THREE car-parking incidents went public recently within days of each other, and it is hard not to superstitiously wonder if something in the wind can make people behave oddly at once.
First, there was the elderly citizen who got a compound for parking along the yellow line in Acheen Street, Penang. So unhappy was he that went to the State Assembly building and ranted about it at the top of his lungs, faulting the state government as a whole.
Then a motorist was allegedly beaten up by four men and a jaga kereta (parking attendant) at a private carpark in Chew Jetty, Weld Quay, Penang.
They accused him of not paying and he got 30 stitches after being clobbered with iron rods.
And just days after that, a husband and wife were caught on video harassing an enforcement officer in Subang after receiving a ticket for not displaying a parking coupon. That video angered the whole nation.
Why are so many people unhappy over such a mundane thing as parking?
Nobody questions the “RM5 per entry” sign. We have allowed private carparks to charge us excessively and I suppose people willingly pay for the convenience.
But I would rather scratch a coupon even if I have to park almost 1km away from my destination.
This habit has forced me to exercise a little and sometimes, I hop onto a free Central Area Transit shuttle bus, which passes by our town office in The Star Pitt St.
Parking in shopping malls is also a good choice as they tend to charge just a couple of ringgit and some even offer a bottle of mineral water per entry.
Parking-related dramas usually unfold when you meet rude jaga kereta.
I covered the incident involving the man with the 30 stitches.
The man said he wanted to pay but he did not have small change.
He claimed to have shown a RM50 note and that the other party had refused to provide him change.
I suppose the man should have had some spare change in his car, and the other man should have just prepared change if he was truly the designated parking attendant.
Then there is the illegal jaga kereta who “helps you” with a variety of hand signals as you parallel park.
They ask for money and you hope that by paying RM1, your parked car would be left unharmed.
This is part extortion and part begging. The amount they want is not much, but it is the principle of the matter. It mars the fabric of society and can lead to the ugliness that we have seen in the last few days.
Illegal jaga kereta are not as many in George Town as they were a few years ago, thanks to strict enforcement. But as I moved about the island in search of stories, I noticed a few have started operations again.
Since the school break has started, the demand for parking space will probably increase and you might have to deal with jaga kereta in Penang, both the legal and illegal ones.
After paying, demand a receipt. Make sure it is dated and issued by a specific organisation. If there is no receipt, you have the right not to pay.
Whatever happens, take care of your safety and avoid confrontation at all cost while upholding your rights as a consumer.
The Penang Island City Council has put large red signboards warning vehicle owners about the illegal parking attendants.
The signboards advise people to either call the local police (04-2181881/1880) or the council (04-2637637/7000) if these attendants approach them for money.