From ‘Traffic wardens become punching bags’, 23 Sept 2012, article by Bryna Sim, Sunday Times
…In an especially nasty incident earlier this month, Mr Pannirselvam, 47 (traffic warden), said a lorry driver who had just been issued a summons for illegal parking in Upper Serangoon Road walked up to him calmly and shoved a packet of piping hot fried noodles at his face. “I did not see that coming because the driver was not acting aggressively,” he said.
But that was not all. The driver then began punching him on his face and body. He stopped only when the electronic hand-held terminal, used for recording and printing out summonses, fell from Mr Pannirselvam’s hands.
“People at the nearby coffee shop who saw what was happening did not help,” he said. “Instead, they clapped.”
…It does not help that the hours are long and the pay is low. Traffic wardens work around 12 hours a day, six days a week. Depending on the amount of overtime done, their gross salary is about $1,800.
For the same long hours, traffic wardens could get almost twice their current salary if they switched to the far less hazardous job of dishwashing at Sakae Sushi instead. From the days of being called ‘parking attendants’ to today’s derogatory ‘summon aunties’ who ‘no pang chance’, going around booking errant, angry ‘ah beng’ drivers has to be one of the most thankless jobs ever conceived. Not only do you get bashed until your handheld device falls out of your clutches, your bloody, humiliating plight becomes a glorious spectacle for others. You also get racially stereotyped, and given names like Auntie Fatimah or Hamidah when your name is actually neither. Or you could be named after a dead celebrity (Feng Fei Fei). I wonder why.
Being a coupon enforcer does no one favours other than the stat boards that recruit them for the dirty work that they can’t bear to do themselves. They also can’t ‘pang chance’ due to auditors checking to see if they’re on the ball. For their tireless summoning in the hot sun and taking the risk of being lynch-mobbed by kopitiam uncles, even if they can be overzealous and too by-the-book at times, the least that one can do is NOT give a standing ovation when they’re being bludgeoned by psychos. It may be safe to roam the streets at night in Singapore, but not if you’re an enforcement officer in a parking lot looking for vehicles to summon.
Scalded in the face by a pack of char bee hoon aside, other malicious, bizarre attacks in the history of parking warden abuse include:
- Threatened by a ‘I KILL you’
- Hit by a flying shoe
- Trapped in an arm-lock grip by the neck
- Slapped in the face
- Being sexually harrassed
- Having a glass thrown at you from second floor balcony
- Attacked by a wooden stool
- Almost getting run over by the culprit’s car
- Having your straw hat knocked right off your head
I think some basic self-defence is on order. Or at least have the hand-held terminal do double duty as an emergency taser. By exposing themselves to killer litter in addition to hooligans, maybe Certis Cisco should equip wardens with standard issue HELMETS instead of straw hats. If employers can’t do anything about the mockery and bad reputation, at least offer some protection, like REAL police officers on watch to prevent them from being flattened by irate drivers. Coupon cheats aside, perhaps wardens should also include in their job scope the authority to fine parking IDIOTS too. Maybe then, just maybe, someone may finally come to their aid whenever drivers start hurling things, be it vulgarities or food. As I said earlier, Douglas Foo is waiting.