There are some jobs that appear thankless. To name a few, collection agents, nurses who take blood samples, and dentists. Parking meter attendants surely get their fair share of grief from the public, as they walk the streets in all weather, five days a week, issuing tickets that make people angry, day in and day out. But beneath the balaclavas are real people with feelings.
Jason Westover, one of the two parking meter attendants in Whitehorse, emphasizes that the public is actually pretty kind to him. But there are times when folks get hot under the collar. Westover has a few stories about on the job confrontations.
“Once a senior citizen, an old lady, was really sweet at first, then she unexpectedly cuss-talked at me,” he says.
Another time, a tourist who had overslept seemed surprised that Westover “didn’t give him a wake-up call to get up to move his vehicle.”
He deals with confrontations by keeping a cool head.
“It’s important to listen to what people say first,” he says. “People have bad days and they need to vent. Not everyone dumps on us though, it’s not all a dark cloud.”
Good to hear, as the job has its own demands.
Westover, who refers to his parka as “his office,” typically works from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m attending to the 500 parking meters in the city.
“In the summer, I probably walk between 12 and 15 kilometres a day,” says Westover, who has lived in the Yukon for almost six years. He has been a parking attendant in Whitehorse for 18 months, or as he counts it, “nine dog years.”
Before working with Bylaw Services, Westover worked as a hospital custodian.
“I saw the posting looking for parking meter attendants, and thought what everyone thinks, ‘Sure, that sounds like a great job; you get to walk all day.'”
But what does it really take to be a parking attendant?
“Patience and conditioning,” says Westover, “You have to take care of your body, have a hard-working spirit, people skills, and navigate different personalities.”
I think Westover is politely saying that some people freak out when they get a ticket.
For would-be parking meter attendants, Westover has this advice:
“Be nice to pregnant ladies. Sure, they’re glowing, but they can turn on you fast.”
That explains why grocery stores really invented priority parking spots for pregnant women.
But the person who knows the most about parking culture and infractions in Whitehorse must be David Pruden, a manager with the City of Whitehorse Bylaw Services. He has worked in the department for 19 years. According to Pruden, the highest volume of tickets is issued on Main Street, due to the number of meters and volume of traffic. But Pruden says there are no hot spots for ticketing.
“Officers aren’t walking in circles, they cover all the meters equally in the downtown area between four and eight times a day,” he says.
That’s a lot of walking in all two of the Yukon seasons – and a lot of tickets for a lot of people. At Christmastime, however, all those tickets translate into donations to the food bank. Just a little more proof that those parking meter attendants really do have a heart.