I get a lot of parking tickets, and every time I peel another soggy white envelope off my windshield I think: Who has the thankless job of walking around and making people’s day worse that what it was?
To find the answer, I contacted Seattle police and veteran parking enforcement officer Miriam Gauldin who agreed to take me along on her downtown Seattle beat.
Driving from the West Precinct on 8th and Virginia towards downtown, Officer Gauldin was the most popular lady on the block. People were stopping her, asking her parking questions and asking for directions.
“I do more talking than ticketing,” Gauldin said of all the directions and information she delivers.
Finally, we got to some parking enforcement. We came across a car with no visible sticker, and PEO Gauldin’s metallic blue fingernails started clacking across a small blackberry-like device as she enters the car’s license plates.
Parking enforcement officers aren’t armed but they are a visible presence on the street and act as the eyes and ears of the police department. Gauldin even busted a car thief after running his license plate and giving other officers his direction of travel.
“If I can say anything to car thieves, when you come downtown, pay to park,” Gauldin joked. “I’m just glad we got one of them off the street.”
PEO Gauldin has had a lot of time to think about the psychology behind getting a ticket. With 14 years on the job, she says she doesn’t listen to the bogus excuses but sometimes an honest conversation will get through.
“He says his mom was getting ready to pay his cell bill, this is a grown man, so obviously he’s going through some issues, right? I’m like OK, I’m not going to be one of his issues,” said Gauldin.
“Now, if you’re running back with coffee, mama got something for you,” she said. “It’s not that the tickets aren’t legitimate because they are. But his story was one of trying to recover from a lot of things in his life, so I took that ticket back.”
After just a few hours on the parking beat, I was beginning to come to terms with my years of ticket woes and I have a new appreciation for the folks who leave those little white envelopes.