Yeah, that's the ticket.

Let's talk about parking tickets, shall we?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another Christmas, Another Surrender

This blog is now a year old. I too am another year older and another year into my job as a Parking Control Officer (eight years in February). And I'm beginning to think that "control" should not be in our job title. How can you control a flood? How can you control a hurricane? How can control a mindless tide? I'm talking about the mindless tide of humanity.

People. People who don't read signs, who aren't able to figure out that you just can't block someone's driveway or a fire hydrant, who STILL don't know that red means NO. People who will do only what is most expedient for themselves and all others be damned.

You know, I consider myself a pretty smart guy. And to be quite honest, this job is really not much of a challenge. It's easy to write parking tickets. The only challenges come in the form of me trying to control myself, my temper, my tongue, my ulcer, my vehicle (when I see incredibly stupid driving in front of me).

Hm, so I guess that's it. That's the real control aspect of all this: me controlling myself. The only thing I really have any control over anyway.

So, as my step-daughter decorates the Christmas tree, my wife cooks up a yummy meal and Vince Guaraldi plays Charlie Brown music on the stereo, I'll just relinquish any attempts at control for another holiday season and simply appreciate what I have.

Happy holidays everybody.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Shout out

Check out a friend's blog that has nothing to do with parking (thank goodness)!

But it is interesting.

Ofcr X

Friday, December 17, 2010

I had to pass this along

I just heard about this website and while as a professional I cannot endorse the rude language of the domain name, or the placing of anything on a person's car, behind my hands I'm snickering like crazy.

Here it is:

By the way, I am in no way affiliated with this site. It isn't mine, darn it.

Officer X

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"I'm not from around here."

I hear the title quote a lot. "I'm not from around here" a person will tell me, in English, as a request to excuse me from writing them a ticket. Wha? You are speaking to me in English (I suspect some Spanish-speakers of using their language as a way to tell me that they indeed do not speak or read English, but I don't always believe them), and I'm sure you can read English signs. All of our signs are in English but if there are two signs, the bottom one suddenly becomes some alien language that they not only can't read, but in some cases can't even see.


I don't care if you are from Minnesota, New York City, Orange County, or Australia, you too must follow the rules as delineated on those signs. Unless you are blind, then you shouldn't be driving should you? And you wouldn't be reading this would you?

Is the above quotation proof of extraterrestrial life, or just another mealy-mouthed excuse?

Sigh. I need some time off.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Almost Here

No, I'm not talking about Christmas. It's true you are hearing loads of Christmas music, sales pitches and the like now that Thanksgiving is over, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I have been posting mercilessly about the fine and not-so-fine citizens of my little California town for a while now and I think it's time to give you all a little present - something I'm sure you've been wondering about, asking for and yes, maybe in your own sick and twisted little way praying for. I'm going to start writing about my colleagues. I've been sticking it to the citizenry long enough (although lord knows they deserve it), but what about US? Not ME of course, but US. The few, the proud, the over-zealous.

Starting soon I will be posting as many stories I think I can write, without being fired or sued over, about my fellow PCOs.

And heaven help us all. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Away Game

Hello citizens,

You've probably wondered where I've been for a while (or not). Well, I've been on jury duty for the past five weeks. It was a civil trial. More I won't say about it. But what I will say is that in combination with doing my civic duty and being away from the hustle-bustle, the hubbub, the hurly-burly (I could go on like this but you get the picture) for this long, it's been like a little vacation. The lack of stress has been a welcomed relief. No driving, no ticketing, no people getting in my face. And while deliberations may have been difficult, they were no match, stress-wise, for that one person who was willfully ignorant of a simple parking sign and made my life miserable because of it.

Why did I come back then, you ask? I need the money. The first day back on the job after jury duty was so surreal in so many ways that I just can't do it justice here (like I did in the jury room).

More later on all this. I will close by saying it's good to be back. Now if I can only keep this stress-free feeling for, oh say, the next fifteen minutes, I feel I'll be way ahead of the game.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Verbal Judo

The title of this piece does not refer to a character from the movie "The Usual Suspects." No, it is a technique taught to us by the police to diffuse any confrontation we may find ourselves in. You see, they don't give us guns (and a good thing too). We do have pepper spray but my former boss told me that in her more than twenty five years on the job, no one ever used it. Sometimes just taking the canister out of it's holder and shaking it to mix the chemicals is enough to deter a person who is hot under the collar. They know they may be about to become hot around the face and that does the trick.

This then is about talking your way out of a bad situation which is a marvellous skill to have in daily life as well (especially when I have a fight with my wife).

Here's what generally happens:
I am writing a ticket and about to place it on the windshield when the person emerges from their house. You can tell by the redness of their face and the strain showing in their neck muscles that, yep, it's their car and they are already at level 100 on the anger meter. They'll usually ask something stupid like "Why am I getting a ticket?" Generally they already know why and I'm getting very developed eye-rolling muscles myself.

Then the fun begins as I try to calmly explain to them why they are getting fined. Now, here's a problem to watch out for: they are in a completely agitated state and we as humans (most of us), when confronted with this type of thing get an immediate shot of adrenaline, prompting what's called the "fight or flight" response. Since we can't flee (until we've hung the ticket) and we can't fight in the traditional sense, we must use verbal judo (or scalding hot coffee if you happen to be holding a cup but you try writing a ticket with a cup of coffee in your hand. Not easy). The thing to avoid though is, when you get that shot of adrenaline (you've already had enough caffeine, mister), it's hard not to rise to their level and start getting angry yourself. You have to swallow hard (sometimes the coffee is bad, I mean really bad) and set a better tone between you and the angry person. It can get extremely frustrating (hey, I paid four and a half bucks for this coffee [oh, will you stop with the coffee already and get on with it?]), as I was saying it can get frustrating hearing the stupid or clueless reasons or excuses or just plain wrong-headedness of the aggrieved party and sometimes you'd like to say something back to them like: "You're an ass." This won't do. When they train us they tell us: "If you want to say something you think will make you feel better, don't." It'll only make the situation worse. And, you may get a citizen complaint about you. And who wants those? Most people simply want to be listened to anyway, so I do a lot of that. If you listen, you don't have to do a lot of talking which is smart.

I'm very good at verbal judo. When I'm done with a person, they are usually shaking my hand and saying thank you to me. And I just gave them a ticket! I love it. I can usually stop any snarkiness from coming out of my mouth until I'm fully in my vehicle and driving away. You should hear what I say then! It feels sooooo goooood.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Toe Story 2

And now, more about my time in the Traffic office at the police station. Damn toe.

One of the things we must do is to retrieve the "72 hour complaints" off of the phone voicemail box dedicated to that purpose. These are supposed to be complaints about abandoned vehicles but you wouldn't know it. Oh, before I forget, let me say that I'm glad they set up this mailbox. Before when you spoke to one of these complainants, they would go on and on and on telling you their life story before getting around to "just the facts, ma'am." Now, you can fast-forward through their messages. Ah, technology!

So, about these 72s. We have a rule here in my little town that a vehicle cannot be parked in the same place for more than a consecutive 72 hours. Essentially, you can't store a car on the street (or an RV, a boat trailer, etc). We leave a little red notice and we chalk the tires (or mark them in some other way) to make sure the owner knows the rule and knows that we're working their vehicle. A lot of times they will simply moved the vehicle up a few inches (Hey, I moved it!). Let me just say this: WRONG! And you can't simply move it from one side of the street to the other. Nope, you can't do that either. It has to break an intersection and go off of the block. You can even drive it around the block and park in the very same spot. But, if your car can't move because it doesn't run, like say, it doesn't have an engine, get it fixed.

Now, about these complaints we get. When you run the voicemails here is what you hear: It's been parked in front of my house for two days! Seven days! Six months (and you're just calling now?)! Recently a woman said this: "I can't water my front yard (!?!)." Why, I thought? Is it parked on your front lawn? Then she let the truth spill out: "My friends can't park in front of my house." Ah. That's really it in a nutshell. So instead of calling in a vehicle which might be abandoned and could actually pose a hazard or could be stolen, it becomes about "I want this car moved (off of a public street, mind you), so I can park there." Nice. Remember folks, you may own the house but your rights end at the end of your sidewalk. The sidewalk, the little grass strip and the street is MINE! The city owns that and we say that other people, you know, the public, can park there too. Make your friends walk a half a block (believe me, they can use it. I've seen some of your friends).

A lot of times, we get the same people calling about the same cars. This can sometimes be another version of the wonderful game show NEIGHBORHOOD FEUD! These things usually get resolved one way or another (jail is not a pretty place, folks, so take it easy, okay?) but often they can go on for years. We don't like this. It wastes our time. I need to go on my break!

My favorites though are during holidays or vacation times like the summer. We'll get calls like: "There's a car I don't recognize on my street." Welllll? People do visit each other, you know. Kids come home from college, and, people have even been known to (gasp!) buy new cars once in a while. But I suspect it all goes back to this: "I can't park in front of MY house."

These are grown-up people I'm talking about here. And most of them have driveways too!Brother.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Toe Story

Hello and ouch. I sprained my right pinkie toe pretty badly (while on vacation, of course and believe me, there's nothing pretty about it) so I had to spend all of last week in the police station working in the Traffic office. Firstly, I was amazed at how many people had broken toe stories of their own. These little things are vulnerable, aren't they? Okay, let's get this out of the way right now. I did not hurt it kicking my wife. That seemed to be the popular thing to ask me (oh those jolly jokesters I work with - every cop a failed comedian). No, I woke up groggy and our bedroom door wasn't quite as open as it usually is and my foot found the edge of the door. It's that old thing about an irresistible force meeting an immovable object (hello, nice to meet you - OOOWWWW!!).

So in the office I was, wearing a rather not-so-stylish sandal-type shoe that I got from the foot doc. With my regular shoe on one foot and this thing on the other, I resembled Igor limping through Castle Frankenstein. I clomped around like a 12th Century Japanese woman in those wooden things they wore (I know I'm digressing here but it's fun).

Whenever I'm in the office, I get to see what kinds of tickets the motorcycle officers write. Following is a list of the three most common:

1) Cell Phone use. There is a law against this in CA (among other states) and yet you'd never know it. This is far and away the most common ticket the police write these days. Ah, give me the good old days when you had two tin cans with a piece of string between them. It's impossible to drive while talking on one of those (I've tried). But what's such an emergency that you can't pull over (NOT in the red, please) and talk? And don't get me started on texting. When I'm driving around on my job, I'm driving in a taller vehicle so it's fairly easy to see people texting in their cars even when they're trying to hide it. Unfortunately, I can't cite for this. Darn. There are bluetooth devices for the talking but so far no bluethumbs for the texting.

2) No Seatbelts. I mean really people, come on. You WANT to fly through the windshield in an accident? Really? There are those who tuck the belt under their arm as they drive. "But look, the belt is on!" This is a no-no as well. The belt must be worn properly. I've actually seen people texting and not wearing a seatbelt. Pathetic.

3) Unsafe Speed. Now, this is hard to avoid sometimes (Ahem, not me of course. I ALWAYS drive completely within the limit - why are you smirking?) But think about it. Texting or talking on the cell phone while driving, not wearing your seatbelt, AND speeding too? That's the trifecta! You WANT to not only go through the windshield, you also want the phone embedded into your skull, don't you? Hey, maybe there's the solution to talking while driving right there. I suppose that's coming.

More on being in the office later. I need to put my foot up (and take a pain pill).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tab, you're it.

Some call them Tabs, some call them Tags but we all know them as those little sticky things one must put on our license plates (except in some states where you put something in the windshield or in New Jersey where you don't need any at all - Go, Mafia!). The thing that amazes me is, some people feel this simple task absolutely MUST become an art project. They take the even smaller sticky part, the one that says Peel Here, and they put that all over their plate making it look like some kind of fruit salad that has exploded. This can make the plate difficult to read at times (maybe that's their evil intent? ... Nah.). By the way, there is a statute about altering the plate making it difficult to read. I'm just saying.

Then there are the "artists" who take the year tabs and layer them one after the other in a kind of colorful waterfall, or maybe a rainbow. Whenever I see this I wonder if they'll run out of room on the plate or the car will give up the ghost first.

Then you get the people who put one tab over another...and another...and another...and another until the tabs stand about three inches away from the plate. This is a bad idea. You see, people (and here I'm referring to unscrupulous people) have a tendency to steal tabs. [Really? Oh, horrors!] Yes, they do. This way, they can try to fake us (and the state) out and they don't register their car. I love catching people who don't register their cars. And we do catch them. Usually when they do something stupid. You'd be shocked to find out (as we are) how long some people go without registering their cars. This is another bad mistake. When we catch you (and we wiiiiilllll), it is soooo expensive to register it then, what with all the penalties and fees, etc. Oh, boy.

I'm not even going to mention those who put a year tab over the month tab. These people are just dumb. Oops, I guess I just mentioned them.

Look, here's the thing: when you get your tabs in the mail, take the old one off with a razor blade. Put the new one where it goes (usually upper right corner people, come on) and then using the same razor blade, score it (that means make cut lines in it so no one can steal it in one swipe) and there you go. You'd be astounded at how many people get tickets because their tabs are not on the plate and then they come out and show us where they are - in their glove box! Or they say, I'm waiting until I wash the car (just wash that spot!), or my mechanic does it for me (ladies, please).

So, whether you call them tabs or tags, you know where to stick them.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


We are called PCOs, that is, Parking Control Officers. I realized today that you can't spell proctologist without the letters PCO. We might as well be called proctologists because we deal with so many assholes every day. Sorry to be so harsh but if you had the day I did today, you'd be sounding off this way too. Let me say first that the rich really are different than you and me. They're assholes. They think they are so privileged that the rules do not apply to them. People who work in show business can really be self-important assholes. They actually think what they do is important and that the rules don't apply to them at all. People who can't read a simple sign or who don't know that red means NO pretty much all over the world are assholes. What is it that makes people who may be quite nice outside of their cars, become such assholes the minute they get in? Are we breathing some kind of fumes in there that we don't know about? You'll notice I include myself in that last question. Sometimes, when I drive I can be an asshole too. But not when I park. Then I try to follow the rules. Why? I don't want to get a parking ticket. Apparently this does not apply to assholes. Ugh. I'm wiped out. 10-7

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tow Head


Something I haven't written about yet is when I must tow a vehicle away. Not just cars either. I've towed thirty-foot motor homes, trailers (some with boats on them), motorcycles, semi trucks, 60's vans, even a scooter once (!). With a little kid still on it! No, no just kidding there. He went into the ice cream shop and while he wasn't looking....again, just kidding. I can't help myself, you know.

Anyway, there are only a few reasons why a vehicle might get towed away (almost sounds like it's never coming back - and I wish some of them wouldn't!). The most common is that the vehicle's registration has lapsed. If it's six months out of date, we can impound it. We can't crush it into a cube, but honestly, sometimes we'd like to. If it's been stored on the street in the same place for more than seventy-two hours, we can take it. Now look, we are on to all the tricks. If you move it across the street or roll it forward or backward, this does not constitute "moving the vehicle." Yes, technically it has "moved" but don't be a wiseguy. We left you that little red tag for a reason: so you'd read it and learn the law. Too bad if you didn't.

There are other reasons to tow as well. A common one is a street sign that says in effect, If You Park Here We Will Tow Your Car Away. I wish it said that in reality and not just in effect because people will park there anyway and completely ignore the sign that simply says Tow-Away Zone No Parking Any Time. It's amazing how many of those kinds of tows we get, whether they are the temporary type signs put up because of a parade, street repair or some other street work that needs a-doin', or the regular old street signs on poles. You know, the ones people routinely ignore anyway.

There are also the cars that are simply abandoned. There are cars that are missing parts (like engines) that may be hazards and can be towed for that reason (I wish you could tow away some people who are hazards but, sadly, we're not there yet). And there are cars that are parked illegally, like in a red zone for instance, that have no proof of registration - no plates, no VIN. Why anyone would do that is a complete mystery. Maybe they hate the car and are trying to get rid of it or maybe it's just a bad case of the Stupid Flu.

Then there are those vehicles we find that have more than five unpaid parking tickets in our computer system. We call those "keepers." Oooh, what fun. I enjoy running the paperwork back at the station and seeing exactly how much the person owes. Sometimes it's been more than $1,000. Can you imagine? I would start a keeper "pool" and take bets on how much the person owes and whoever is closest gets the money. But I can't do that. The police wouldn't like it. Gambling on duty and all. Bummer.

One quick story: a few weeks ago I impounded a young woman's SUV which I found out really belonged to her father back in the Midwest. I was furious at the old man. What the heck was he doing letting his daughter drive out west in a car that wasn't registered? For over a year! The plate was even listed in the system as "destroyed." Destroyed? I saw it right there - on the car! Shame on the old guy. I'd like to send him a nasty note. Maybe with some dog poop in it. But the police wouldn't like it. Harassing the citizens and all. Bummer.


A Futile Gesture

Hello everyone,

Today some guy flipped me the middle finger. This is not a terribly unusual occurrence but this one, given what's going on in the world, was slightly different. At least for me. Here's what happened: I was driving along and he was driving in the opposite direction towards me. He had left the ticket on his window under the driver's side wiper but the envelope was open. The little blue and white ticket was there flapping in the breeze. When he saw me, he stuck his arm out the window and flipped me "the bird" as they say (although honestly I don't know why they call it that). It struck me funny and I laughed. He saw me laughing which gave me no end of pleasure (twisting the knife, I believe that's called). I didn't even write him that ticket, of that I was sure. But my enjoyment of the moment soon gave way to a different feeling. I don't know, empathy maybe. I understood his frustration and the futile gesture it caused. This might have made him feel better momentarily but really had no effect on the situation whatsoever. And that's what I started thinking about.

I'm extremely upset about the gulf coast oil spill. This is turning into a gigantic ecological disaster. I feel upset, and angry, and...powerless. Just like that poor guy must have felt. I have made my displeasure with the situation known on other websites that I frequent and I really began to see the futility of my gestures too. They made me feel better (slightly) just to vent, but really what effect would they have?

I wanted to go find that guy and tell him this: I understand your taking your frustration out on me by saluting me as you did but it won't change the fact that you got the darned thing for parking illegally. If you really want to do something, run for city council and then have those signs changed (you know, those signs you didn't obey). Then and only then will you really get the satisfaction you are looking for. This is not easy and it's a long and, I suppose, arduous way of making that change but there's not much else you can do.

What can I do about the oil spill? Run for Congress? That's about it. Make new laws so these kinds of things can't happen again. I suppose both he and I could write to our appropriate representatives but let's face it, that won't do much to make us feel any better. The world is ours. We should become the change we want to see, to quote Gandhi. Which is certainly easier said than done.

Did you ever think you'd see the Mahatma's name in this blog? Be honest.

Nope, me neither.


Monday, May 10, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

I talk a lot on this blog about writing parking tickets (well, duh) but let's talk about something else, yes? Quite often us parking ticket types are asked (that's being polite - we're ordered) to block off a street if there is an emergency of one kind or another. Such as? Well, such as: a traffic accident, a fire, a bomb threat, a hostage situation, a shooting, or more desirably (although not to everyone) a parade.

Let's see what happens when this is our assignment. Typically, we are told: "Block this street (or alley or driveway access) and don't let anyone through." That's it. Pretty straightforward. This is generally for the safety of the citizenry but you'd never know that. To them it is one massive inconvenience. How, they wonder (usually aloud) am I going to get where I need to be? Which is always right in the thick of what is going on. Recently we did have a bomb scare and you'd be surprised (would you, really?) at how many people wanted to go....over there. Yes, there. Just over there. I wanted to say to them this: "Would you like to drive right into the bomb (or the fire or the shooter) or would you just like to interfere with the policemen and firemen who are dealing with it?" Believe it or not, there is a reason why buildings are evacuated. Why people are kept away from dangerous situations. This is not TV, you cannot change the channel. And yes, this WILL be on the news. Do you want to appear on the news as the one putz who insisted on getting himself blown up?

It's just as bad when it's a parade. Ah, civic pride. There's nothing like it. There's also nothing like marching bands and horses lining up on your block just when Junior has to have you take him out for pistachio ice cream right now or he's going to hold his breath again. I'll bet you'd like to take him out, wouldn't you? Anyway, the same parades are held in our town every year at the same time. Notices are sent a week or more in advance to every household that may be affected. Signs are put up on the streets days ahead warning that parking there on parade day will result in your buggy being towed away. But, I kid you not, people act as if this massive undertaking has been sprung on them in the middle of the night. I didn't know Officer. I've only been living here for 35 years. And yes, I'm a moron. How did you know?

It's pretty pathetic when we put up Street Closed signs, block the street with our vehicles, stand there waving cars away and still have someone drive up to us and ask us if they can go through. The exchange usually goes like this:

Can I go through?


But I live right there!


But I just live right there!


This could go on for a half an hour or so until the resident gets tired out or finally gets the hint that we are not budging. Is it your goal to run over the entire Pee-Wee Karate School, Ma'am? Are you harboring some kind of grudge against them that we should know about? Oh, or maybe your vehicle is really a float? The float representing the Terminally Clueless!

I tell you, it's crazy. And the sad part is, we can't write them a ticket for acting like this.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Big Mistake

The other day I heard that the small Texas town of Round Rock, which is outside of Austin, is going to start enabling volunteers (!) to give out overtime parking tickets in their downtown. Wow. I think this is a baaaaaad idea. It's tough enough on those of us who do this job in uniform in connection with some city police department, with police radios and pepper spray, etc. I can't imagine this is going to go well. The store owners are upset because they can't help but notice the cars that sit out in front of their businesses in the two-hour zone all day long. In our little town it's slightly different. Here it's mostly the business owners that sit all day in the two-hour zones in front of their businesses. They just hate it when we come by. As I write the ticket I love telling them, "You may own this business, but I own the street."

Anyway, what's going to happen in Texas? Here's a sample of the dialogue I think might occur:

Billy Bob: Earl, just what in the world do you think you're doing?

Earl: Well Billy Bob, you've been sittin' in this here two-hour parkin' zone for three and a half hours. I'm writin' you a parkin' ticket.

BB: Like hell you are.

E: Nah, it's true. And you gotta pay it too.

BB: Like hell I will. Earl, I fixed your lawnmower. How can you do this?

E: Watch me. And by the way, I think you overcharged me for fixin' that darned thing.

BB: My wife and yours play bridge together!

E: Well, your wife better start winnin' then, so she can pay this here ticket for ya.

BB: Earl, don't make me have to kick your ass.

E: Like hell you will!

It, of course, gets worse from there. One lady in the news story I heard about this said if she got one of these tickets she'd just rip it up and throw it away. I wonder what one of these volunteers will do when that happens. Fine her for littering too? This simply cannot end well and I urge the Round Rock City Council and the Mayor to stop and reconsider this foolish course of action. Of course, it could make for another great installment of the "Tuna" play series.

Ten-Seven, y'all.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Seven Parking Dwarfs

Good Evening Citizens. I've noticed a lot of weird behavior on this job, and it occurred to me that some of it reminded me of the famous seven little guys who gave Snow White such a hand. Here then is my list:

Dopey - This describes so much of what I see. Bad driving and bad parking are only a part of it. Many times I've stopped to cite a car because the registration tags (or tabs, as they are sometimes called) are out of date. And many is the time that the dope comes out of their house or business to show me, "Oh, I have them right here in my glove box." I tell them, "Um, they took away our x-ray vision and we can't see into your glove box. They need to be on the plate." Why do we still call them glove boxes, by the way? Anyone still storing gloves in there? Anyway, I've had women tell me that "their mechanic puts them on for them" (Really? But it's so easy) or that they were waiting until they washed the car (why not wash that little spot and put them on?) You have to understand, some of these tags stay off the plate for months! As I said, Dopey.

Grumpy - This is pretty much most people to whom I give a ticket. It's understandable. But sometimes I get a person who simply takes the ticket, admits they made a mistake and even smiles and says thanks. These I would say are Happy.

Sleepy - Once in a while you actually get someone sleeping in their vehicle (didn't they hear the sweeper truck go around them? They're loud, you know). I like to see if I can sneak up, get the last 4 of the VIN, and place the ticket under their wiper without disturbing them. What fun! I love the ones who wake up (usually Grumpy) and say, "Why didn't you wake me up?" What am I, your wife? Your alarm clock? Usually I just say, that's not part of my job description and leave. I've also had times where I did not notice the person laying all the way back in the seat nodding. When they pop up it has scared me silly. I can't take too much of that. I am getting older. You'll notice I didn't say anything about those who have no choice but to sleep in their cars (lost their house, fought with their wife - usually it's a guy) because I feel bad for those people. Those who are homeless deserve a break. Heaven knows they haven't had a break for about 8 years so I figure they're due.

Screamy and Yelley - More like Siamese twins I suppose than dwarfs. You know the type so I won't even describe them. But I have had these folks say things like, "A monkey could do your job!" that could read and write and drive. Or "You hate people!" No sir, only you right now. Or, "Why don't you get a real job?" I say, "Why, do you have one for me?" Mostly I say, "This is a real job. I get paid and have benefits and everything." They hate to hear that.

And finally the last dwarf - Clueless. These types say things like, "What sign?" Or, "Oh, I didn't even read it." Or, "I only read the one sign and not the other one." I love the ones who park in an 8 to 10 sweeper zone, come out of their house at 9 after the sweeper has gone around and ask me, "Can I move it now?" I actually said once, "Please, wait until I put my head under the tire. Then you can move it!"
I probably shouldn't have said that.


By the way, I always thought the plural of dwarf was dwarves. Dictionary dot com says either is acceptable. Okay then.

Monday, March 29, 2010

And now it's time to play....

That's right, it's the game show where your stinky neighbor does something rotten to you, so you feel you have to escalate the nonsense by doing something equally or even more rotten to them! Before we start a new round, let's recap today's edition.

I was called up to one of the ritzier neighborhoods waaaaay up in the hills to cite a vehicle I was told was blocking a fire hydrant. Okay. I do this kind of thing all the time. I drove up there and turned down the cul-de-sac road and lo and behold, no blocked hydrant. I told the Desk (no, I don't talk to furniture. The Desk is what we call the place where the police dispatchers are. Wiseguy.) that the vehicle was GOA, that is, Gone On Arrival. I then drove back down the hill to resume the work I had to do. One hour later, while I was busy, I got another call from the Desk to go back up there. This time it was to assist officers who were called to the scene because of a neighbor dispute. Oh, brother. But at least there would be officers there.

I got there and I was (ta da!) by myself. No officers anywhere. The couple who had made the original complaint was standing outside their house waiting for me. Oh goody! The same vehicle was sitting there but it was way far away from the hydrant. Surely it couldn't be..... "Officer, are you going to cite this car?" "Why? It's far enough away from the hydrant." "Well, the code says it has to be fifteen feet away, right?" I hate when people quote the code to me. It tells me I'm just going to have a harder time of it. People who don't actually DO our job love to quote chapter and verse to those of us who do. "Yes," I said wearily. "Well, his car is fourteen feet from the hydrant and I want you to cite it." "But sir," I started, "there is the letter of the law and then there's the spirit. They also give us discretion and in my professional opinion this vehicle should not be cited." Then the tape measures came out. Niiiice.

When I told him I still wouldn't cite the car, he asked me to get my supervisor (She's not busy at all of course). But I had to call for her. Taxpayers, oy! This scene went on for quite a while until my boss and two (!) patrol cars arrived, but I'm giving you the abridged version. You can thank me later. Or you can thank me by making a generous donation to the old Parking Control Officer's home (I'd give you my address but I'm not crazy, you know).

When my boss got there she told them the same thing I did about that letter/spirit thing, while the cops went to talk to the jerk of a neighbor who never did make an appearance (turns out he really was acting like a creep). We all talked for a while and then I mentioned the one thing they really needed to hear: if I cite this guy, it's only going to make matters worse. This brought everyone up short (the main complaining guy was quite tall too!) and everyone calmed down. I even heard the wife say that she believed in karma and the annoying neighbor would get his someday. Whew, what a relief. Can I please go back to what I was doing before all this started? I can? Wonderful. I got on the radio and told the Desk I was now heading to lunch.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Rough Day

Not that the day was busy, most of them are. No, this day it hit home (with a sledgehammer) how bad the economy is for some people. Here's the story: I saw a car parked on a curve near an intersection. The rear tire was sticking out over three feet from the curb (you're only allowed 18 inches). I got out to cite it and it came up on my computerized, hand-held cite writer that the car had more than five unpaid parking tickets. I had the main desk check with Citation Management and sure enough, it was a "keeper," as we say, meaning I could tow it. So I called for the tow truck and started filling out the form.

After we got the car up in the air, the owner came out of her apartment with her young child. She was in complete distress. She had no money, she can't pay her rent, she had this or that shut off (I forget which), she had just come from a funeral (?), etc. I asked her if she had any friends or relatives who could help her out. She said no (I should have asked her where the baby's father was, but I thought that might have been going too far). I told her that I felt bad, which I did, horrible in fact, but there was nothing I could do. The state of California doesn't leave a lot of room for those who don't pay their tickets. And so here's my point: if she had just paid that first one, she would only have had a $40 hit. She let that one go too long and the fine doubled to $80. Still, that's a manageable amount. And that first one, I should mention, she got in October of 2009! She got four more after that, all of which she let double. This is such a big mistake. Sometimes do people really think, if I don't pay these they'll go away? The other thing is, if she had parked legally and not over 18 inches from the curb, I never would have noticed her car. As it is, it's going to cost her well over $500 to get that car back. And I felt like shit.

I hear you saying, why didn't you just give her a break? Let her go. Be a guy. Well, even if I would have done that, eventually this would have caught up with her. And if she kept getting tickets, the whole thing would have cost her even more! As I have posted before, causes lead to effects, and karma can be such a big bitch.

When I told this to one of the higher ups at the station, he told me "At least you feel badly. We have people who would have been gleeful to have 'gotten' her." Yeah, I guess so. Small consolation though. I know she feels a lot worse than I do. But I also know this could have been prevented if she had only taken responsibility in the first place. These were all street sweeping tickets. Two of them were on consecutive days! Which means we caught her on the sweeping side one day and the next day we caught her on the other side! For heaven's sake! Ugh!

I have said before, a perfect day for us is if we write no tickets at all. I wish that day had been today. I only hope this young woman can turn things around for herself and for the sake of her child. Maybe in an odd way I did her a favor. When your back is up against a wall, the only way to go is forward. Also, the only way to get rid of an illness, is after it has come out and shown itself. Maybe that'll happen for the economy too. But I still feel like shit.

Officer X needs a Dos Equis (or two).


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sad but true

I was in the office at the end of my shift today, when a gentleman came in to protest a ticket he had received earlier for parking facing the wrong way in an angled space - i.e. he had backed in. What's wrong with that? Well, it was on a very busy street, first of all, and he had to cross the double yellow lines to get into the spot that way which is a moving violation (and he'd have to do that again to get out), he'd also be pulling out into oncoming traffic which on that street can be extremely treacherous and defies common sense, and quite simply, it's a violation of the vehicle code! Well, he has a very large vehicle (oh yeah?) and he would have a terrible blind spot (I think he already does) if he pulled in forward, etc, etc and blah, blah, blah.

The woman at the window told him to take a protest form and fill it out. He kept yammering on that he thought it was a chintzy (his word) ticket and he should be allowed to park his truck the way he did. I thought, the arrogance of this man. The self-righteousness. He didn't care that he was doing the wrong thing, it should be allowed dammit because it was him doing it! Well, I guess we've all felt this way at one time or another. Maybe. I hope not. Because this kind of attitude is a poison in our society. I don't have to follow the rules but everyone else does, and should! Man, if we all felt like that and acted upon it, think of the utter chaos that would create. It's not too crazy to imagine that anarchy would ensue. I'm not a huge fan of Rudy Giuliani but he had a good idea while he was Mayor of New York City. He kept a tight lid on a lot of the smaller crimes, the minor infractions and it worked. Bigger crime did actually go down. He knew that people who have the attitude that it's okay to do this little thing soon started thinking it's okay to do this slightly bigger thing. And on and on.

I might be making too much of this. Probably I am. This guy didn't look like a criminal, just a jackass, and I don't think he'd be personally responsible for the end of polite society as we know it (tenuous as it seems right now anyway). But look around. This attitude is everywhere. Self-righteousness. It's there in government, in our sports figures, in our business leaders, in religious leaders, for cryin' out loud! Who says this is okay? What philosophy gets behind this kind of behavior? Is there anyone who sits down, self-reflects and says, you know what? I was wrong. I'm still wrong and I'm not going to do that again. It's rare to see that in this job, I can tell you. It's rare to see it in America in 2010.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Timing is Everything

See the title of this piece? I've always heard this. And I believe it too. But whose timing? When I was growing up, our cat always seemed to know when our father was coming home. I can't imagine why as our father never fed the little guy and wasn't even generally predisposed to liking cats at all. He didn't like the smell or the cat hair all over the place...but I digress. The point is animals have wonderful internal clocks. Humans seem to have poor internal clocks and this job proves it to me every day. Here are some examples: A person will park at a 10 minute, 20 minute, 30 minute, 1 hour, 2 hour, 90 minute, 3 hour, or amazingly even a 4 hour zone and incredibly, unbelievably, astoundingly not make it back in time and we, as is our job, will write the ticket. But then, of course, many times as we are writing that ticket THEN they show up (Murphy, I curse you AND your law). They argue with us and we (and by we I mean I because I don't know what my colleagues do really) shake our heads in complete bemusement.

By the way, it's futile to argue with me because you are not really arguing with me. You are arguing with the big, fat, juicy chalk mark on your tire and big, fat, juicy chalk marks don't lie. When I point that out, people usually calm down. Although I have had people snatch the ticket out of my hand (bad form), crumple it up (worse form), and throw it on the ground (really embarrassingly no-good form, if you ask me). I've even had people tear the thing up, throw it into the street and drive off triumphantly. I wonder how they feel (and I'd love to be the proverbial fly-on-the-wall to see how they react) when they find that I have simply re-printed the ticket and mailed it to their house, even out of state.

Oh yeah, back to timing. I hear, "But I just ran in for a minute" a lot which I have discussed before. Mostly this is simply untrue. Things don't happen that quickly and here I mean things like running into the store, going to the ATM, running into the post office (puuulll-eeeezzeee), or into the vet's office, doctor's office, dentist's office, or the DMV!!! (Honestly, what do you people think we'll fall for anyway?)

I guess I'm posting this because we've just gone back onto daylight savings time. You'd think with all the daylight people have saved over all these years, they'd be, I don't know, brighter.


A personal note to Ezra: You give me hope.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Let me tell you about something that happened to me just the other day. I was doing the 2 to 4 PM sweeper route when I came to a car parked on a corner in front of a house. The street sweeper had already gone around the car (the wet tracks were quite obvious) and I pulled up and got out of my vehicle. The car's trunk was open so I knew I didn't have a lot of time as the owner was somewhere nearby. I started to write the ticket when the car's owner came running out of the house screaming something about making a sale (selling something from the trunk of his Beemer, no doubt). I said, "Sir, the sweeper went around your vehicle." From a red and purple face he cried "You're not giving me this ticket." He seemed to be full of rage - steroid rage from the looks of his upper body, but that's just a guess. He stood blocking my view of his license plate and as I stepped to one side to get a look at it, he pulled a small blanket from his trunk and wrapped it around the plate. I immediately called for back-up. Why? Well, the guy was hostile and seemed prone to doing just about anything and, truth be told, I thought he might take a swing at me. Anyway, I stepped to the front of his car to get a look at the front plate. There was none (a violation right there in California) so I bent to look at the VIN or Vehicle Identification Number located on the dashboard. He jumped into the car and put his hand over the VIN so I couldn't read it (I never could have gotten all 17 digits into my cite writer that quickly anyway, but he didn't know that). Then he started the car, gunned the engine, and went racing off around the corner. The blanket whipped off of the plate as he did this but he was moving too quickly for me to get a good look at the numbers.

So he got away with it, right? Wrong! Maybe he didn't get this particular ticket but karma is strict. Something will happen to him down the line due to the cause he made and he'll wonder (or not) why this thing, whatever it is, has happened to him. You see, Man's law is flawed because we are flawed, but the law of karma, i.e. cause and effect, is absolute. It always works. So, Mr. Steroid Rage, you'll see the result of what you did the other day. You probably won't recognize it and I'll never know what happened to you, but don't question it when it occurs. It's just karmic payback at work. And ain't it a bitch?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Okay. I, Officer X, am going to tell you now which tickets I hate to write the most. Ready? Sidewalk tickets. That is when a vehicle parks across the sidewalk. I'll get to why I hate to write these in a moment. First, let's paint a little mental picture, shall we?

I want you to imagine a typical suburban side street. A fairly wide street with a lot of nice houses with driveways, trees lining both sides forming a beautiful, shady green canopy. No speed bumps. Idyllic, yes?

So what happens when I drive up or down one of these little slices of heaven? I see cars, SUVs, pickups or motorhomes parked across the sidewalk blocking pedestrian access. And worse, wheelchair access. Now, remember the mental picture of the street you formed? I want you to start at the mid-point in the street and go to one of the curbs on either side. Can you see it? Good. Now go up onto the curb. What do we find next? A grassy strip of land, usually with a tree or two on it, maybe a fire hydrant. This we call the parkway. Don't ask me why, I do not know. When I grew up back East, parkways were the same as freeways or expressways but more aptly named, especially in bumper-to-bumper traffic, because it felt as though you were there to park not move and there was nothing free or express-like about them. Sorry for that little digression. Now, what's next? Oh yes that's right, the sidewalk itself. And where the sidewalk ends (with a nod to Shel Silverstein), THEN comes your property. And guess what? Your driveway only extends out to your side of the sidewalk. Thaaaaat's right. You don't own the sidewalk, the parkway, OR the street in front of your house. Sorry to have to tell you this.

So, what happens? A person parks in their driveway but, oh no! There is already a car there (or two or I've even seen three, here in car-land). So what do they do? They leave the car hanging out over the sidewalk (ten inches over is all you get, folks) and a person walking a dog, pushing a baby stroller or a person in a wheelchair has to go onto the grass, down the sloping apron (the thing that allows you to actually get IN your driveway without having to jump the curb) and sometimes out into the street to get around your illegally parked car! Some of you, the ones with no shame at all, leave the entire tail end of your vehicle sticking into the street itself. Really!

Now, as I just said, this vehicle is parked illegally. So, why do I hate writing these kinds of tickets? Because nine times out of ten, I didn't have to write them at all. Why? Because there is usually plenty of legal parking on the street!!!! People, people, people. Come on! So many of you have this notion that the excuse of "I just ran in for a minute" justifies your behavior. Do you think it's okay to do something illegal "just for a minute?" Do you? Can I go in and rob a bank using that logic? "But Officer, I only robbed it for a minute!"

I want you to stop being so damned lazy and inconsiderate. It's cheaper. Oh, and stop parking facing the wrong direction that the rest of the cars on the street are parked in! Ugh, I'm exhausted.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

At the Schools

What is it about schools that make so many of the drivers here in SoCal forget everything they know about driving and the parking rules? Could it be that the desire to get as close as they can to the school to pick up their little darling makes them engage in behavior that endangers the very little ones they seek? Yep. People, lazy as we mostly all are, don't want to park a block or two away, go get their loved one, and actually walk back to their car (an excellent opportunity for bonding with the youngster - I know, I know, what am I crazy?).

The log jam of cars that occurs at the schools makes for a dangerous situation people! When you stop in the red zones (which are there for added visibility) or the crosswalks, or come to a dead stop in the traffic lanes to let your kid into the car, you don't realize that you, in your selfishness, are making the rest of the kids unsafe. Some of the youngest kids don't really think twice before darting out into the street. Those of you who are already distracted looking for your little tike might not see the darters. Let's not even talk about the other distractions, like the car radio, the cell phones, and the pretty mommies you enjoy ogling. Kids have been struck with vehicles in this town. Fortunately, none have been killed (at least since I've been here) but it seems only a matter of time. The crossing guards can only do so much and a lot of drivers routinely ignore them anyway, speeding down the street or blowing through their stop signs.

Whenever we make our presence known at a school, the drivers are upset with us (nobody likes the umpire). But if a child is injured or worse, and let's all hope this never happens, the outcry will be "Where was Parking Enforcement?" I am always gratified when school officials or the more enlightened parents come over to us and say "thanks for being here." We're there to protect the children. The safety of our future generation is worth it, don't you think?