Two red dots resembling angry bull's eyes pop up on the on-street meter as a woman charges across the 300 block of West Fourth Street.
Red means her time has expired while green indicates that time remains on the meter.
"Oh no!" she yelled, after bolting from a store door.
Kevin Laughlin, another authority officer, makes his rounds on West Fourth Street.
Williamsport Parking Authority officer Kevin Laughlin, a retired air traffic controller, listened.
Cool as a cucumber, he began to input her vehicle license in a device that prints tickets.
"The other lady told me that meter was broken!" she said, now a couple of feet from his face.
Laughlin put a quarter in the meter and turned the knob.
Sure enough, she was right.
The meter had malfunctioned.
"Thank you," she said.
Laughlin doesn't walk away. Instead, he contacts the authority office inside the Mid-Town Parking Garage on Third Street, informing others that the meter needs to be repaired.
"They do go dead," he said of the batteries that keep the tiny motor inside the meter operable.
So much for being a parking Nazi.
"I've heard that name, and people also call us parking Gestapo," he said.
Outbursts not unusual
Laughlin said the most important part of the job is to represent the city and enforce its parking ordinances.
"You don't engage when they are upset," he said. "You explain what the violation is and why you issued a ticket. You maintain complete professionalism and remain courteous at all times."
Laughlin's prior work experience with the Federal Aviation Administration and his years on the streets of the Central Business District reveal a demeanor that is calm under fire.
He quickly transitions from one situation to the next with ease and seems to love what he's doing, often exchanging pleasantries with the downtown merchants.
"I think this city is like Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show," he said. "I think most of the merchants are wonderful and I wouldn't want to work any place else."
Likewise, Christine Plocinski, 22, who joined the staff in January, also has benefitted from meeting and greeting those who park downtown.
She claimed to have been able to deal with the number of comments and heard her share of derogatory remarks shouted to her over the past six months.
"I've heard, 'Get a real job,' " she said. "You just ignore it and realize you have a job to do."
Parking authority management also respects the work they do and admires their abilities and skills.
"They work extremely hard, and not for a lot of money," said William E. Nichols Jr., general manager of the River Valley Transit and finance director for the authority.
As much as the U.S. Postal workers delivering mail, they walk for miles, enduring all that nature throws at them.
From the time they start their route, a serpentine jaunt around the Central Business District, which is repeated throughout the day, they may have traveled the distance of half a marathon.
Each one has a section he or she works and will switch east or west of Market Street, depending on the day.
"I'm a runner," Laughlin, 40, said, describing how he regularly takes part in various charity runs, including 5-kilometer races.
Plocinski claims to have lost 15 pounds since starting her job.
Both check on the street meters and the vehicles parked in the reserved lots and in the garages.
Both maintain they have to wear comfortable shoes or black sneakers.
In the winter, boots are a must, but they should have some sort of bounce or give to them, Plocinski said.
They start work by checking in at the authority office inside the Mid-Town garage. After that, it's a stroll resembling that of a woman sweeping away dirt.
Lauglin explains it differently.
"It's kind of like a Zamboni," he said, describing the machine used to scrape paper-thin layers of ice off the surface of an arena before hockey games. The machines zig and zag in no particular order.
To do the job right requires a combination of stamina and watchfulness with the precision of an eagle searching for prey.
Summers take their toll more than winter.
Heat and humidity are difficult to manage without proper hydration, Laughlin said.
They wear shorts and keep hydrated.
"It's easier to layer clothing in the winter," Laughlin said.
In addition, they have to watch out that traffic does not run them over.
It doesn't take long before they start to hear from those on the street - good, bad or indifferent.
"You guys should have a coin machine around downtown," a woman told Plocinski. She was parked outside the Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Building on Third Street.
Some situations are funny, such as the time an illegal parker inside the Merrill Lynch building set off the car alarm from his office.
"I guess the noise was supposed to be a way to get me to stop what I was doing," Plocinski said.
Surprisingly, both attendants are the first to understand when people are having a bad day, especially when they come upon them as they are issuing tickets.
"Most people are quite reasonable," Laughlin said, suspecting they react that way because of the fine of $10 for on-street parking meters, and $6 for the reserved lots, which are penalties far less than they are in similar metropolitan areas. The authority allows a 24-hour grace period and will knock half the cost of the ticket if paid within that period.
Another revelation discovered on the tour is how quickly they think fast on their feet and make judgment calls - a skill useful when inspecting handicapped parking spaces.
Such drivers display the blue and white lettered placard and are given an extra hour before a ticket is issued.
However, on this day, Plocinksi noticed a handicapped placard hanging on a vehicle parked on Pine Street. The placard indicated it was for handicapped parking, but it expired in 2008.
She took a photograph and said she would return in an hour to see whether the driver moved the car.
"You hear all kind of excuses," Plocinski said.
On another occasion, a man had parked outside City Hall, which allows 30-minutes of free parking along West Fourth Street. He got a ticket and told Plocinski the vehicle belonged to his wife.
"We have to be fair," Plocinski said, pointing to where she applied chalk marks on the tires.
"Some people wipe it off," she said. If that happens, she said, she presses the chalk harder, so the powder falls into the tire groove and onto the ground. On a clear day, it's a dead give-away, she added.
Both also have experienced their share of oddities on their routes.
"I heard a kid yell, 'Help me - that dude is chasing me,' " Plocinski said. "He was giggling as he ran by," she said. "You can't cry wolf too often to police."
Both officers document any potential disputes that may arise, such as whenever two cars are parked in one spot.
"You have to wait until the meter runs out and give both tickets," Plocinski said.
2 spaces, 2 tickets
In another similar situation, the front half of one vehicle was sticking into the parking space ahead while the rear portion was in a separate metered space behind it.
Plocinski pulled out her camera, snapped a photograph and ticketed the car because most of it was in the space in which the meter had run out of time.
Laughlin is serious about protecting drivers and pedestrians.
"I am particularly concerned about violations that hinder public safety," he said, citing an example of a posted sign - "No Parking Here to Corner."
"They can result in injury or property damage by impeding the view of other drivers on the intersection," he said.
Each officer gets to know which vehicle is which as they inspect the reserved spaces in the parking lots.
"We get to know many of the vehicles by make and model," Laughlin said.
They also check the parking garages and take turns collecting fines in boxes that are placed at the parking lots scattered around the district.
The work also can be emotionally draining.
Each encounter moments when police or a humane society officer should be called.
"I have seen babies, toddlers and pets left in cars in the summer," Plocinski said. "That bothers me."
Another thing that irks her is whenever she sees adults becoming verbally or physically abusive with little children.
As the city that is the seventh-fastest growing region in the nation continues to boom, Laughlin and Plocinski each believe the pace of their work won't slow down.
It's at the point where there aren't enough parking spaces close to the downtown spots during Monday through Friday.
"My roll of paper for my tickets ran out three times," Plocinski said of a Friday in May when she issued 113 tickets during the commencement for Pennsylvania College of Technology at the Community Arts Center.
Their jobs are to enforce the parking ordinance, not to deal in matters of additional parking, which is up to the city Parking Authority.
But Plocinski shared her reason why she handed out 113 tickets on the college's graduation.
"I think people decided to park in the lot, taking a chance on getting a ticket in the monthly reserved spaces, (rather) than parking in a garage and walking a few blocks."