By Abby Huckelbury
Every morning for the past three months, Mathew Huguez starts his day off bright and early weaving through parking lots leaving yellow envelopes on car windshields.
Huguez is a parking control assistant at the University of Oklahoma, and from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. he spends his time searching for cars that are parked illegally, issuing parking citations.
“I like it,” Huguez said. “I came here, to Norman, when I was in high school as part of an Upward Bound program and I really liked the atmosphere, so I looked into getting a job here on campus.”
Although Huguez is content with his current form of employment, most of the students at OU would prefer that his job cease to exist.
Everyone knows of these yellow envelopes. Their distinct Tuscan yellow coloring haunts those who take on the challenge of parking on campus. When spotting one having been slapped under the windshield wipers of your car, the common consensus is to groan and curse the parking gods and their parking control assistant minions.
Upon discussing if students responses are negative, Huguez vigorously shook his head in overwhelming agreement.
“I was told we could be the most hated man on campus,” Huguez said. “There is just a negative perspective that we just like to give out tickets to everybody.”
The reputation of parking control assistants among students is repugnant. It appears to be a commonality throughout those on campus that for some reason, these monsters have nothing better to do with their time than run around parking lots whacking ugly yellow letters on some poor kids’ car window.
“I literally hate the parking people, it’s like they enjoy pissing everyone off all the time,” junior Abby Bailey said. “It makes me so mad when I get a ticket. I don’t have time to drive around in circles and look for a spot, I have to get to class.”
Huguez was brand new on the job when he was issuing a parking ticket to a vehicle with an expired meter and was met by a student slowly clapping their hands, making rude and sarcastic remarks towards him.
“A student got mad for getting a ticket after leaving and claiming they paid the meter,” Huguez said. “Just because of the fine they do get upset.”
Yet, contrary to the online comments, parking control assistants and the human beings within the parking and transportation department do not contain the repertoire of evil and spitefulness that the student body at OU has assigned them with.
Just before my interview with the Director of parking and transportation services, Kris Glenn, I quickly found a parking spot in front of a sign that read, 2-hour parking, pay meter. I then realized that I just so happened to forget my wallet. I had no choice, I simply had to cross my fingers and hope no one noticed.
As I stood across the street searching for the parking and transportation office, I slowly watched as a man slipped a little yellow envelope right under my windshield. Great.
Despite this minor setback, I finally found the office after Kris offered to meet outside to walk with me. Upon meeting him I explained the recent tragedy that just occurred, and without hesitation he kindly offered to waive my ticket. Sure enough, as soon as he sat down at his desk, he logged in and told me that it had been taken care of.
“I feel like somebody in this role needs to understand what students are going through, needs to put themselves in their shoes and you know, I was certainly there myself,” Glenn said. “My mom always jokes, ‘I’m glad they didn’t look at your parking record when you got this job!”
Kris graduated from OU with a degree in journalism in 2005. After falling in love with the university, he decided to pursue a job on campus. He soon landed a job with marketing and public relations for the parking and transportation department and has been in the department for close to nine years.
“It’s my dream job,” Glenn said. “I may not be the most popular person on campus always, but I love my job, I love what I do.”
The parking control assistants do not have the objective of handing out tickets for fun. There is no bitterness or wicked intention attached to that yellow letter. In fact, it is the opposite of their unfortunate reputation. The OU Parking and Transportation department is intended to help the students. This starts with working hard to maintain their own expectations for the department.
“They try to hire people with a good demeanor, that are professional and productive people who fit our culture,” Glenn said. “We don’t want to be a culture of just being aggressive and out to get people. That’s not who we are.”
“There’s a part of me that does feel bad because I hate getting a ticket,” Huguez said. “But when we have to enforce it it’s also for safety because we don’t know whose vehicle that is, we don’t know who it is, so it’s also a safety measure for the students and staff.”
Safety is not the only concern the parking and transportation department has for students. Parking also plays a role in determining a student’s attendance in their class. If there are no spots for students such as commuters to park in, they are at risk of not being able to attend class.
“I’m not just here to enforce rules, I’m here to help students go to class,” Glenn said. “That’s really my goal, I’m here to help students go to class. That doesn’t mean that were not going to write parking tickets, we are, that doesn’t mean that were not to charge for parking violations, we are, we have to charge and we have to follow the rules and we have to generate revenue but you can do that with having lots of empathy and sympathy and understanding.”
Although the community within parking services values the safety of OU students and their education, they do not value their rude comments made on Twitter. The culture of hiding behind a comment online truly comes to play concerning student parking on campus. These comments are more commonly targeted towards parking control assistants, them being the ones doing the dirty work.
However, these remarks have no effect on anyone in the department, making it difficult to shoot the messenger when the messenger couldn’t be bothered with any pettiness.
“I know that’s what I’m going to deal with regardless of where I go, so it’s just something you just have to push to the side and keep going,” Huguez said. “It is a job and we have rules that we have to follow. Inevitably you are going to have people who aren’t going to like you.”
Ignoring the curse words yelled and the one finger salutes, they understand that no one is appreciative of the letters they leave behind. Despite the continuous hate thrown at them through the gossip on campus and online, parking control assistants continue to show compassion and understanding towards their bullies. This sympathetic attitude is a continued trait from the director of parking services.
“I just feel like somebody sitting in this chair should be more empathetic,” Glenn said. “We’re lenient. If it’s somebody’s first ticket, we void it or if someone’s in a bad spot we try and help them out. If students are willing to come in, we’ll work with them.”
Huguez is in agreement with Glenn’s comment.
“We try to be lenient,” Huguez said. “If we see someone parking in the wrong spot, we try to let them know before, so they don’t get a ticket.”
The parking control assistants are here to do their job, including maintaining the safety of the students, and they do not deserve the current reputation that has been burdened unto them. It’s important to remember that they are human beings, just trying to make a living.