He has had to stand in torrential rain to direct traffic through flooded intersections, has arrested drunk drivers in front of their children and was once bitten by a knife-wielding criminal, but traffic official Superintendent Gavin Dovey would not swap the last 39 years for the world.
Dovey, who joined East London’s traffic department in October 1978 as a traffic cop and is about to turn 65, will spend his last day at the Braelyn premises next Friday.
“I will miss my job,” said Dovey. “It has always been part of my life. I’ll miss coming in at 6am to get all my paperwork done. And I’ll miss getting thank you calls after I have made sure a job was done because we are here to help people.”
Since he was promoted to superintendent (or senior traffic officer, as it was known then) aged 42, Dovey has headed up the technical services of the department, ensuring road markings and road signs are in order and that roadworks are signposted.
Casting his mind back to the first day on the job as a learner traffic cop, Dovey said he was tasked by a superior to write a ticket for an illegally parked car in Oxford Street.
“Then a young lady came along and started to cry, but the supervisor made me write the ticket. I felt so bad, but that’s how I was initiated.”
Arresting parents for drunk driving while their children wept also took some getting used to, as did directing traffic in driving rain when subways were flooding and motorists’ stress levels were high.
A fire in the city centre’s Elco building in the mid-1980s also stood out in his memory. “Thick smoke was billowing away and I had to direct traffic through it.”
As a motorcycle-riding traffic cop, Dovey once gave chase when he saw a knife-wielding thief take refuge in a CBD taxi rank. “As I was trying to arrest him people were throwing stones at me and then he bit me on the arm. That was about 25 years ago and I still have the scar today!”
On a lighter note, Dovey once received a spirited smooch on the cheek from a woman while he was on point duty when apartheid ended and East London’s beaches were opened to all. “I had been standing near the Windmill for 12 hours and all of a sudden a lady came along and kissed me. It was quite funny.”
With just a few days left before he hangs up his uniform for the last time, Dovey is looking forward to downscaling and moving to Gonubie with his wife Rae. “I am sure I will find some community work to do or I will get involved with the church.” — firstname.lastname@example.org