We’ve all felt dread when we see a parking enforcement officer standing at our car. Well, it cuts both ways. Gladys Gray has been a parking enforcement officer in Berkeley since 1989, and she sometimes dreads writing tickets. She’s had people throw things at her, make their index and thumb fingers look like a gun and pull the trigger, and folks routinely honk at her with their thumbs down. She’s seen people injure themselves trying to get to her before the ticket. One woman was running so fast, she fell and slide right underneath Gray. She asked the woman if she was okay, and Gray laughs as she remembers the woman's only response was, “did I get a ticket?”
Gray was at Berkeley’s City Council meeting Tuesday night to give her opinion of the proposed parking policy amendment that would disallow the City of Berkeley to ticket people who arrive to move their cars. She thinks the idea’s flawed because she’s seen people abuse the system by waiting in cafes monitoring their cars, then run out at the last minute to avoid getting tickets.
This is a problem, according to Gray, because there’s so little parking in Berkeley. If people run out to feed their meters when they’ve exceeded the time limit, there’s less turnover and consequently less parking.
And the parking situation in Berkeley already makes people tense. Gray remembers an incident in the 1990’s that wasn't quite so funny: She was in fear for her life. Gray pulled up to a man in an SUV who was parked in a red bus stop zone on the busy intersection of Telegraph and Bancroft. She flashed her lights for the man to move out of the intersection. He didn’t move. She came alongside him to ask him to leave the intersection, but he rolled up his window. So she had no other choice, she felt, but to put a ticket on his windshield. Gray says that as she drove away the man followed her down the street, then rammed his SUV into her and tried to push her into oncoming traffic. She had post traumatic stress syndrome for two years after that. Every time she was in front of an SUV she’d panic. Her heart beat fast and she’d have to pull over to the side to let them pass.
So the next time you see a parking enforcement officer, keep in mind they might not be as gleeful as you think to hand out those tickets.