I see them everyday. Pounding the pavements in their distinctive uniforms. A reassuring presence in my neighbourhood. No matter what time of day, whether it’s first thing in the morning when I’m out for a run, just about to get the children from school or just coming back from the shops. There they are. Sometimes right in front of you, sometimes just in the periphery of your vision. You couldn’t paint an authentic picture of the town I live in without including this Public Service figure.
They are fine upstanding pillars of the community and clearly take their work very seriously. Upholding the law is of course a very serious business and you wouldn’t expect anything less from those given such important responsibility.
And yet, whilst I see the same familiar faces as I go about my daily business, it never occurs to me to extend a friendly smile in acknowledgement. It doesn’t help that they in turn don’t offer even a smidgen of warmth upon the rare incidence of eye contact.
In fact, you wouldn’t catch a child or grown up voluntarily going up and asking for a photograph with these men and women in their smart uniforms. Why is that you wonder? Unlike when you see someone from the Police Force or Fire Brigade. My youngest leapt at the chance of having her photo taken wearing a real Police Officer jacket and helmet. So why not this profession’s uniform?
It’s because they are Traffic Wardens.
Traffic Wardens. I can hear you groan an audible ‘Oh’. Or was that an ‘Ugh’.
Why do Traffic Wardens get such a lacklustre welcome. They are hardworking, industrious and diligent people. We should at least give them due credit for being out there in all kinds of weather, seven days a week. Plodding the streets, braving the elements when many less hardy and committed have called in to work feigning leaves on the track has hindered their way into the office.
The Traffic Warden remains undeterred come rain or shine. Their primary concern is the welfare of those vehicles left by the roadside as their owners carelessly go off to enjoy themselves. The Traffic Warden sees it as their job, their responsibility, to look after these vehicles that have been abandoned beyond the requisite two hours their owners said they would be away for. The indignation the Traffic Warden must feel when time after time, day after day, they come across the same recurring incidences. How unloved must these vehicles be, if their owners cannot be bothered to come back for them in the time they said they would. It seems a small penance to the Traffic Warden slapping you with a fine for your tardiness. Let that be a lesson to you for being so remiss.
And how unloved must the Traffic Warden feel when they are only looking out for our beloved vehicles. You wouldn’t leave your child in daycare for five hours when you said you would be back in three? But unlike daycare where you may be able to negotiate an extra ten minutes leeway, the Traffic Warden will entertain no such corrupting force.
And that is why, no one ever smiles or stops and chats for a while with the Traffic Warden.