A day in the life: revelations of a traffic warden

A parking attendant at work in Scarborough
A parking attendant at work in Scarborough

A Scarborough traffic warden has shared their experiences, views and honest thoughts about what life is like in one of the most maligned occupations in today’s society.

This anonymous article written exclusively for The Scarborough News reveals what life is life on the other side of the parking ticket.

“Get a proper job” begins to ring in your ears after a few weeks as a Civil Enforcement Officer.

You may know me as a Parking Attendant, Traffic Warden, or maybe something a bit more explicit.

The job title may change but the job description is the same – maintain traffic flow throughout the town, ease congestion, prevent obstructions and risks.

In simple terms, our Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs, or fines) are meant to be a tool to stop people parking in the wrong place, at the wrong time, or for too long.

Why it isn’t a “proper job” has always been, and always will be, beyond me.

I work full time for an hourly wage enforcing parking regulations, as well as helping tourists and residents.

At the end of the day I take my cap off, my tie off, and my epaulettes, and go home.

By the way some treat people of my profession, it’s almost as if they see me as a Parking Attendant automaton that lives for the job and only the job, whose one and only desire is to give them a £50 fine for being seconds over a ticket expiry.

I’m not, and it isn’t. When I go home I relax, watch TV, and go to bed. Just like everyone else, I want to think of anything but my job when I’m not working.

As far as I’m concerned, I am asked to carry out a duty and I do so. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was getting paid for it, I would have no interest in it whatsoever. It’ just a job.

While we are on the subject of pay, let’s get one thing straight. Time and time again I have been jeered, or admittedly sometimes politely asked, about a dreaded “commission”.

“Do you get a bonus for each ticket you give?”, “All you want is the bonus!” Well, no - completely and utterly not.

In no way are we incentivised to issue PCNs. I could return to head office after a full day with no tickets issued and not an eyebrow would be raised.

The more people despise us the more they want to get away with things. Small trips are a problem.

“I was just popping into that shop!”, “I’ve only been an hour” are common things to hear.

How am I meant to know the ins and outs of your day? The only thing I see is a car, contravening.

You may be gone for two hours or two days, I cannot tell from your car. All I can do is give you the prescribed observation time which I have been strongly asked to do so by my bosses, and then issue a PCN.

My pedometer has told me I walk upwards of 10 miles a day, burning an average of 1,000 calories.

My shoes wear pretty quickly, and my feet sometimes hurt. You get used to it – I’m not asking for sympathy.

I’ve been able to walk around Scarborough and see its positives and its negatives, in sun and in rain. I have met many people, tourists and residents, some nice, some not so nice.

On the not so nice front, what you mainly get is a shout out of a moving car to “get a proper job”, which is inevitably always round the corner before you even have a chance to register it.

You get used to that too, it actually becomes quite fun, but there are some instances which are a lot more challenging, a lot more personal.

I’ve had people look me in the eye and tell me seriously to “get a proper job”.

Once a particularly dislikable man said to me “I used to think when someone couldn’t do anything, they did window cleaning’ – therefore suggesting that being a parking attendant is something that the lowest of the low do.

He was right about one thing – it’s not the most intellectually challenging job on the market. It really isn’t rocket science.

However, I had to restrain myself from reminding him that he was talking to me in Friarsway car park at 3pm on a Monday afternoon. Where was his job?

I’ve also met a lot of tourists. A parking attendant is a great source of knowledge for directions and attractions, if I do say so myself. I’ve given a lot of information of this kind.

I’ve also been preached to about Scottish independence, told the ins and outs of multi-faceted Wi-Fi systems, and given a year-by-year account of Scarborough visits ever since 1952.

Elderly people have without doubt given me the most entertainment. But they’ve also given me some worries.

In my first few weeks it took me a while for me to realise that the public, especially the elderly, use you as a beacon of example. This is most noticeable around roads.

I began to realise that they were following me across roads even if the red man was on.

While I, an able-bodied person, could sprint across in case of a rapidly approaching car, the elderly aren’t so nimble.

An elderly couple from Lancashire were once walking in the direction of town on the North Bay cliff top. They stopped me and asked: “Excuse me, could you help us find the Sea Life Centre?”

I smiled and pointed in the opposite direction, across the cliff top, past Blue Crush restaurant, past the chalets, at the huge white pyramids on the horizon.

“There it is!” I said. “Yes we know that - but how would we get there then?” the man replied.

I was dumbfounded. Part of me wanted to give him a good shake and let him know that so long as you have those pyramids in sight, and they are getting closer by the step, then you are on your way.

I think in the end I just gave them directions - plus a compass, a ship and a crew of twenty men to help them on their expedition.