Candy for the Parking Authority

Parking officers have a tough job. No matter your stance on the parking laws in Winnipeg, you can’t deny that a front-line position within the parking authority is a less then pleasant occupation. The position puts you at odds with the citizens of Winnipeg, their wallets and their self-confidence as drivers.

In my lifetime, I have run astray of the parking authority three times. The first two were for parking 15 minutes longer than I paid for in the meter. I acknowledge that I was in the wrong on both occasions, as you can’t argue with a clock; barring a background in quantum physics. The tickets did feel monumentally unfair from a karma standpoint however, as on both occasions the reason for my extended parking time was due to volunteer work as a counsellor and mentor. the idea of challenging the ticket based on karma and the belief that I am a nice person did not constitute a sound legal strategy so in the end, I took my bruises and paid the tickets.

This week I added a third ticket to my tally, but this time it was not for exceeding a time limit. No sir, this time it was because one of my tires was more than the requisite number of inches from the curb, though my vehicle still remained well within the lane. This time I would be different. Surely I would have a case given that my car was well within the lane.

At this point of exasperation, I now stood at a decisional crossroads. One option was the typical path s people fall into when the receive a ticket: get angry, rant on social media, storm into the parking office and let the administrative clerk have both barrels of the best straw-man argument you could muster.

In this moment of deliberation however, I recalled a story my friend Byron Hamel once told me about a similar incident after his vehicle was towed. Rather than turn to anger, he opted for overwhelming kindness. Instead of ranting at the impound lot, he showered them with praise, complimenting them on their expert ability to relocate his vehicle and charge him to get it back. The result was a deeply surprised impound lot acclimated to the unruly masses that typically compose their cliental. Though Byron still paid for the impounding, he received handshakes, high-fives and praise of how his actions made their day.

Also wishing to give out handshakes and high-fives, I decided that to pull a Byron and bathe the Winnipeg Parking Authority in praise. What’s more, I sought to outdo Byron and not only shower the staff in praise, but sweets as well. Stopping by a local grocery store, I browsed the candy aisle looking for something appropriate…and cheap (I am from Winnipeg after all). Finally, I spotted a half-price bag of OMG’s, a candy that perfectly encapsulates my sentiments towards the ticket and situation in general.

Armed with chocolate, I sought out the Winnipeg Parking Authority in the heart of the city. This was not going to be a pay-by-phone endeavour, I was going to take full advantage of their storefront hours. Arriving shortly before closing, I worked my car tires up against the curb until rubber contacted concrete. I’d be damned if I was going to get another ticket while paying for my first one.

Walking in, I was greeted by a gaunt and slightly flustered looking woman in her mid-twenties. In the conversation that followed, I enquired into the nature of the violation. She informed me that while my car was well within the lane, the rule was that two tires had to be within 450mm of the curb and that in the image taken by the parking officer, the tire was not. My argument that I was still well within the lane was moot. When asked honestly whether it was worth the court’s time to spend time reviewing the case, I was advised to simply pay the ticket.

Well, you can’t argue with the law. But I wasn’t here to argue, I was here to compliment.

I responded with an empathetic tone. I began to tell the young clerk and her nearby co-worker that I understood her job must be challenging. As an academic advisor for a university, I find myself in situations where I have to be the bearer and enforcer of bad news, whether it is academic suspension, class size limitations, or any other bit of academic administration that can irritate students. Similarly, this clerk wasn’t someone who should bear the brunt of any misgivings and I let her know it.

Compliments have a way of destabilizing people ready for a fight and being bombarded with positive feedback from a man paying you a fine at the end of the day was about as destabilizing as you could get. After paying my bill, the clerk and even her associate at the next till weren’t sure what to make of me. I finished off paying my fine, told them they were doing a great job and then reaching into my bag I pulled out the bag of OMG’s to offer as a reward for the hard work they did.

They immediately turned the offer down, stating that they didn’t want any candy. I did notice the security guard behind me perk up from behind his newspaper however and this gave me renewed hope. I offered the candy again, reiterating that the clerks did good work and I wanted them to know I appreciated it. At this point, the clerk stated that she did not want them as she was watching her waistline. My mind strained for a response, but not wishing to end the conversation by implying a representative of the Winnipeg Parking Authority was fat, I opted to simply smile, thank the clerk and security guard for their time and leave.

On reflection, I am pleased with how the whole situation worked out. I didn’t win over the clerks as I intended, but I certainly didn’t end their day off on a glum note. I funded the maintenance of Winnipeg’s roads, which are sorely needed at all times throughout the year. As for the OMG’s, I was off to a BBQ afterwards populated by people not so picky about their waistlines…or how I parked.


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