Saturday, September 14, 2013

Things to Say to Guarantee a Ticket

My primary job as an animal control officer is to enforce local ordinances. Part of that job includes writing citations. Yes, I have a little bit of discretion, but not as much as people think. (Bosses review the audio and video in my truck and I've had to justify why I DIDN'T write a person a ticket. Big Brother is watching us both. Spooky, hunh?) Should we meet up under work-related circumstances, please know that often you are going to receive a citation regardless of what you say, so the best thing to do remain calm and take it graciously. I'll do my best to make it as quick and pleasant as possible. On those occasions when I do have a little leeway, here are 10 things NOT to say to get out of a ticket (and what I'm thinking when you say it):
  • "I pay your salary." Really? Because I could use a raise. I did the math; your share of my annual salary is roughly $1.37. I can't even get a Coke out of the vending machine with that.
  • "Your job is to . . . [fill in the blank with something you're not doing at this moment]." Actually my job is to enforce City animal-related ordinances. If I'm writing you a ticket, chances are you violated one of those ordinances.
  • "I don't have to listen to you, you're just a dog catcher." Yes, you do. I'm a sworn code enforcement officer and I have the authority to detain you and request identification while performing my duties. If you're uncooperative, protocol states I call a police officer for assistance. Trust me, neither of us really want that. If you show your ass to him, you could go to jail. Is it really worth it over a $30 ticket?
  • "Sweetheart," "Baby" or the like. I'm not stupid, I realize you're being condescending. I will smile, remind you that it's "Officer," and write you the ticket anyway. And I'll tell everybody about the prick I dealt with today.
  • "Can you just speed this up? I don't have time for this." Really? Because I can slow down. Fortunately, I keep my passive-aggressive tendencies in check 90% of the time -- but I'm willing to make an exception for you.
  • "Don't you have something better to do?" Probably, but I'm going to smile and tell you "No, not really."
  • "What about that guy? Are you going to write him a ticket too?" Truth is, I saw you first. Sometimes things just work that way. If we can finish up here quickly then maybe I will write him a ticket as well.
  • "Are you really going to write my dog a ticket?" No. I only write tickets to people. You're the one who should know the rules. By the same token, cops don't write your car a ticket for going too fast or double parking. It's all you.
  • "I'm a responsible dog owner." Maybe, but the evidence says otherwise.
  • "I've been doing this for years, why haven't I gotten a ticket before?" Sometimes people just need to shut up.
I realize that getting a citation isn't fun. And often it's embarrassing. Sometimes otherwise nice people can be real jerks under these circumstances. I try to ignore bad behavior and give people the benefit of the doubt. I also try to be as polite and professional as possible. (And I'm on audio and video, so I really do try to keep myself in check.) But sometimes . . .

TRUE STORY: It was a crowded summer day and I was on beach patrol in my big-ass truck. A man in his early 60s flagged me down. When I rolled down the window to talk to him he put his hand on my arm that was resting on the door and said "Oh, you're the girl. I've heard of you." [I should note here: 1) I had a male partner at the time, and 2) I HATE being touched by strangers.] Remembering I was on audio, I didn't say the first thing in my head. Instead, I smiled, gingerly patted his hand, and in the most obsequious tone I could muster I said "Oh Sir, you should have your eyes checked. I haven't been a girl since 1984." I paused for effect and then asked "How can I help you?" Yes, that video was reviewed. It was worth the "talking to." Asshole.

So, if you see me in uniform, let's be nice. If you see me out of uniform, let's have fun. Deal? -- K