Confused yet? If you are a Toronto resident, you may have heard this term before, but I can’t blame others for not knowing it. Blue Hornets are Toronto’s Parking Enforcement Officers, a subdivision of the main police force that handles…well…giving out parking tickets. Really that’s about it. In other jurisdictions, they often also deal with municipal bylaw enforcement, but in’s all about parking. Let’s be honest…they are generally viewed with about as much affection as pigeons and seagulls. Actually…less.

Really, it isn’t their fault. They have a job to do, and it’s one that every major city in the world NEEDS to be done. You have to have a system that keeps parking fair, clears streets of offending cars during rush hours and keeps people from parking where they shouldn’t be. You can debate how hard this enforcement can hit, but it’s a service we all need. You know that church down the road (I use this as just a local example) that doesn’t have its own parking, so the parishioners fill up every side street every Sunday to the point of it being dangerous. Need them there. You know the idiots who park in disabled parking without a permit, or who use those spots to do deliveries? Need them for that too. Clearing cars from main streets that park beyond the allowed time, clogging main arteries during rush hour? You want to see a blue hornet then!

Let’s be honest though…sure they may be needed, hell they bring in much-needed revenue to a city (in Canada what they pull in with fines goes right to the city’s coffers), but damn they are annoying when you get hit with a ticket because your parking tag expired ten minutes ago. We curse them when we see them at our cars, we plead with them that we are just about to move, we tell them stories that somehow, our reason is special and PLEASE don’t give me that ticket.

They’ve heard it all…and out of necessity, they need to be ruthless with what they do. Logically…I get that.  We sometimes forget, they are human beings, just doing a job. So imagine my joy recently, at having a GOOD conversation with one of these infamous blue hornets and actually having my “story” accepted and validated!

I’ve written (and spoken in presentations I’ve done) about a client of mine whose visitor parking requires that disabled parkers get a prepaid ticket at a machine, along with their disabled permit. Fine, no issues with that. The problem is…well…this:

What to do when a parking pay station is unreachable from a wheelchair
What to do when a parking pay station is unreachable from a wheelchair

I can’t reach it. I’m 6 foot 2 inches tall, and even in my chair I’m bloody tall with monkey arms (as friend Matt has told me many times…) and I can’t reach it. So how the hell do I pay? There are only two pay stations, this one is closest to the disabled parking and even then it’s a distance away.

Fast forward from when this picture was taken in the spring (hence the jacket which makes me sweat just looking at it during today’s heatwave) to now. I was sitting in the visitor parking disabled spot, about to get out of my car to head into my client, but had paused to answer a few messages. No texting and driving for this crip, no sir. I was startled by a knock on the window and found a blue hornet there, book in hand. I rolled down my window, and she quickly pointed at a sign reminding me that I needed to pay as well as having my disabled permit. I thanked her and said that I was aware, but while she was there, “could I ask you a quick question?”

Well it turned out to be not so quick, as I explained my situation to her and asked her, quite politely, “what am I supposed to do?” To her credit she paused, a bit flummoxed, noting that despite the good reason, I would still technically in violation. That being said she had a laugh and told me how the officers hear stories all the time, but that mine was the first that she could recall that had a perfectly valid point. She gave me her card, took down my license and my name and explained that she and her partner mostly did the ticketing in that lot and they would note me for an exclusion. If I ever did get a ticket, to give her a call and she would do what she could.

Reason! Understanding! Logic! Seriously, I was waiting for frogs to start falling from the sky. I had just been given a proverbial “get out of ticket” card! (and no, you can’t share it with me, that’s already been asked). So here’s to you Office “name withheld for her own privacy” and your taking the time to have a chat with the public and understand a situation. It’s a shame that such things are so rare these days that they deserve note.

Blue Hornet’s can be people too. Remember that for a second the next time you find a yellow slip of paper flapping under your windshield wiper. Then go right on back to cursing.