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Thursday, June 28, 2007

 

Pay and Dismay

The book is only a few days away from being available. In the meantime, here is a post that isn’t in it;

A lot of our car parks and on street car parking are what is called ‘pay and display’. You park your car, go to a pay and display machine, pay for however long you might like to stop and stick the printed ticket on display on your dashboard. Simple isn’t it? Well in theory perhaps. The operational side is a bit; well how should I put it, more complicated. Life would be far easier if the machines themselves were;
a) Better built and designed
b) Not quite so old and knackered

Furthermore, their state of decrepitude would not be so acute if they were not routinely subject to;
1) Coin of the realm so battered that it looks as though it has recently passed
through a black hole
2) Repeatedly being struck by members of the public who think that hitting the outer casing of a machine can actually ‘fix’ a mechanical fault
3) Superglue (Or other foreign matter - Euww) in the coin slots
4) Attempted break ins
5) Ham fisted attempts to ‘fix’ problems by Officers who were never taught how
to do it properly in the first place
6) Being hit by someone’s shiny pride and joy at speed
7) Rain, hail, sleet, snow, sunlight and next doors cat

All the aforementioned being taken into consideration, you can quite safely bet your twinkling little booties that at least one of the machines on your beat will be hors de combat when you begin your shift. If it’s a really bad day you can find yourself dealing with whole streets and car parks being out of order. Such bad days are not that uncommon.

The worst bit is that everyone wants these machines fixed right now because they are very busy and haven’t the time to wait five minutes until you can get all the way across town on foot.

Once upon a time when we had a full crew, this would be within the realms of possibility. Member of Public or Officer would put in a call, Supervisor would leap in his van and bimble across town to the fault location and everything would get done inside five minutes. Result, machine would be fixed and happy (Well not quite so unhappy) customer would be sent on their way rejoicing (Or at least not complaining quite so much).

A routine call would go like this;
A mobile phone rings and a beat officer (Me) answers; “Good day, Parking Department, how can I help you?”
Member of public; “Your machines broken.”
515; “Which machine is this sir / madam?”
Member of public; “I don’t know.”
515; “Okay, which car park are you in?”
Member of public; “Erm, the one just after the traffic lights on the right. Come quickly, your machine’s broken.”
515; “Which traffic lights?” We have several; it’s a very cosmopolitan town.
Member of public; “I dunno. Your machines taken all my money.” Call the Police! It’s a crime wave!
515; “Is there a number on the machine?”
Member of public; “I don’t know, I’m not in the car park any more.”
515; “Okay, where are you now?”
Member of public; “I’m in Marks and Spencer.”
515; “Are you parked anywhere near there?” Give me a clue – please.
Member of public; “No, your machine’s taken all my money and it didn’t give me a ticket.”
515; “Was it in a multi-storey?” Here we go, twenty questions time.
Member of public; “No.”
515; “Which was the closest shop to it?”
Member of public; “It’s up by the bus station. By the traffic lights. You know.” News to me. Wish I did. Well that narrows it down to two.
515; “Right, I’ll exempt your vehicle until we can get the fault fixed. Do you know the registration?”
Member of public; “No! This isn’t good enough. I’m making a complaint!” Line goes dead. Oh God. Arse map their without a can’t find.

And they’re going to let people like this use credit cards and text messaging to pay for parking? Well there’s an accident waiting to happen.

Hi-ho, all this and no sodding body armour. Especially for the poor sods who work in London. My sympathies to this poor guy in particular. You know what really pisses me off? He’ll be forgotten long before the current media frenzy ends over a spoilt rich kid who just did a little well deserved time for pissing on the law. Makes me want to spit.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

 

Going to the dogs?

Another on and off rainy day, another run in with people who basically aren’t looking or don’t care. This little anecdote finds old Uncle Bill in his traditional stance (Arms folded, standing his ground) receiving a thorough telling off from a member of the General Dyslexic (Post Parking ticket of course).

“You know what’s wrong!” He frothed at me. “This country’s gone to the bloody dogs! You know why? Eh, eh!” The customary angry finger was thrust under my (apparently guilty) nose. “Go on! Why’s the country in the state it’s in!” He stood there, quivering with old rage, seeing me as the symbol of everything that was wrong with his country.
“Don’t know sir.” I responded carefully. An intelligent response will only wind this idiot up even more.
“Of course you bloody don’t!” He railed. “You’re the problem! All of you fucking jobsworths!” Thought so. I breathed a heavy inner sigh. So it’s my fault you took up a parking bay you weren’t entitled to because you were too tight to stump up fifty pence? “You go around making people’s lives a misery, and I bet you get a kick out of it don’t you? Don’t you!” The accusing finger dropped. I stood there saying nothing. Just waiting until the storm appeared to have blown itself out. As his blood pressure seemed to be dropping, I administered the coup de grace.
“Challenge procedure’s on the back of the ticket sir.” I advised gently.
“What?” I’ve really confused him now.
“The instructions on how to challenge the ticket sir. Should you wish to do so. On the back of the ticket. In the envelope. Sir.” I reiterated, not unkindly.
“ARHHH!” He shouted and stomped off back to his vehicle. Job done, another confrontation survived. There are ways of fighting back without actually getting into a fight.

What he said left me thinking. Why is England in the state it’s in? Am I part of the disease or the cure? I like to think it’s the latter. Doing little things like keeping streets running clear (Where I can) and showing the wilful that they cannot get away with being the grit in the ointment of other’s lives. Helping out where I can. Small stuff.

On that subject; albeit a little obliquely, I was reading ‘The Pub Philosopher’ a few days ago and found a link to this article (Why England is rotting) in a Canadian publication. It makes for thought provoking reading.

In perspective; not so very long ago, a couple of decades in my recollection; anyone messing around with the rule of law could expect some fairly rough handling. If you got drunk and stupid, you could expect a night in the cells and a short trip down the steps if you got disrespectful. It was an experience to be avoided and feared (Unless you were too stupid and full of yourself to care). Likewise, anyone messing with the Royal Navy could expect to be summarily blown out of the water. Now everything seems so emasculated. We expect our front line soldiers to be nice. This is crazy. Our Armed Forces and Police were never meant to be social workers. To illustrate by comparison; Dobermans were never really bred to be house pets. They are primarily guard and attack dogs.

In addition there is this asinine view that everything can be micro-managed remotely by non-combatant politicians and the guy on the spot has to refer each command decision upstairs. This way of doing things is quite frankly ludicrous. That ain’t no way to run an army. It’s a sure fire way to lose a war. Does no one read any history around here?

To enlarge; there is an idea that seems to stem from this huge, confused power / guilt / ego / morality trip that much of the left leaning English middle class seems to be hooked on. It’s like some people are trying to out-nice each other in the hope that the meek really will inherit the earth. (They will eventually, after everyone else has finished with it; but not just yet, it’s not their turn this millennium, or the next if human nature is any yardstick.) We are told that we have to stay on some farcical ‘moral high ground’ and ‘save the planet’ (That’s all utter bollocks if you ask me, this planets biosphere could shrug us off as a species without a twitch in it’s orbit and still keep going round the sun – it’s still got billions of years left in it).

England (As a societal entity) seems to have been so busy bending over backwards for so long that now, without turning it’s figurative head, it can make a spirited attempt to kiss it’s own arse as well as everyone else’s. We seem to have missed the middle ground somehow. I know we are no longer a colonial superpower and should accept this; our ancestors did many ‘bad’ things (By today’s standards, perhaps not by theirs). I understand one of my own distant ancestors was hanged for murder – but that doesn’t make me (Or any of my close relatives) a killer. Similarly, it’s no reason to (As a nation) wear sackcloth and ashes for the rest of eternity. What I’m trying to get across is that we as a nation should ‘fess up, learn the lesson and move on without all this guilt. It’s so adolescent and self-indulgently destructive. For want of a better term, it’s just so Chav. Which is half the problem really.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

 

Rainy days and open days

Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but any more of this rainy weather and I’ll be evolving webbed feet and a beak. Failing that, I’ll put in a request for a total immersion suit. Although knowing our supply system, we wouldn’t get the bloody things until next years heatwave (If at all).

Took youngest stepdaughter and friends up to Manchester University ‘Open Day’ yesterday on my last day off. One is going to study Maths, one is going to study English Literature, and youngest is going to study Law and Criminology. We’re going to have a Lawyer in the family! Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Youngest will require three straight ‘A’ grades to get on the course, which I know she is capable of.

Mrs Sticker and I let the girls off the leash and spent an agreeable few hours wandering around the campus. They went to several lectures, we looked over the Students Union building and tagged onto one of the many ‘walking tours’ around campus. We spent well over three hours in the Manchester Museum. They sell some really cool stuff in their gift shop – Roman and Medieval reproduction arms and armour (Wonder if I could get away with carrying a Roman Pugio or better still a Gladius or Spatha on duty – probably not); we lunched on huge burgers at the Phoenix Pub on the corner of Oxford Street and Booth Street West. If you’re ever there, the ‘Scream Deluxe’ burger is real stick to your ribs stuff, and they have no truck with all this namby pamby ‘salad garnish’ nonsense.

Conclusion; it was a fair hike to get there, but well worth the trip. I have a soft spot for Manchester as a city, having done quite a few jobs in the area during the late 1990’s. My only beef with travelling there was the Motorway congestion. The plague of speed cameras on the approaches is likewise a nuisance and tends to take your mind away from your driving. Nonetheless, despite the odd shower it wasn’t a bad run. All told, a nice day.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

 

Lenny's Britain - Traffic Wardens - BBC One

Erm, is this the show people were telling me about? Sorry folks, I missed it. Oh what the hell, Lenny doesn't read this blog. He won't mind.



Update: For Wil and Justin, who according to their comments (I think), are having trouble viewing the video the link is here. I found the clip by logging into Youtube and entering the search words 'Lenny Henry Traffic'. It came up as the only search result. Just as an aside, was that filmed in Glasgow or Edinburgh?
 

Not the last post

Was my last post on the 15th? How remiss of me, but I’ve been rather busy of late, what with one thing or another. The news on the publishing front is that the book is finished, but I’ve just got to sort out the distribution and listing side of things. Such are the joys of self publishing. Bear with me.

In the meantime, here’s the latest from the wonderful zany world of parking enfarcement in our area;

Fraud

Team meeting this afternoon and one of the many sticks that are used to beat (Sorry, motivate) us came out of the closet. This is the ‘You get a paid tea break’ gambit. One that isn’t always taken I might add, because there’s often nowhere to bloody well take it (Especially in the afternoon) and fit in all your patrol duties. Especially on the longer beats. Senior Manager also likes to trot out the old chestnut about how five minutes a day costs yay much, and multiply this by so many working days in the year and so many staff on duty meaning if we aren’t all out on beat ‘On the dot’ we’re wasting hundreds of thousands of the councils money fraudulently. This means preparing for the days duties on your own time, changing into their uniform, setting up their equipment (Printers, Hand held Computers, Radio’s), unpaid. Ahem, who is being defrauded here might I ask?

I know our employers pay the wages, but surely that’s for my time at work, not to make inroads into my personal life. As long as I am performing my work duties within reasonable parameters and catching the naughty people who abuse the parking laws, why the heavy handed approach? Especially when I personally am not at fault. This rankles somewhat.

As we don’t get time off in lieu (Or paid overtime) for being on site and ready say fifteen minutes to half an hour before our start of shift time, this seems a very one sided bargain. I know we’re better paid than call centre workers, but we do undertake greater physical risks and are expected, amongst many other things, to fix pay and display machines etc with ‘customers’ breathing down our neck, demanding that we do something right now! There seems to be this view that we should go straight out on street (As we so often do) with very little information apart from what’s come through on the grapevine. More often than not it feels like no one tells us anything.

No wonder mistakes are made. We often feel we are not important enough to be told what we need to know to do our jobs better. Grumbling has already reached the lower end of the richter scale, and it’s not just me. I’m just the bloke who sits at the end of the mess table with his mouth clamped firmly shut. I know my job is out on the streets and car parks, and that’s where you can generally find me during the duty hours of my shift. My employers get their money’s worth. So when I am told that I should be giving up my personal time for the job, who is defrauding who?

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Friday, June 15, 2007

 

Shopping Rage

Well she might have found her pay and display ticket was about to run out. That can put a crimp in anyone's day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

 

IF

IF YOU can keep your cool when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can like yourself when all men hate you,
But make allowance for their hating too;
If you can walk long miles of limited waiting,
And ensure the parking’s fair and square,
Yet make allowance for the obfuscating,
And still don’t think that you can’t care:

If you can dream— and yet not lose your reason;
If you can think—and not forget the reasons why,
If you can stride unmoved through threats of ire
Keeping your head up although you want to cry;
If you can bear to see the truth you’ve written,
Dismissed by slaves to avarice and sloth,
Or watch the work you gave your day to, stricken,
Yet not give in to indolence and wrath:

If you can walk the walk when feet are burning
And talk the talk despite the pain you feel,
And turn, and start again at the last turning
Yet never breathe a word about your heels;
If you can force your nerve to stand there waiting
In front of angry men who mean you harm,
And keep your peace despite their prating
Then next second turn, prepared to use your charm

If you can walk in crowds, immune to mocking jibes,
Or speak with fools—yet be prepared to bluff,
If you can ignore their poor attempts at bribes,
If they can taunt, but you’re not rising to that stuff;
If you can justify an unforgiven ticket
With sixty seconds’ worth of ribald wit,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
Despite all that—you’ll know the job is shit!

With humble apologies to the late, great, Rudyard Kipling

Regards

Bill

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

 

Cover art


This is the final cover art (Sans text) that will be my forthcoming books cover. I particularly like juxtaposition of the feet to the drain and the metaphor it implies. Amazon listing will happen as soon as the MSS is finalised (Probably within the next week or so), and the back cover blurb will read like this;


What the media said about the original weblog;

Jane Perrone; The Guardian
“… a one-man manifesto for the rehabilitation of the traffic warden in the public consciousness.”
Tim Worstall; The Independent
“Bill Sticker gives us his mordant view of life from the kerbside. Idiot drivers, irate myopics……. Like most of those who blog about their jobs he is not overly impressed with the current style of British management. Some aspiring business book author could easily write a bestseller culled from this list " A Study of Management: How Not to Do It” perhaps.”

About this book;
This is ‘Walking the Streets – the book, not the blog’; better written than the original blog, more informative, more sarcastic, funnier, and with plenty of never before published entries and handy hints. (Over 65% brand new content! 100% rewritten.)
Read it and ‘Walk the Streets’ of a British provincial town with ‘Bill Sticker’, a British Parking Enforcement Officer with some very caustic views on Life, the Universe and parking restrictions
. Who knows, you may even come to the conclusion that (at least some) traffic wardens are (Almost) human.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

 

Channel 4 and quality viewing

All today I’ve been hearing asides from the general public about what a bunch of arseholes we parking enforcers are. From what I can make out, that shining star of quality viewing, Channel 4 ran a programme on ‘Traffic Wardens’. Predictably perhaps, it showed the excesses of the private sector rather than the dull day to day stuff of enforcement that really gets done out on the streets, but that wouldn’t make exciting viewing would it?

Like the Big Brother and ‘reality TV’ drek that the Channel generally hosts – and like so many TV programmes before them, the producers dwelt on the confrontational, the dramatic; because real lives, rather like the real lives of contestants in ‘Big Brother’ do tend towards dull as ditchwater. Even princesses have to spend time on the toilet each day.

The programme itself was about as real as a Soap Opera actresses emotional responses. After a short discussion, our mess room consensus was that it was a ‘load of bollocks’ put out by ‘some disgruntled ex-enforcers’. Although some of the other guys simply shrugged as if the content wasn’t all that surprising; it was simply a case of the same old shit, just a different day. Notwithstanding; in our neck of the woods some of the excesses ‘documented’ would get you a severe telling off from Management. We have to walk a very fine line.

Mind you, if it makes people less likely to get into confrontations with me over parking, I’m okay with such programmes. I want the sight of my uniform to have wrongdoers scuttling for safety. So much easier than actually having to issue parking tickets. Less paperwork; less stress. It might put me out of a job of course, but that’s life for you.

On a lighter note a member of the public who objected to being booked for parking in a restricted area referred to my good self as “A sodding blood sucking vampire!”
For the record, my thoughts on the matter were; well if I’m a vampire, how come I’m not more stylishly dressed?

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

 

Where there’s smoke – there’s fined

Lunch break recently. There was a continuous rotating discussion about the English smoking ban that comes into force 1st July 2007. Almost half of the Parking Enforcers in our district are smokers, so not being able to bunk off for a quiet ciggie on your break is going to make some of my brethren even less loveable than at present. As if that were possible.

The situation at present is as follows; you can’t smoke in our mess room, and from 1st July won’t be allowed to smoke in the entire building. Now the law as it stands forbids smoking ‘in the workplace’. Now, speaking as someone whose workplace is the Streets, does this mean that any of my smoking brethren cannot bunk off for a quick smoke whilst out on patrol? Or, provided of course that they have removed their cap and epaulettes, they can, provided they have logged off on a ‘break’. No one has given us any guidance on this as yet. As if they will until it becomes a ‘disciplinary matter’. Please note; we are not deemed to be ‘in uniform’ when without these items, and if seen booking a vehicle whilst not properly attired, then any Penalty Charge Notice issued when not ‘in uniform’ can be made invalid upon challenge.

Now the ‘official’ guidelines (Key points) from the Smoke free England website are laid out below;
· From 1 July 2007 it will be against the law to smoke in virtually all enclosed and substantially enclosed public places and workplaces.
· Public transport and work vehicles used by more than one person will also need to be smokefree.
· No-smoking signs will have to be displayed in all smokefree premises and vehicles.
· Staff smoking rooms and indoor smoking areas will no longer be allowed, so anyone who wants to smoke will have to go outside.
· Managers of smokefree premises and vehicles will have legal responsibilities to prevent people from smoking.
· If you are uncertain where you can or can't smoke, just look for the no-smoking signs or ask someone in charge (If you ask me, no one’s told me anything so I won’t have a clue - sorry).

Our discussion opened when Chris lit up his usual badly rolled ‘tab’ and stood in the mess room doorway to smoke and talk as usual. “You jacking it in before first July mate?” Pete asked him.
“I’m going to try.” Chris took a short drag on his roll up and coughed like an old tractor. I never fathom why he still smokes, what with his bronchitis and all.
“Where you going to smoke if you can’t?” Davey asked him.
“Have to go outside won’t I?” Was Chris’s rather surly response. He’s had several run ins with Management over the past few months and he’s less than enchanted with them because of this.
“Yeah, but you’ll have to leave Council property, which’ll put you outside the grounds. You thought about that?” Davey pointed out; tell you the truth I think he was winding Chris up more than a bit.
“If I don’t, none of you lot’ll rat on me will you?” Chris asked with an unpleasant twist to his mouth like he’d just tasted a dead skunk.
“Don’t be daft.” Pete replied.
“We’re your mates, get off.” Asif is a smoker himself, so that was predictable.
“No one here is going to tell, you daft prat.” Colin reassured.
“Unless it’s Henry.” Pete leaned his chin on his hand moodily.
“Or that square eyed bastard Jago.” Davey observed.
“They’d sell their own mothers to suck up to Management.” Pete said.
“And they both smoke.” I pointed out.
“Fucking hypocrites, the pair of ‘em. You want to watch those bastards.” Pete wagged a warning finger.
“We already do Pete, already do.” Davey replied. The rest of us nodded sagely. There is a certain coterie amongst us who are well known backstabbers. They lack the spine to deal with issues face to face and go running to Management over the slightest disagreement. Even Management have gotten teed off enough to issue an edict that ‘petty matters’ should not be brought to them. Not that this has stopped Jago and Henry so far. Pillocks.

At the moment of writing, we Parking Enforcers haven’t been asked to join the ‘enforcement’ side of the smoking ban. That is to be done by a separate band on non-uniformed ‘inspectors’ (Praise the Lord). Speaking as this particular Parking Enforcer I shall be refusing to enforce the ban unless we can use it to get rid of the wino’s who occasionally pollute our car parks. I already have my work cut out doing normal patrol duties, so unless some serious extra money is on the table for this purpose (And even if there isn’t) our illustrious leaders can go whistle. For myself, all that is going through my mind on the subject is the following thought; phew! At least there’s going to be someone out there less popular than us.

Addendum: Looks like those new ‘Anti Smoking Inspectors’ may in turn have someone to look down on. Will we have Binge Drinking Inspectors next? Oh yes, and don’t think that being middle class will save you from any putative predations. Hells bells, it’s enough to drive you to drink. Oh well, mine’s a large one with a Fixed Penalty Notice chaser. Cheers!

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Friday, June 01, 2007

 

Into every life

This little corner of the blogging community is one brave spirit less today. The man who wrote the highly amusing blog from New Zealand ‘Rest Area 300m’, known to his on line chums as ‘Dodderyoldfart’ a.k.a. Simon Lindsay died suddenly last night.

The news was passed to me in an e-mail from James Richards, University lecturer, who runs the ‘Work Blogging’ web site from his base at Heriot Watt University.

Simon, or ‘Dof’ as I knew him, was a man of unrecognised comic genius. Who else would salute his friends by naming potholes after them? All I can think of to say is “God speed, you old tinker.” Heaven must really need some serious astral potholes filling. Well, they’ve got the right man for the job. God bless.

Regards

Bill

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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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