Dead body a bad sign for Philadelphia Parking Authority

    It seems that a slew of recent snowstorms covered everything in Philadelphia, including Nadia Malik, 22, whose body was found slumped in the front passenger seat of her Nissan Altima, partially hidden by clothing and a duffel bag.

    Though there is no clear cause of death as police await autopsy and toxicology results, there is clearly reason for concern, because police and Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) officers piled parking tickets on Malik’s windshield, apparently as the mother of two lay dead in her car.

    The back story

    At least two of the tickets were issued at 23rd and Market streets, just blocks from where the car eventually ended up, near 30th Street Station.

    Another was issued last Tuesday at 30th Street, as Malik’s body languished behind tinted windows. It was only after an anonymous call to police that someone actually looked inside the car and made the gruesome discovery.

    Police said in published reports that it would have been nearly impossible to see Malik’s body through the tinted windows and snow.

    Not seeing the forest for the trees

    Perhaps that’s true, but I have seen the PPA in action, and I think the more likely explanation for their apparent inattentiveness is tunnel vision.

    Experience has taught me that too many of the patronage workers who occupy the PPA’s employment rolls are so focused on issuing tickets that they sometimes fail to see what’s right in front of them. How do I know? I’ve watched them.

    One day this past fall, I pulled over at 13th and Spring Garden streets in order to compose a text message. As I sat in my car with the engine running, I was certain that the PPA Enforcement Officer who was walking toward the front of my car could see me. After all, the car was running, my windows were not tinted and my light gray upholstery was in stark contrast to my dark brown skin.

    I was shocked as I watched the enforcement officer walk around to the back of my car and begin writing a ticket. I got out, asked him what he was doing. He got indignant, claiming that he couldn’t see me.

    After a heated exchange, he eventually deleted the ticket, but I am convinced that he saw me in the car and was determined to write the ticket in spite of that.

    My wife had a similar experience.

    She pulled over to wait for my daughter to get out of school on the 1800 block of Spring Garden St., and even as my wife sat in the car, a PPA Enforcement Officer began writing her a ticket.

    When my wife moved the car and came back around the enforcement officer said my wife could simply tell the judge that she was in the car, and the ticket would be deleted. My wife did as the officer told her, and she had to pay the ticket anyway.

    Inattention turns deadly?

    Perhaps there are those who would label the incidents my wife and I experienced as minor annoyances. But when I heard about the discovery of Nadia Malik’s body in a ticketed car, those incidents were the first thing that came to mind.

    While some PPA employees carry out their jobs with courtesy and attentiveness, too many perform their duties with a mindset that places the issuance of parking tickets before the exercise of common sense.

    If PPA Enforcement Officers could claim not to notice drivers inside running cars, then PPA Enforcement Officers could ignore a woman who appeared to be sleeping, or worse, inside a car that had been illegally parked for days.

    If that is determined to be the case with Malik, someone should be held accountable, because while the PPA’s duties include developing off-street parking, regulating on-street parking and providing airport parking, PPA employees have other duties, as well.

    They have a duty to pay attention.

    They have an obligation to care.

    They have a responsibility to treat cars and their drivers with a modicum of common decency.

    Nadia Malik deserved at least that much. The rest of us deserve it, as well.

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