While jabs and insults are rare, Linda Fait admits she's been given the occasional guilt trip as she tickets an improperly parked car in downtown Ashland.
"I've actually had people say, 'How do you sleep at night?' " says Fait with a chuckle.
Job title: Area supervisor for Diamond Parking
Job description: Parking enforcement and customer service for Diamond Parking in downtown Ashland
Education: Working on a college degree in business administration
How long on the job: Six years
If you could have your dream job today, what would it be? "I would probably do the massage therapy or day-spa-type thing. I'd have to incorporate old hot cars — muscle cars — into the place. And we'd have our own huge parking lot."
"Well, after being outside all day, walking, I sleep very well, thank you. I've had this fresh air all day, walking uphill, and got my 12 miles in. How do you expect me to sleep?"
Her ever-present humor — and strong calves — has kept her on the job for six years.
From Fait's perspective, she keeps parking available for merchants and serves as a "walking chamber of commerce" for tourists curious about where to park, eat and play downtown.
Call them parking enforcement officers, meter maids, whatever you'd like. Just don't park your car in the wrong spot or leave it for too long. Any parking enforcement officer worthy of her job would ticket her own mother, Fait jokes.
Only she's not really joking.
"You can't treat anybody any different. One of our interview questions is, 'If you saw your father, mother, brother, best friend, whatever, and they were parked overtime, would you give them a ticket?' " she says.
"You've got to be able to treat everybody the same, no special privileges. Even the person we report to at the city has said, 'If you ever see my truck parked without a permit, I expect a ticket.' "
Fait started the job a half-dozen years ago after homeschooling her children and helping her husband jump-start his "car checker" business.
"I was just coming on to go part-time and figured this would be a great job. I'll get exercise, get to be outdoors, get to walk all day," she says.
In truth, the job is harder than most would guess. Plenty of uphill walking means high employee turnover sometimes.
Fait toughed it out and the job evolved to full time, then management, meaning less time walking the streets.
Basic on-the-job tools are high-quality tennis shoes — each parking enforcer has his or her own preference, and some swear to certain types of socks — and a handheld computerized machine that stores and prints citations. Tag numbers of parked vehicles are manually entered.
"You would not believe how many people who say, 'What, were they just waiting around the corner?' But it's all in the timing. If you do something wrong, you're bound to get caught," Fait says.
"Besides, with the time limit plus grace limit they've already had more than the allotted time by the time we issue a ticket. It's not that we're aggressive, it's just that we have good timing."
What if you get back to your car the moment the parking enforcement officer arrives?
"Usually if you're in the process of giving a ticket and they come running up, and we haven't fully done the ticket, we usually will say, 'Oh, hey, OK, cool. Have a good day.'"
While they try to be nice, occasionally angry motorists have a different perception.
"My favorite is people who say something like, 'Well I was gonna move my multimillion dollar business to your city but because of a $15 ticket, now I'm not coming,'" Fait says with a laugh.
"You just kind of shake your head. What do you say to something like that?"
While parking enforcement is the focus of her job, Fait sees herself as an ambassador for the city. She and her crew have called 9-1-1 during accidents, pointed tourists to tasty restaurants and kept downtown merchants on their toes as well.
"There are a lot of really fun moments. People who work downtown, they're regulars and they'll be watching from their window and they'll announce over the intercom, 'OK, the parking person's coming!'" says Fait.
"All a sudden you'll see this mad dash of all these cars all at once leaving the block."