Bundled up in his tan waterproof pants, a fleece face warmer, a baseball cap, a hoodie and a navy blue coat, Reggie Japhet hardly seems to notice the cold. His breath turns into little white puffs as he mumbles the characters on a permit he’s focusing on. He frowns a little as he struggles to read the parking permit turned upside-down on the dash instead of adhered to the lower left corner of the windshield as the instructions indicate.
“What is that number?” he wonders out loud as he deciphers the characters backward through the plastic. He punches some numbers into his handheld machine, which informs him the vehicle does not match the description that correlates with the permit registration. He reaches for the black radio clipped to his jacket and calls the plate back to the office. The voice on the other end breaks the hiss of the static and informs him that the permit holder had registered the permit for a different car, but according to the records, also owned the vehicle currently parked in the lot. He nods a little to himself as he decides to print the person a warning.
“You don’t really want to ruin their day if you don’t have to,” he says, placing the paper on the front of the car after carefully highlighting the text that read “warning” so the patron wouldn’t think they had received a citation.
In an era of desk jobs and computer dependency, Japhet is happy to have a job that allows him to be out in the fresh air, though adds the weather can be a challenge. He estimates he walks about 10 to 12 miles each day.
After securing the warning to the car’s windshield, he returns to the golf cart he takes on his rounds during the winter. Pushing aside plastic flaps that serve as doors, he climbs into the drafty little vehicle. When put in reverse, the warning screech the cart emits is piercing. It’s a bumpy ride and the plastic side panels squeak noisily as it jumps forward.
As the kart bounces along the Greenbelt, Japhet explains he sees the job he does for Transportation & Parking Services as rendering educational customer service. He is hopeful that if someone receives a citation, they understand they’ve been educated further about the parking restrictions on campus.
“We are maintaining the integrity of the parking permit system,” he added. “It’s not fair for them to take these spots.”
After a brief and brisk ride, he pulls to a stop by the Taylor Residence Hall when he spots an unattended white car parked in the fire lane and flashing its hazards.
“This is one of the department’s hot-buttons,” Japhet says. “Parking in fire lanes and accessible parking spots—they don’t really like that too much.”
His brow furrows a little as he focuses through his wire-framed glasses at the handheld machine he is grasping in his gloved hand. He uses it to snap a few quick pictures of the license plate, windshield and permit. Another small machine attached to his hip comes alive as it prints out a citation for the illegally parked car.
“I don’t understand these,” he says, tucking the ticket into an orange envelope and placing it under the driver’s side windshield wiper. “His lights are flashing like, ‘Here I am! Catch me!’”
As he finishes the ticketing process, he explains that the goal of the Transportation & Parking Services office is not to give out as many citations as it can—parking officials do not have quotas on the number of tickets they are supposed to hand out.
“The office would rather have you talking to the students and guests than writing them tickets,” he says. “They want people to come here and have a positive experience.”
As he weaves his way through the rows of cars, he chuckles a little at a pair of men bundled up in blankets sleeping in their car, dismissing it as a relatively regular occurrence.
Coming upon two expired meters, he explains the parking employees don’t check the remaining time left on meters. They stop only at the ones with flashing red lights. If the lights are still green, he doesn’t look to see when he can come back to ticket a car. When he reaches the two expired meters, he sets to work punching in the plate numbers, the make and model of the car and the location of the meter. As he is finishing up the first ticket, a girl jogs out of the building to her car, which was parked at the second expired meter.
“I’m just getting ready to leave—I was in an appointment with an adviser,” she stammers, obviously worried about the ability Reggie has to fine her for her indiscretion.
He explains to her that she was overdue on her meter and that she has been for a while. He tells her that as long as she moves her car now he won’t ticket her.
“I mean, I could still though, if you want,” he jokes to her. “I wouldn’t want you to feel like I’m neglecting you.”
She seems caught off guard by his humor. With a nervous laugh and assurance she doesn’t want the ticket, she drives away.
“I have the ability to kill a ticket right up until the final screen when I hit ‘print and save,’” he says. “It’s all about attitude. If they’re pleasant and nice, I’ll kill a ticket. And I do, frequently.”
People often try to avoid citations. Japhet frequently sees permits registered to other cars placed in the windows of a different car. He also sees old tickets placed on the windshield to make it look like a parking officer has already been by, but says that method doesn’t work because the date and time the ticket was issued is printed on the citation.
While the sight of those little orange envelopes on the windshield of a car may send some patrons into an immediate rage, something that is often overlooked is the flexibility that many of these parking specialists exercise when looking at the various situations according to Japhet.
As a matter of fact, much of the work they do involves checking various angles of the situation instead of jumping to conclusions that the patron is at fault. Japhet isn’t hasty with his decision to write citations. When he comes to a situation where it seems appropriate, he uses his resources to check the plates, the ticket history, the permit and will even call back to the office if need be before fining the person. By the time a person is actually cited, multiple steps have been taken to ensure that it is the correct response.
Japhet encourages students to take advantage of the positive things that Transportation & Parking Services does for its patrons, including offering help jumping a car if a guest’s battery is dead and helping students get back into their cars if they get locked out. All they have to do is call the office and ask for help.
In his time with the department, Japhet has done his share of lending a hand to students in need. One particular rainy day, he gave a student on crutches a ride across campus. On another treacherously icy afternoon, he provided transportation for a woman who was obviously nervous about walking on the slick ground.
“Makes you feel good to do some of these nice things,” he says happily.
Japhet knows that the people in his occupation often get called names like “parking Nazi,” but accepts it with little more than a shrug. Though he has had negative reactions from patrons before and knows the negative stigmas against his profession exist, he maintains a positive outlook on his job, simply saying, “You have to have thick skin- you can’t take any of it personally.”