DC Parking Attendants Need to Have Heart

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My car parked at "A" directly in front of Cosi's.

Always be Vigilant
Ok, so I'm sitting in the Cosi's on 6th St, SW.   My car is parked directly in front of the restaurant.  I am sitting at a table right next to the window and only the sidewalk is between me and my car.  I knew that my parking meter would be expiring any minute, but I was virtually next to my last bite on my sandwich. I can't think of a scenario more safer.  For the most part, I was a happy camper.  What could possibly go wrong?

It was 3:59 PM and I've had a long day, wondering my plans for the evening.  I'm polishing up my Hummus and Fresh Veggies sandwich when I see a DC parking attendant crossing the street scouting out my car like a recon ranger.
Courtesy of NBC-4

Zealous Parking Enforcers
As he's crossing the street, he's already turning on his handheld computer.  I drop my sandwich and ran out of Cosi's like my hair was on fire.

Thankfully, I was able to beat the attendant to my car.

"This is my car. Is there a problem?"

"Yeah, you're parked in a rush hour zone," as he pointed to street sign.

Beware of the Rush Hour Parking
"Oh, didn't see that. I'm going to move it right now," I exclaimed breathless but with a great sigh of relief.

Similar sign on sixth street.
"It's too bad, I already started writing you this ticket."

"What, can you please give me a break, officer?"

"No way. Canceling this ticket would require too much paperwork, and I don't feel like doing that right now."

"What, Please, I beg you. I've had a hard day."

"Sorry, can't.  Once I start, I can't void the ticket."
The man chuckles and continues writing without hesitation.

Even if I wanted to move, I couldn't.  He was blocking my path.

He then prints the $100 ticket and puts it on my windshield.

Across the street another parking enforcement officer.  They were moving at light speed like marauding soldiers, taking no prisoners.

Computers are Smarter than we think
I don't believe what he just told me.  I've been using computers for quite some time.  Any computer will allow you to edit, delete or start over.  He was lying.

I understand that the parking attendants have a tough job to do.  I understand the importance of clearing up certain streets for rush hour traffic.  I understand that some of them can be verbally harassed.   But it doesn't mean they can't be human.   They are certainly given some discretion in cases where the driver is just outside his/her car or even sitting the car.  

In those situations, the attendant should try to make eye contact and communicate.  The idea behind the rush hour tickets is to free up the space up so that more cars can drive through during rush hour.

If the driver of the vehicle is at the car, then the problem is quickly resolved.  Are they focusing on the solution, or are they focusing on bringing in much needed revenue for a city that is financially strapped.

Wriggle Room
Additionally, in life it is good to give some wriggle room.  Wriggle room is the department store letting you inside its doors at 8:55 when the store closes at 9:00 (knowing full and well that you wouldn't be done shopping by the time the store closes).  Wriggle room is a police officer not giving you a ticket if you drive 5 miles above the speed limit. Wriggle room is a college professor giving you partial credit on your essay exam because although you got the wrong answer, you got the right picture.

Revenue Bonanza
According to the Washington Examiner, DC, collects 25 times more money in parking fines than Fairfax County.  In FY 2008, DC brought in $67 million in parking fines.

However, a lot of the parking tickets are never paid.  Perhaps DC should reconsider the wholesale writing of parking tickets when the driver is clearly at the car.  Give him/her a warning or something.  Issuing a rush-hour ticket, in the end, could cause higher expenditures because the driver is more than likely to contest it.

The Right Image
I'm lived in this city for almost a decade. I love this city and don't ever want to leave.  But what if I was a tourist visiting the city for the first time?  Is this the image that the District wants to project?  That they are unyielding, parking gestapos after your hard earned money?

Finally, I've always learned that if you can do something good for someone (if you have the authority), it's legal, it's morally right, and it doesn't cost you anything, then you should consider doing it.

(I found out later that the enforcement officers get paid by the hour not by the ticket, and I'm certain that my $100 ticket if revoked would not break the city's budget.)

Parking Ticket Makeover in Harvard
Note: The city of Cambridge, Mass has issued parking tickets with pictures of yoga.  According to the city's transportation chief, Susan Clippinger, "It's trying to debunk the idea that all parking tickets are hostile."

Clearly the attendant had discretion. At work, we are not robots, and we are certainly not zombies.  Until the day that robots replace parking attendants, we need to operate with a heart and we are empowered to make rational judgement calls.

If he just let me go, he would have made my day.  I would thank him profusely and then would vow to spread my thanks to others. He's happy for doing a citizen good. I'm ecstatic, and so would be the individual who would receive good grace on behalf of the parking attendant -- now that's good Karma.

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