By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
Who in their right mind would want to dress up in a little blue suit and take the worst San Francisco drivers can muster?
Judging from Slominski's recent class, no one type dominates. Included were eight men and two women; five were black, two white, and one Taiwanese-, one Chinese-, and one Filipino-American. Their ages ranged from 24 to 55. Most had attempted or completed some form of higher education. All had held service jobs.
A few perks entice: Meter maids work outdoors; there's little direct supervision; opportunities for overtime abound; and the pay isn't bad ($27,718 to $33,538). Oh yeah, it's a city job, which means benefits and security are prime.
That package was sweet enough to attract about 500 appicants for the 10 openings filled by this class. The requirements are minimal: a high school diploma and one year of work with "the public." Two interviews thinned the pool with questions determining common sense (if you're standing on Market Street, facing the Ferry Building, which way is north?) and demeanor (what would you do if someone threw a ticket in your face?).
Now, each morning Slominski saunters into the classroom for the 11 a.m. roll call. Straddling a chair turned backward at the front of the room, she launches into the list.
There's Zebedee Nelson, a tall, black 36-year-old who's wearing a tie, a sharp vest, and spit-shined shoes with bright brass buckles. He says he's wanted to work for the city his entire life. "I'm not going to enjoy giving parking tickets, but I'm ready to rise to the challenge," he says.
He understands the "challenge" because he was part of it. When Nelson worked as a security guard on California Street he used to feed the meters (which is illegal) for people who worked in the building. And once, the DPT towed his car when he lived near Candlestick. "I've been ruthless to those guys before," he admits.
There's Phris Keaton, 32 and dressed to the nines in an outfit set off by a creamy Express blouse. Kinetic with energy that radiates from her large eyes, she usually carries a primer like a giddy schoolgirl. For Keaton, this job may be temporary. She wants to be a lawyer, "not a police officer." (Then again, in high school Keaton wanted to be a model. Later, she tried business college for nine months and found the classes too confusing.) And she's also dipped into the world of fashion merchandising with classes at City College.
Valerie Statham also wanted to be a fashion merchandiser. She's now skipping out on a concessionaire position at Candlestick. Statham, 34 years old with long, black braids coiled close to her head like roses, has been in and out of office jobs at several city agencies, including Muni, the Housing Authority, and the Board of Supervisors. This one appeals to her because it's different. Like Keaton, she's not excited about handing out tickets, but she says her sense of fairness and her drive to alleviate "the parking situation" make her a fine pick for the job.
Paul Kashtanoff, whose Russian name Slominski has a terrible time pronouncing, wears the khakis-and-white-shirt uniform popular with frat boys and male temp workers. Handsome, with boyish rosy cheeks, his interest in upper management and his job history write the word "bureaucrat" across his forehead. The 36-year-old just quit a temporary job with the Immigration Service, partly in pursuit of the security implicit in a permanent position, but also because he's convinced he can climb on to an administrative ladder at the DPT. Kashtanoff overuses two words: "utilize" and "communication." "If they see that you're doing a good job on the street, and they can utilize you somewhere else, they'll move you up," he says.
If Kashtanoff's motive is to get off the street as quickly as possible, you could say Steve Allen's objective is to get off on the street. The 37-year-old, self-described "straight male" wants to work outside in order to catch "eye candy, a little shake and bake." Allen, who was 20 minutes late for roll call the first day because he says he accidentally went to DPT administrative headquarters, will become the class whipping boy, partly because he can't seem to keep his eyes open during Slominski's lectures, and partly because he's alternately ultraserious about the work and condescending to others.
After roll call, Slominski launches into the lesson of the day. Usually she just reads verbatim from the 4-1/2-pound policy and procedure manual. It's dry, dry stuff: pages and pages of codes and directives written by the DPT, the Board of Supervisors, and the SFPD. No wonder that Allen dozes and Statham occasionally catches herself nodding off. Later in the morning Slominski may pass out a quiz, asking the classroom checkers to regurgitate the fines and the code numbers that match offenses such as parking in red zones and expired meters or failing to curb wheels on a steep grade. No one promised the class would be interesting or exciting. That stuff waits outside.
According to Director of Enforcement Toni Coe, who coordinates the PCO force like a field general, no city PCO has been killed on the job. That surprises her, she says. Violent assaults aren't the culprit; it's the grisly traffic accidents.