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Vol 40 No 3, Fall 2018

The Aikido Approach to Parking Enforcement

By Sifu Patty O’Linger

Patty O'Linger issues a parking citation

Parking Enforcement Officer Patty O'Linger dispenses parking justice on the streets of Portland, Oregon.
Photo by Webly Bowles.

Sensei Jamie Zimron, left, and Sifu Patty O'Linger at PAWMA Camp 2018

Sensei Jamie Zimron, left, and Sifu Patty O'Linger. 
Photo by Mena Kehoe.

“Hey! Hey!! I’m right here! What are you doing!?” I hear shouted in my direction. Every now and then there are offensive words included. Such is the life of a parking enforcement officer.

“I’m so glad to see you.” These are the first words I say to the upset driver returning to the car I just cited, as they stop running and yelling. It’s not what they expect. I disarm them with my warm greeting, rather than starting a lecture. They quickly rattle off some kind of excuse for their violation: “I just ran in for a moment” (when they didn’t pay to park); “My boss kept going on and on in our meeting” (when they are 20 minutes overtime); “I didn’t understand the sign” (when parked in a truck loading zone). Sometimes it’s the truth—often, I suspect, it’s not. It doesn’t matter to me and I just listen and nod. “Are you leaving right now?” I ask. “YES!!” they respond. “Great, how about if I convert this ticket to a warning for you? Please be more careful in the future, and have a good day!”

This may not be what you might expect from a parking enforcement officer or maybe it’s not what you’ve encountered yourself, but as long as my city allows me the discretion to take this approach, I will. This keeps my conflicts to a minimum and the city moving.

I attended Sensei Jamie Zimron’s closing class of PAWMA Camp 2018 about being a stress and shift-master. The skills she shared totally connected with my personal work methods. Since then I refer to them as the Aikido approach to parking enforcement.

My greeting disarms them, I yield to their verbal excuses, then happily surprise them by doing the exact opposite of what they expect—changing the outcome from a negative experience to a positive one. I wouldn’t be so comfortable and open to this method without the grounding, center, and confidence that I have gained from my martial arts practice.

I hope you also recognize how your training directly helps with your job or other aspects of your life. If you do, please share them with us—email newsletter@pawma.org.

Happy training,
Sifu Patty O’Linger

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