Meet Fred Kesten. You may not know him by name but you know who he is. He works for the Middletown Parking Authority — writing tickets to motorists whose meter has run out.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Kesten moved to Middletown in the 1940s with his family and settled down in Long River Village. He attended Hubbard School on Silver Street, Eckersley-Hall School and Woodrow Wilson High School. His class of 1956 was the last class to graduate from the old Hunting Hill Avenue School, now the Woodrow Wilson Apartments.
In 1956, he joined the Army and was fortunate enough to serve his three years between wars, training in Georgia and then doing some of his service in Louisiana. While serving in the South, he had his first taste of racism and segregation and found it pretty disdainful.
Kesten came back to Middletown and met his wife Maria when they both worked at the Goodyear Rubber Company on Church and Hamlin streets. They married in 1952 and had three children, Lisa, Tim and Karen, who are all grown up now and living on their own. They'll be celebrating 50 years of marriage this summer.
During their married life, they lived in a little house on Frisbee Street for a few years, but spent the bulk of their lives in a ranch in Middlefield on Main Street. They moved back to Middletown when the kids grew up and left them empty nesters.
Kesten spent most of his career working at Pratt & Whitney as a bench mechanic. With his wife working as a hairdresser, they made a comfortable living. He decided in 2002 to take the severance package offered to him, and settled down to relax for the rest of his life. Things didn’t quite turn out as he planned.
"Retirement was boring and not good for me," Kesten said. So he took a half-time job with the City of Middletown’s Parking Authority. He worked for a while in the booths at the two parking lots owned by the city until they became automated last year. Now he spends the bulk of his time writing tickets to overtime parkers.
Kesten puts up with a lot of abuse. Everyone who gets a ticket argues with him if he is still nearby. He deals with people parked on sidewalks, in no-parking zones, and in handicap spots.
Yet, he stays calm, and his outlook remains rosy. “Mostly, people are decent,” Kesten explained. If the ticketholder gets particularly rude, Kesten says, "I make a point of walking away instead of getting angry."
Kesten likes his job. When it is sunny and pleasant, being outside is glorious, he says. He likes his job less when it is raining and gets a lot of exercise by walking from one end of Main Street to another, over to Broad Street and the city lots there, and down the side streets with meters.
Kesten shared some importnat parking secrets:
- Just because there is a ticket on your windshield doesn’t mean you can’t get another ticket. In two or three hours, he can give you another one. And he keeps track.
- If you leave a note that the meter is broken … it better be. He’ll use a quarter to check it. The good news is that if the meter is broken, you won’t get a ticket.
- Those meter-less parking spaces are not necessarily free. If you park there for more than three hours, you’ll get a ticket.
- The new meters that take credit cards are coming soon.