Liu Ling Ling gets them. I get them. If you’re a driver, you might have gotten one, too, and if you haven’t, you will pray that you will never ever come across the dreaded white and black slip of paper, usually placed under the windscreen wiper of your car so that it won’t flutter away in the wind.

Yes, I’m referring to a summons. Ranging from $6 to $400 depending on the severity of your parking offence, you can always rely on a trusty parking attendant to issue you the correct ticket whenever you run afoul of the rules.

But with more and more automatic carpark gantries being set up these days, parking attendants – collectively nicknamed Fong Fei-Fei as they often wear hats to stay out of the sun – are at risk of losing their jobs. This is a phenomenon that homegrown director Royston Tan has tried to capture in his latest film, 3688.

His musical comedy is designed to be a nostalgic trip to a yesteryear where Rediffusion ruled the airwaves and the late Fong Fei-Fei was not only the Queen Of Hats, but also the queen of Mandopop. Tan filmed in the old Dakota Crescent estate, using not only two carparks there but also a flat for indoor scenes. (Another carpark which he used is located at Queen Street.)

Uncle Radio (Michael Tan)'s flat in 3688 is really located in Dakota Crescent. Credit: Golden Village Pictures

Uncle Radio (Michael Tan)’s flat in 3688 is really located in Dakota Crescent. Credit: Golden Village Pictures

Speaking with press at the 3688 press conference last week, getai prima donna and leading lady Liu Ling Ling said that she would often run into “Fong Fei-Fei” due to the nature of her job. “Sometimes my item overruns and the coupons I displayed are insufficient, so I tio summon (get a ticket),” she said, sharing with members of the media present. While she dreads getting the summons, she has become familiar with parking attendants over the years.

Liu Ling Ling dons the most absurd costumes for her role in 3688. Credit: Golden Village Pictures

Liu Ling Ling dons the most absurd costumes for her role in 3688. Credit: Golden Village Pictures

“People loathe them but they are really pitiful. They can’t even take their breaks at the coffeeshop, because of the uniform they wear,” she said.

Liu was cast as a coffee shop owner who would help her customers keep a lookout for parking attendants, one of whom is played by Mandopop singer Joi Chua (she’s Xia Fei Fei, the main protagonist) and Malay pop doyen Rahimah Rahim (she’s Jenny Rahimah, the villain).

Rahimah shared that the cast ran into real parking attendants at one of the scenes. “We were coming out of the public toilet at the MRT station and that’s when they saw us, in uniform also. They looked confused,” she said with a chuckle.

They're watching you...

They’re watching you… Credit: Golden Village Pictures

Bona fide parking attendant or make-believe, lenient or on-the-ball – you need these five tips for avoiding a parking summons!

1. Always display a valid parking coupon

You might think that this point is totally moot, but just to test you, look at the picture closely below and spot why the driver of this vehicle still got slapped with a $50 fine. (True story.)

Study the image closely and see why this motorist got fined $50 despite displaying so many coupons.

Study the image closely and see why this motorist got fined $50 despite displaying so many coupons.

No, it’s not because two of the coupons are slightly obscured… Look below for the answer.

Correct answer: The tabs have been folded and the creases are evident! Reused parking coupons are not valid parking coupons.

Correct answer: The tabs have been folded and the creases are evident! Reused parking coupons are not valid parking coupons.

Make sure that you check your iPhone or smart device for the correct date and time before peeling off the tabs of your coupons, and try to err on the side of caution when deciding how many coupons to use.

2. Keep track of what time the parking attendant makes his or her rounds

If you know Fong Fei-Fei will be coming around at about 3pm, you better jolly well be ready for her.

If you know Fong Fei-Fei will be coming around at about 3pm, you better jolly well be ready for her. Credit: Golden Village Pictures

After parking in the same location more than twice or thrice, you might get an inkling of what time the parking attendant comes around. Whatever time you’re leaving doesn’t matter as much as the time that the attendant checks your vehicle!

3. Check parking rates before tearing coupons

Not every single street parking lot charges 50 cents per half hour. Double check the signs in the parking area for the rate, especially if you’re in the city centre or nearby. If you’re lucky, it’s free parking after 5pm, or 50 cents per half hour after 5pm. But if you’re unlucky, you might have not noticed that it actually costs $1 per half hour.

4. Check for the single white line (and other possible road violations) before parking kerbside

This often happens when you’re visiting in a private estate and there are no public carparks in the area. You circle the estate desperately, trying to find a place to park your car so that you can see your friend’s new baby/meet your realtor/eat at that new hip cafe everyone is talking about. You don’t find any demarcated lots but you do see that many other motorists have parked kerbside, outside people’s houses. Before you follow suit, check that you are not:

– parking parallel to a single white line
– within 9 meters of a bus stop
– within 6 meters of a traffic junction
– within 3 meters of a fire hydrant
– in the opposite direction of oncoming traffic

5. Make friends who can tip you off or warn you about the arrival of the parking attendant!

It's obviously easier to spot Liu Ling Ling than a parking attendant...

It’s obviously easier to spot Liu Ling Ling than a parking attendant…

In 3688, coffeeshop owner Lady Kaka (Liu Ling Ling) will always receive ample warning from Xia Fei Fei in the form of a phonecall before she makes an appearance at her nearby carpark. While such a relationship is likely only the stuff of fiction, it doesn’t hurt for you to get chummy with people who work near where your car is parked. They can help alert you if “Fong Fei-Fei” is here, or even stall for time while you rush down to plead for mercy.

Well, just in case someone from the Urban Redevelopment Authority or Land Transport Authority is reading this, I have a suggestion to make. Despite electronic gantries being set up in many carparks these days, there are still street parking lots where motorists still need to tear out primitive paper coupons and display them. You know, sometimes, motorists don’t intentionally underpay their parking charges – they might have underestimated the amount of time they need at an event, the queueing took longer than expected or they might have gotten held up at the office – anything might have happened to prevent them from returning to their vehicle on time.

Dubai's mPark system allows you to extend your parking period via SMS.

Dubai’s mPark system allows you to extend your parking period via SMS.

This is why Dubai’s mParking system is such a brilliant idea. It allows motorists to extend his or her parking period and also alerts them when the parking period is almost up, all via SMS!

Now can we pretty please implement such a system in Singapore and say goodbye to all those environmentally-unfriendly, troublesome coupons?

Sources: blog.moneysmart.sgwww.mpark.rta.ae