Vigilante Traffic Warden
John slept through the alarm again and another fresh start began tarnished. As John lay in bed with the realisation that it was mid afternoon the motivation that had been present the night previously to face this day afresh had crept away. It would have been easy at this point for John to give up and waste another day. He could spend his time on this tarnished day doing things he enjoys: juggling, reading, writing, watching cartoons, smoking, socialising. John turned on his laptop and went through his facebook notifications. As he clicked on some links a song began to play and the music caused something to clicked in Johns head. John thought “I have been sleeping far too much recently but it is time to wake up and face the day”. Today would be different.
After a strong coffee and cigarette he opened a web browser and started googling jobs in his local area. After a few hours of browsing an almost endless list of jobs John was left feeling dismayed again. Despite having the motivation to find employment none of the jobs that he had seen filled him with excitement or the ones that did required specialist skills John did not have. .He wanted to work for something he could be passionate about but recently it had been hard for John to muster the passion for anything. After briefly considering an cutting off a limb to qualify for an advert that needed amputees for pirate themed all star band he gave up on the job search and decided to get a takeaway to cheer himself up.
On the walk down to the local indian takeaway John had to squeeze by a row of cars parked on the pavement. Despite the clear and bright double yellow lines it was a frequent site to see people park on the pavement outside the takeaways and restaurants. On this evening one person had parked in such a way that people were having to walk onto the road in order get past it. John thought about writing a strongly worded letter and putting on the windscreen but sighed knowing that it did not matter if people parked illegally because unless someone enforces the rules and punishes people for breaking them then people will choose to do what they want. He continued on his way and entered his most frequented but far from favourite indian food establishment.
After receiving his generously sized meal of mediocre to adequate quality John paid in loose copper coins and continued his journey home. As was reaching the row of illegally parked cars he noticed someone waving to him down the road. After recognizing the vibrant ginger beard he realised it was his good friend Steffan and waved back. Since Steffan moved city to follow his dreams of being an actor John had fallen out of contact. Unfortunately Steffan was a man prone to impulse without proper thought and in his excitement of seeing an old friend started to run towards John. Steffan stepped out into the road to pass the car on the pavement and before John could blink Steffan was hit by a bus.
John screamed out “No!” but it was too late. Steffan was killed instantly and for many months that night haunted John. He had known for a long while about increasing problem of illegal parking but had decided it wasn’t his issue to deal with; It was the systems issue to deal with. No longer could John allow this vehicular carelessness to continue unabated. John had found something he could be passionate about, he may have lost a friend but he found a cause he could fight for.John decided to follow the path to becoming a traffic warden.
More months passed but after lengthy training and mountains of paperwork John worked his way into a position as a traffic warden for the city council. The hours were tough but he was dedicated to the role. In the form of on the spot fines and a parking clamp John finally wielded the power to avenge his friends death and punish those who thought themselves above the law. Due to his vigilance and lack of mercy the levels of illegal parking reduced to record lows. Even the tears of a pregnant woman, who had parked illegally in her rush to pick up dinner from a takeaway so her family could eat while she was in hospital giving birth, couldn’t stop a clamping. John finally felt like he was doing something meaningful with his life.
Illegal parking was still on the rise in the areas not under Johns patrol and he started to receive hostility from his colleagues. One co worker James had pulled john aside and told him that if he didn’t stop his crusade he would be “out of a job faster than cheetah on amphetamines”. John presumed that James was just jealous of the success that he was having. It must be quite frustrating for James to see someone having such a great effect when his own efforts to lower parking offences were failing. John felt great pride in the effect he was having in his community and shrugged off James warning.
As John finished his friday shift he realised that he had not issued a single ticket that day. He had grown accustomed to handing out fewer and fewer fines but this was his first ever no ticket day. He entered his home with a great sense of pride and walked over to a framed picture of Steffan on his fireplace mantle. “From this day forward the streets are safe, never again will someone lose a friend to the careless parking of others” John said. He took his high visibility vest off, grabbed a beer and sat down in front of the TV. John finally felt the weight of his friends death dropping off him as he fell to sleep.
The following morning he received an email from his manager calling him in for a disciplinary meeting this afternoon due to concerns regarding his quotas. Perhaps James had put in a complaint that he was fudging the numbers on his paperwork; it was understandable that a zero ticket day would be unbelievable. Confident with the pride he had in his job John entered his managers office prepared to argue his corner and face any accusations. Fat Frank sat behind his desk, John cringed at the smell of alcohol, cigarettes and body odor that hit the face like a warm meaty fog.
“Jonny boy… I know you’re new around here and I am very worried at what I see in your quota reports.” Frank said.
“I can explain… if you only were to come and have a look at my patch you will see the numbers are correct” James said.
“You don’t understand Jonny boy, the problem is with the numbers… you see the Traffic Wardens work for the Council and the Council is made up of many different people doing different things for the community… together we are all parts of the same body and part of our function is to keep the body alive… money is the blood that keeps the body alive but sometimes there are leakages and the body needs more blood so it has to make more blood… do you understand what I am saying… having low numbers is a blood leakage and it needs to be blocked… money is tight and if you want to help your community we need you to be a blood maker right now… the numbers are the blood and right now we need a lot of blood” Frank said.
“I don’t understand how you expect me to increase my numbers, I cannot control the competence or carelessness of others.” John replied.
“James has told me of your crusade… and I understand boy, I do… Grisly thing… but thats unfortunately the price we pay, the very few suffer so everyone else can benefit… but you have to play the game, the more fish you throw back the more will jump into the boat later… if the numbers don’t improve we will have to let you go” James said.
John left the meeting feeling conflicted. He could understand the logic, he knew the Council did great work for the community and that the more fines people paid the more funding the Council would have to improve the community. On the other hand his passion for road safety and the grief of his friends death overwhelmed him. It was convenience over safety, It is convenient to overlook parking offences because the majority of drivers save time and the Council makes more money. But John felt that if he lost his job then he lost his power to enforce any change and keep the streets safe.
That night John struggled to get to sleep. After several sleepless hours Steffan came to John in a dream. Steffan praised John for the great work he had done, that he was a beacon of light in a dark city and not to give up on pursuing a world free from inconsiderate parking. John awoke the next day knowing he was about to work his last shift and had to quit his Job. He couldn’t believe that putting a few at risk was worth the money when a life is worth infinitely more than the profit margins on fines.
Walking down the road he noticed someone stop on the double yellows to go into Tesco. As he approached the car with fine in hand he saw a hooded youth put something on the windscreen. John was expecting to see a flyer or rude note however was surprised to see what looked like a Council fine. Only officially licenced traffic wardens were allowed to give fines furthermore on closer inspection the phone number to pay the fine was for a premium rate phone line and not the Council. Initially John was outraged that people would try and take money that rightly belonged to the community but then an idea spawned in his brain. If he was willing to risk his own liberty and go beyond the law he could fight the battle against inconsiderate parking, he could become a vigilante traffic warden.