When Ricardo Martinez (no relation) applied for a job with the city of Tucson, he didn't expect to get a job as a traffic enforcement agent--in other words, a meter maid. At first, he thought the work would get his foot in the door with the city, and then he'd transfer--he thought he'd hate the job. But he's stuck around for two years, long enough to get put in charge of the enforcement department of ParkWise, the city's parking and parking-enforcement agency.
What's the craziest response that you've gotten from someoneyou ticketed?
Somebody threatened to have me arrested if I wrote them another parking ticket. Ever. I guess they thought I was harassing them. I don't know.
You say you've been physically threatened a lot; how many times has that happened?
In the last two years, probably about 15 to 20 times. One guy tried to grab at me; as far as I knew, he was going to wrestle me to the ground or stab me or something. He claimed at the time that he was just reaching for my badge to see my name. It's happened to me, specifically, a lot. Maybe it's because of my size, I'm 6-foot-4. Maybe I'm just intimidating, and they get on the defensive right away.
You've said that soccer moms are the nastiest people to ticket. Why?
When I say soccer moms, I'm not trying to profile anybody. It could be any parent, any person ... picking up or dropping off kids from school, basically. ... Sometimes at a stop sign, or in a red zone, or next to a bus stop, they just stop right in the middle of the street, and then they open the door, and the kids just run out. When we give them citations for that, they get angry very quickly. ... It's a safety issue. It's their children's safety, the other children's safety and other motorists' safety.
What's your favorite kind of car? Does it make you sad to put a ticket on that car's windshield?
A '68 Camaro. I believe I've written tickets on that car before. But there are not very many of them around. If anything, maybe I'd like to hang around and ask the owner if they'd like to sell it to me. I get paid to write tickets. If I could hang out, I would, because I want a '68 Camaro really bad. Maybe I'll find one someday, if it's meant to be. I don't mind writing tickets on any kind of car, the fanciest of the fanciest or the rattiest of the rattiest. But I do have a favorite ticket that I do like to write.
People who park in a handicapped spot without a handicapped placard or a disabled plate. It's just disrespectful and discourteous to people who are disabled. They need that space.
How much is that ticket?
Ouch. I know a couple of months back, some folks had their cars booted, and they found a way to get the boots off. What happened with that?
First of all, it's damaging city property, so they're going to have to pay for that, not to mention maybe getting arrested, too. The first person managed to get the boot off the vehicle and drove away and took it with them, so now it's theft. The other one managed to get the boot off the vehicle and left the broken boot in front of (his) house, where it was parked. Then (he) moved the vehicle that had been booted to the backyard. So we towed his other vehicle, then he had to pay to replace the boot to get his other vehicle.
How'd they break it off?
They took a hacksaw ... or some sort of power saw to it. ... Years ago, we had one gentleman. ... He had oversized tires, and he was able to deflate his tires, take the boot off, reinflate his tires and drive away.
Do people ever recognize you when you're off the job as the guy who gave them a parking ticket?
No, not unless I'm in uniform.
Are you happyabout that?
Yes. I'm not embarrassed about what I do, but there are people out there who want to retaliate for whatever negative experience they might have had.
Does it bug you when people callyou a meter maid?
No, it doesn't bug me. I've been called meter maid, officer, traffic enforcement agent, traffic guy.
What is the right thing to call you?
Traffic agent is probably the most convenient thing to call us. I mean, to me, a maid would be somebody who cleans and takes care of the meters; we have a totally separate division that takes care of that. So, in my mind, they're the true metermaids.