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And Now For Something Completely Different

Parking Meter Vigilantes Accused of Jerkishness


Superheroes can’t get by on being big jerks all the time. Batman. Batman, stop it. You are ruining my point, Batman.

Okay, superheroes can’t get by on being big jerks all the time, unless they’re Batman. Or Cyclops. And real life “superheroes” really can’t get by if they’re going to be jerks to people. I’m not saying the Keene, New Hampshire group who went around topping up expired parking meters and calling themselves “Robin Hood and his Merry men” are necessarily real life superheroes. But I am saying that they probably should have been very careful about making sure they weren’t being jerks to the folks whose job it is to enforce parking while they were doing it.

Keene is currently suing six of their citizens for allegedly harassing, taunting, intimidating, and otherwise interfering with the city’s three parking enforcers during their duties. The group’s general activities consist of plunking change into expired meters and leaving notes on the windshields of cars that read “we saved you from the king’s tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men,” and encourage the receiver to pay it forward by donating to a short list of charities. Which is pretty decent: nothing here is illegal, the city still gets its meter money, and maybe some money actually gets donated to charity.

Members of the group maintain that they’ve done nothing wrong. “They say video recording or talking to them is harassing them, but I don’t agree with that,” says defendant James Cleaveland, “So they want to establish a safety zone of fifty feet.” The lawsuit does not seek to stop his group from filling meters or from filming.

But the officers tell a slightly different story about the “talking,” and the city is concerned that if they can’t convince the Merry Men to behave, their officers will all quit, incurring the city the expense of having to hire and train new parking officers. From Yahoo! News:

Parking enforcement officer Linda Desruisseaux said, “Besides following me, crowding around me, making video recordings of my activities, and placing coins in expired meters to prevent me from writing tickets, these individuals repeatedly taunt and harass me, asking why I am stealing peoples’ money and telling me to get another job … In particular, Graham Colson likes to taunt me by saying, ‘Linda, guess what you’re not going to do today – write tickets.’ … The taunting and harassment tends to get worse when there is a group, as they try to one-up each other at my expense.

Whatever the truth, there’s an important thing here to remember, for when you’re gently subverting the status quo: if somebody’s job is involved in that status quo, you probably should try to be as polite and non-threatening as possible to them, and not, you know, openly mock them about how you’re making their job obsolete. And that goes double if there are more of you than there are of them. And take it from this former receptionist: never pretend to be horrible as a joke, especially to a stranger who is prevented by their professional position to give back what they get, because they already see too much of that that’s 100% genuine. It ain’t right, and your mommas, or at the very least Mr. Rogers, raised you better.

(The Union Leader via Yahoo! News.)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Sephiroth.Daniel Daniel Jacobs

    oh I agree.. be nice about doing good… or when you are doing as jerk kinda takes away from from the nice thing you are doing…

  • Anonymous

    Interesting… I’m curious as to exactly how much of this is actual harassment. If the best example she could give is “Guess what you’re not doing today? Writing a ticket”, then that seems pretty tame and kinda whiny to complain about. If they are indeed surrounding and following, then that could create a threatening feeling, and that’s not acceptable.

    Also, I’m curious just how much it would actually cost the city to “hire and train” new employees? You put up free ads online, you interview (which while it would take away from the day to day of whoever it is who does the interviews, I can’t imagine they’re terribly busy to begin with), and you tell them “Hey, you see an expired meter, or somebody parked crazy, you write a ticket”. Why are they trying to make it seem like they’d have to go through a rigorous hiring process and send these people away to some intense training course for two weeks?

    It might be a bit inconvenient, but don’t make it out to be some huge ordeal.

  • Anonymous

    If Kate Griffin has taught me anything, it’s that parking enforcement is full of unrealized magicians, who may accidentally raze the city if you make their jobs more miserable than they already are. Life lessons, kids!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Grahame-Turner/1804093 Grahame Turner

    Coincidentally, was just reading this: http://gizmodo.com/5900680/7-rules-for-recording-police

    Yes, it’s legal in most states to film the police. The city may not have much to stand on with the guys, but it sounds like they are taking it just a step too far, and ending up being nice jerks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Grahame-Turner/1804093 Grahame Turner

    If I learned anything from Dead Like Me, it’s that the average parking attendent could rip my soul from my body and put it back as quickly. She might also be there for my death one day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Grahame-Turner/1804093 Grahame Turner

    There is also a certain attention-grabbing aspect of the filming that robs from it. It kind of smacks of “I’m doing good because I really want people to know how good I am,” instead of “I’m good because it’s good to be good.”

  • LizbethAnne

    Yeah seriously. Also she says “Besides following me, crowding around me, making video recordings of my activities, and placing coins in expired meters to prevent me from writing tickets” — to me, it seems like part of the complaint IS about them putting money in the meters and taping.

    In my college town, a kid was arrested for putting extra money in a stranger’s meter– “interfering with a parking enforcement officer” is a crime. This was in Delaware a few years ago, but then the rule was that by paying an expired meter in front of an officer, you prevented them from doing their job.

  • http://twitter.com/MellyFlickster Melly Flick

    I’m guessing a lot of it has to do with tone. I don’t know about you, but that phrase reads in my head as really nasty and taunting, like a group of bullies surrounding a smaller kid and making fun of him for reading.

  • Anonymous

    Hm, it definitely depends if they did it in front of her. Their job is to meet a ticket quota, I think following her around and jumping in before she can would qualify as interference.

    It also takes the whole thing from “good deed” to “dick move”. Seriously, she’s just doing her job. No need to be obnoxious.

  • Anonymous

    Meeting a quota is a bs reason to go after someone for doing what is essentially a good deed. If the local government or local police are using quotas, that really reflects poorly on them. That’s more harassing than them making jokes about how she wouldn’t get to write tickets that day.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a good deed if you’re just doing it for the sake of it. If you’re doing it as an excuse to follow this woman around and harass her… it’s a little less noble.

    (Quotas for overdue metres, by the way, not for arresting these guys.)

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Whenever someone whips out a camera BEFORE their civil disobedience, I always assume their tone will be obnoxious. I hesitate to provide a link, but I’ve seen quite a few people say really awful things in front of cameras lately and I always assume they’re being antagonistic in the hopes of catching someone official do or say something they aren’t supposed to.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Why does everyone have to allude to either a terrible thing that I had forgotten about or a wonderful thing that’s gone now? Every article, I swear. Sigh. Stupid nostalgia!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think they’re doing it to harass her, or the other two traffic workers. If they were, they wouldn’t bother leaving the notes with the suggested charities. I think them giving some grief is secondary while completing their primary goal.

    I know you meant quotas for overdue meters, but that’s still bs. Any time you take someone who’s job is law enforcement, and assign them a quota, you’re basically saying “Hey, if you can’t find enough actual things to fill this quota, create some”. Their jobs shouldn’t be to dish out enough tickets for the city to meet their budget.

  • Brian

    I admit, I tend to assume the worst of people who take their ire out on the absolute lowest person on the ladder. I speak as a bookstore employee who has been yelled at because the books cost too much, or because I tell them about our membership card, which they seem to think is some kind of racket.

  • Mina

    Ugh. Current receptionist here, and seriously, do not joke with the receptionist by pretending to be horrible or crazy. I don’t know you! I don’t know if you’re joking! If I knew you and knew you were joking, your joke would be funny, but since I don’t it isn’t. It really truly isn’t.

    In fact, just don’t be horrible to people, joking or otherwise. Let’s all be kind. That would be good.

  • Mina

    Well first off, most jobs have more training required than outsiders looking in suspect. And a lot of places, especially government/civic places, don’t keep on employees who aren’t staying busy. So whoever would have to do the training would indeed already have work they are busy with, and now they have to get it done in addition to training someone. Training people is a genuine hassle, even for simple jobs.

    Secondly though, it’s one thing to see someone about to write a ticket and say, “Wait! Can I pay off their meter? I’d hate for them to get a ticket.” It’s entirely another thing to wait until someone is about to write a ticket, then spring out (in a group, no less, and sometimes with a camera), shove money in the meter, and make statements to the effect of “Ha! We foiled you again, evil ticket lady! In your face!” By all means, perform good deeds, but when someone is just trying to do an honest job, it’s not okay to intentionally be a jerk to her.

  • Chris

    Having been a parking warden it’s somewhat laughable that this person is complaining about someone taunting them saying they won’t right tickets. That sort of behaviour would have made me laugh.

    Somewhat more threatening were the people that would stand nose-to-nose with me telling me how they are going to put me in the hospital, in one case for writing them a ticket for packing over 2 handicapped parks with 1 vehicle.

    Or the guy that told me he was going to put a chisel through my eye.

    The brilliant thing was that most of the time that someone was being a tosser it was while I was within earshot of members of the public. And so by being excessively polite you got the double win of looking like a reasonable person to anyone walking past, while making the person having a go at you furious. Then just at the point where they are so incandescent with rage that you could light the bat-signal with them, you tell them to move their car or you’ll call (and charge them for at the moment of the call) a tow truck to move it for them.

    The flipside of this was that if someone returned to their car while i was mid-ticket, and they addressed me with respect or sincerely apologised for whatever it was, i’d more often than not let them go free.

  • http://twitter.com/nypher1029 Jennifer Faucher

    While I am all for paying someone’s meter when it is expired, being a jerk to somone performing their job is unneccesary. The filming of it does show that they are probably not doing this for the right reasons and their choice of harrassing parking attendents (super easy target, try going to city hall and harrassing director of public works) shows their lack of education in local government. As a resident of New Hampshire I question what they expect this to accomplish. Are they expecting parking meters to be removed from the area? If that is their goal then if they succeed it will massively backfire on them. New Hampshire has no State Income Tax nor do we have Sales Tax, removal of parking meters, toll booths, etc. would create the need for either or both of those taxes to be implemented which would effect everyone in the State, not just those who use the items in question. Not to mention there is no way in H3LL the State would remove a source of revenue. Ever.

  • Anonymous

    That’s true, but the worker doesn’t have any control over that system. I’d wager most people in that job don’t enjoy it, but what are they supposed to do?

    Again, it depends what these guys actually did, but being a dick about it kind of defeats the whole “random act of kindness” thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rodimusben Ben Lundy

    As the manager of a university Parking department, I’d like to say thanks for this article. While there is nothing against the law about filming a government employee during the course of their duties in public, no one has the right to intimidate said employee to the point where they feel unsafe doing their job. This article doesn’t give enough information to say definitively whether that was the case, but that will be for a court to decide now. Ultimately the lesson here is that people shouldn’t be made to feel harassed for simply doing their jobs. The ticketers have to earn a living just like anyone else. They don’t enjoy writing tickets, they do it because that’s what they’re paid to do.

  • Guest

    Hi
    folks. I’m Graham Colson, one of six named in the lawsuit. I’d just
    like to make it perfectly clear that there has been no harassment on our
    end. I as well as others have been threatened on several occasions by
    one of the parking enforcers, Alan Givetz. Linda Desruisseaux generally
    hasn’t said much to any of us, and has almost caused several car
    accidents after walking half way across a crosswalk then turning around
    in an attempt to avoid us. Jane McDermott has always been nice to me,
    although I’ve heard she’s said some pretty rude things to Garret Ean,
    who’s always remained positive and friendly with all three of them
    despite their rude comments towards him. There is literally hundreds of
    hours of unedited video of Robin Hooding at fr33mantvraw to prove this
    that I encourage anyone interested in seeing what really goes on to
    watch any of.

  • Guest

    Hi
    folks. I’m Graham Colson, one of six named in the lawsuit. I’d just
    like to make it perfectly clear that there has been no harassment on our
    end. I as well as others have been threatened on several occasions by
    one of the parking enforcers, Alan Givetz. Linda Desruisseaux generally
    hasn’t said much to any of us, and has almost caused several car
    accidents after walking half way across a crosswalk then turning around
    in an attempt to avoid us. Jane McDermott has always been nice to me,
    although I’ve heard she’s said some pretty rude things to Garret Ean,
    who’s always remained positive and friendly with all three of them
    despite their rude comments towards him. There is literally hundreds of
    hours of unedited video of Robin Hooding at fr33mantvraw to prove this
    that I encourage anyone interested in seeing what really goes on to
    watch any of

  • http://www.facebook.com/freetheagora Graham Colson

    Hi
    folks. I’m Graham Colson, one of six named in the lawsuit. I’d just
    like to make it perfectly clear that there has been no harassment on our
    end. I as well as others have been threatened on several occasions by
    one of the parking enforcers, Alan Givetz. Linda Desruisseaux generally
    hasn’t said much to any of us, and has almost caused several car
    accidents after walking half way across a crosswalk then turning around
    in an attempt to avoid us. Jane McDermott has always been nice to me,
    although I’ve heard she’s said some pretty rude things to Garret Ean,
    who’s always remained positive and friendly with all three of them
    despite their rude comments towards him. There is literally hundreds of
    hours of unedited video of Robin Hooding at fr33mantvraw to prove this
    that I encourage anyone interested in seeing what really goes on to
    watch any of.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beverly.nelms Beverly Ann Abbott Nelms

    You say yourself that she has almost caused several car accidents after walking half way across the crosswalk then turning to get away from you.

    A woman doing her job doesn’t behave that way without cause.
    Leave her alone, please.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Grahame-Turner/1804093 Grahame Turner

    Because we’re actively trying to make you miserable. The whole internet is in on it.

    Or, perhaps you, like many of us, have excellent taste. Unfortunately, it seems we are in the minority.

  • http://twitter.com/nypher1029 nypher1029

    Hi Graham. I really hope you check back on this page and comments, because I would really like to know why YOU are engaging in this behavior (regardless of whether there is harrassment or not). And I mean YOU personally, not your organization’s mission statement. I am all for bringing down “the man”, but parking attendants? Really? Why not become a poli-sci major, or go into law and find out how you can effectively create change? And really, this is New Hampshire; one of the least taxed states. Move to Massachusetts for awhile (it’s not very far away, you can always come home on weekends), see how you like those taxes. Or check out France. Try France, Poland, Germany… perhaps get a good look at global taxation and how New Hampshire fares against the rest of the world. Seriously, of all the things you could be doing to make change you choose subverting parking tickets? I really, really want to know your thought process on this.