts off them. Even at the end of having to forcibly and terminally remove busybodies like this from the household (Sorry, thought they were a kidnap gang. No, never saw any local authority ID – Really Officer, I didn’t. Sorry about the blood). Even if we have to smuggle the poor little mites out of the country.

Is it just me or is everything being driven by ‘targets’ nowadays? Would someone with more than two properly functioning brain cells kindly tell me what real and practical use these ‘targets’ fulfil? Apart from driving the people who actually do a job of work somewhere up a very large and precipitous wall? Having given the matter a little thought I wondered; isn’t it funny those who set the bloody targets are never the ones who have to meet them, day in, day out. How they must laugh at us poor fools.

Excuse me, I just don’t understand the need; but then I’m just a thickie Parking Warden type aren’t I?

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Friday, March 09, 2007

 

Amusing thought

Back on duty and patrolling the leafy suburbs today. Now I hadn’t booked anyone this morning and I was being about as harmless as a three day old kitten, because everyone’s being very careful to watch where they’re parking and there’s no cause to issue any tickets. This is fine by me, as it saves me getting writers cramp from writing out a lot of tickets, and also gives me a few moments to look up and note the buds breaking and the first blossom of the year.

I’m busy looking at the colour of the first cherry blossom leaves when some gonzo drives past and rudely disrupts my reverie by repeatedly blowing his horn. I look up to see said gonzo shouting “Sieg heil!” at me. This always perplexes me as I’m not a member of any such organisation, and would be horrified at the idea of gassing and murdering millions of ‘non-aryans’. Never mind about invading anywhere, I mean, I’m too busy giving out parking tickets to the inconsiderate for one thing. I looked at said idiot as he sped along in his tatty little car, both hands off the wheel, one finger under his nose and the other raised in a Nazi salute, wondering if he was going to hit the bollard in the centre of the relatively deserted road. He just missed it, but had to swerve suddenly to do so. I briefly enjoyed his sudden look of panic and pretended to take his number down as he disappeared into the middle distance, his middle finger raised in my general direction.

I wonder what his insurance report would have read had he hit the obstruction? How about “I was giving a Parking Warden on the other side of the road a piece of my mind when he put a concrete bollard in front of my car.”
Or perchance “The Parking Warden viciously put me off my driving by wearing his uniform in a highly offensive manner.”
How about; “I was driving along, minding my own business on a road I’d been driving along for years when a Parking Warden suddenly forced me to drive into a concrete bollard I’d never seen before.”

Although knowing the condition of the vehicle he was driving; there was a distinct likelihood he had no insurance anyway. Or tax, or licence.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

 

Doing a few simple sums

Now I’ve had some time to think on my days off, I was walking my dog through town and stopped across the road near one of my regular patrol areas. A thought occurred to me about what one of the guys was saying before we left for patrol the other morning.

Mike was harping on about how he always felt under pressure to ‘get so many tickets a day’; because he felt it ‘paid our wages’. Now in our area there’s (Officially) no bonuses or quotas per se for how many tickets issued but if your ‘averages’ are down, it doesn’t look good at your yearly appraisal.

Now speaking for myself I’m glad old Mister Average (Me) isn’t on commission because he’d starve some weeks if he was. Hell, if no-one’s breaking the rules you can’t book ‘em and one guy (before my time) almost got sacked for ‘inventing’ parking tickets that never were.

After I returned home I pondered the mathematics of parking. I’d counted the bays, and then worked out that these bays are approximately in use for 70% of the time from eight am when the restrictions kick in until close of play at six pm. Most people pay for their parking and most use more than ten minutes less than their allotted time.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that there are thirty bays each taking £1 an hour. Over a period of a restriction day (10 hours) that’s around £30 an hour for 70% of the ten hour restriction day. That works out at £210 a day steady revenue form those thirty spaces. Let’s say £1470 a week, maybe knocking off £25 a week for non payers, which leaves us with a remainder of £1445.00

Alternatively, let’s have a think about the ‘Tickets mean revenue’ argument; with an average of maybe One or two parking tickets issued in this area per day. Mondays and Tuesdays you might catch one a day, Wednesdays and Thursdays you might find two maybe three to book and Fridays three or four, but Saturdays and Sundays you might book five or six. So over the week, we can postulate around twenty tickets will be issued for contraventions in this area. Total ‘Value’ at £60 per time; £1200.

Half of those tickets will be paid early without a whisper, thus qualifying for the 50% discount which brings in £300, thus ‘losing’ £300 of the grand total. The rest will be challenged with varying degrees of success or ignored completely, with an average overall ‘cancellation rate’ of 13%. Now each parking ticket issued and challenged incurs an approximate administrative cost of more than 50% of its value. Even those that are paid promptly ‘loses’ around a fifth of its monetary value purely in administrative costs (Time of Patrol / Admin staff for issuing, processing and filing etc.) If a challenge goes to NPAS, that can wipe out the entire £60, if and when it gets paid. If the Challenger pays up within the extended discount period after an adjudication, the Council ends up making a ‘loss’ of £30 per ticket issued.

From what I can ascertain; around 10% of tickets go to the bailiffs after Northampton County Court and half the time they can’t find the person who the ticket was issued to (Or there is some reason they can’t pay). This means something like half of the remainder never gets collected. Call it 5% non payment overall which gets ‘written off’.

Now working on the aforementioned on a purely simplistic level; 18% of tickets issued will never be paid, which will give you a total of £492.00 as the actual sum raised from the issue of all those parking tickets. Most of this will ‘disappear’ in administrative charges. On the other hand, the steady £1445 a week from the thirty bays goes straight into the Council coffers, comfortably paying four Parking enforcers wages for that week. Week in, week out.

Now multiply the number of spaces by several hundred and apply the same logic. Then add in all the off street revenue at around 80% of the on street prices to the tune of well over four thousand spaces that we patrol. Now add a few thousand residents permits and yearly parking permits. This pays for Parking Services salaries (Office and patrol), plus monies for new equipment to replace the old and knackered stuff. Repainting road markings (Whenever that happens) and parking restrictions, and a whole lot more. It doesn’t take a leap of genius to conclude that our section of the Council is entirely self financing and actually ends up subsidising the council tax payers (Of which I happen to be one).

Working upon the above figures, I reckon that so long as I’m out on patrol and ‘encouraging’ people to be honest, it doesn’t matter how many parking tickets I do or don’t issue, so long as the steady revenue from the parking spaces keeps flowing. That’s what really pays my wages, not issuing parking tickets.

Upon reflection, I think it might be a smart career move to lease some land near the town centre, stick up some pay and display signs, set up a pay and display machine and watch the cash just roll on in. It’s got to be better than working for a living.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

 

Tomorrow

Is, as they say, another day. It is also my day off. A day when I hope that magical phone call will come through with a decent offer of a contract. Please God, please. I promise I’ll be ever so good.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

 

Dazed and Confused

I’ve been having a bit of a “What the hell?” day today. Everything has been coming and going without a moment to draw breath. First thing this morning my dog was playing up, dawdling on his morning walk when normally he races ahead and I’m busy trying to keep up. Next Mrs S has gotten out of the wrong side of the bed saying she doesn’t want this and that. Youngest was whining like a wonky bearing because she suddenly decided from out of left field that she wants a Navel Piercing and her Mum wasn’t having any of it. Everything was going to pieces so fast I was getting hit by the emotional shrapnel. I’ve rarely been so glad to go to work.

I got into work fifteen minutes early and the Supervisor was looking daggers at me for some reason, even though he’s been on his days off and we got on very nicely thank you without him. My mates were all bitching about how crap everything was before we’d even got started. I got out of there pronto. What on earth had got in to everyone?

When the rain hit I stayed out on Patrol in one of my usual little sheltering places, watching the world go by. No sense in going back to face the witches cauldron of emotional torment that everyone else had wound themselves up into. Thought I’d got away with it until late morning when;
“Control calling 515, where are you?”
“Out on patrol at the end of the High Street. Is there a problem?”
“No, no. Just hadn’t heard from you.”
“I’m fine, just keeping a general eye on things, it’s pretty quiet out here.”
“Okay 515, can you return to base soon as possible.” Oh bugger.
“Okay Control. 515 out.” There ends my peaceful morning. I dodged the showers and took my time getting back to base. There was nothing there I really wanted to do, just clearing the storm drains, tidying store rooms and all the other silly make-work that goes on when it gets too wet to patrol.
“How come you’re not soaked?” Was the question that greeted me as I walked in to the mess room.
“Me, heap big friend rain god. Him no-um rainum on me.” I grinned for a moment then looked around at all the glum faces who’d missed the ‘Rain God’ joke entirely. “What?”
“Why didn’t you log on to wet weather?”
“Because I was out there, on patrol.”
“You’re making the rest of us look like idiots.”
“Why?”
“Because you’re out there and we’re all logged on wet weather.”
“So what?”
“It makes us look like a bunch of prats.” What? Really? That wasn’t difficult was it?
“Well, sorreee!”
“What were you doing out there anyway?”
“Skiving.” Let’s see if the truth confuses ‘em.
“Typical Bill, always taking the piss.” It did.
“Better than being pissed on.” I shrugged out of my damp kit.
“You’re in the wrong fookin job then.” This is, at least in our crew, the absolute height of witty banter and produced a huge guffaw of laughter all round the mess. Oh God.

I just dried off and sidled out to watch the rain. There are times when you just have to let your mates win one, or they get all mardy.

Back at the ranch as they say, I returned home to listen to a low level argument switch between youngest, eldest, then wife, and back again. Don’t ask me what it’s all about; it must be a female thing. As a mere male, I just keep my head down and try to ignore all the kerfuffle.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

 

A good officer never gets wet

During our initial training, we were told that “A good officer never gets wet”. Taking this to heart, and wishing to be a “Good officer” I found several places around town that were warm and comfy refuges from the worst of the British climate, from temperatures of (This year) down to minus seven Celsius, to quite heavy downpours. All of said facilities had (Notice the past tense) a dual function; we had access to keys to secure gates, change machines and other of the councils facilities.

Now we found out (No one told us) today that the locks have been changed, and we will no longer have access to these cosy little bolt holes in wet or freezing weather. We are now forced to waste up to half an hour patrol time walking back and forth to base to get and return keys to lock and unlock Council facilities. There are no more handy places to dry out your kit if you get caught in a sudden downpour. Oh yes, and we are forbidden to use public facilities whilst in uniform. We have no recourse but to freeze or be soaked when the weather turns and take ‘comfort breaks’ back at base. Union, what bloody union?

The reason for this closure is that one of our number was caught using one such bolt hole for twenty minutes to fill out his note book after a particularly successful foray. Instead of addressing his behaviour, the Council has seen fit to penalise all of us. The chair polishers are so petty. We get told that “Well you get a paid tea break” Ahem. Excuse me, you bastards can wander away from your desks every ten minutes if you want to, and have to have a ‘screen break’ of 5 minutes every hour (Check the health & Safety directives) and it doesn’t even get logged. Effectively giving them more break time than us. They can have cups of tea every hour on the hour and no one will say a dicky bird.

Fine, just let them try “Bill, can you do this for us?”
My reply will be “Sorry, be at least half an hour.”
“Oh Bill, can you…”
“Kind of tied up right now..”
“515, where are you?”
“515? Are you okay?”
“Anyone out there seen 515?”
“515 here control – Rather busy at the moment – can someone else help?”
“515, what are you doing?”
“I’m out at (Quote location on beat furthest from requested venue). Isn’t there anyone closer?”
“515, my office – now!”
“Can you hang on while I finish this first…”

The fun will be unending, or maybe an ending.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

 

Don't ask..

There are some days when behaving like this seems like a very, very good idea.

It's very tempting indeed.
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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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E-mail address : billsticker at gmail dot com

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