Eight years ago, Marlene Bednarczyk left the Poconos for the City of Brotherly Love. Recently widowed, Marlene was in search of a job for this new chapter in her life. Marlene found the perfect job for her with The Philadelphia Parking Authority.
“At that time I thought what’s the PPA? And they told me…and I got a job there. I could kick myself for not knowing about this job years and years ago,” she says. After all, Marlene was never meant to work in an office behind a desk. Her enigmatic personality and charm belong out on the streets amongst the people.
“You’re basically public relations when you’re out on the street,” explains Marlene. She brings her pizazz to the PPA and it’s obvious she loves her job just as much as Philadelphians love her. Everywhere she goes people recognize her, greeting her by her nickname “Hairspray.”
“It’s nice to have someone recognize you when you’re out there,” she says, “It feels like you’re not a stranger when you walk down the street.”
Laughing, she says, “I love it when the bus drivers stop driving in the middle of the street and yell ‘Hairspray, how ya doing’, it is such a good feeling because you feel like you’re part of the neighborhood.”
Marlene admits that the job has occupational hazards. However, she feels that it comes down to knowing the right way to handle a situation. She knows the red flags and simply walks away from all uncomfortable, unsafe situations.
“My late husband was a Philadelphia police officer for 27 years,” she explains, “He taught me a lot… He always said two wrongs don’t make a right. If a person starts screaming and you start screaming, you’re not gonna get anywhere.” She takes this Golden Rule mentality to heart, applying it to her job every single day.
Even as one of our most beloved and respected PEOs, Marlene isn’t totally immune to the backlash. The worst name Marlene has ever been called was “nazi.” A young boy on a skateboard yelled that at her just outside Zavino’s on 13th and Sansom. Fortunately, a man seated outside the restaurant reprimanded the kid.
The kindness shown by this gentleman is just one example of many. In fact, whenever someone gets her down, citizens in her patrol area always bring her spirit back up.
“The people of Philadelphia, sometimes they may not like us, but they do step up to the plate, especially in the summer,” explains Marlene. Usually local business owners will insist she come inside to cool off and drink some water.
Marlene mostly patrols in Midtown Village, working the evening shift. This is the ideal set up for her. She explains, “Night work is great to work. It’s quiet. There’s a different kind of clientele,” adding that police officers also find the night shift to be a more peaceful time.
Not only is Midtown Village Marlene’s favorite patrol area, it’s also where she likes to spend her free time. Although she’s a Northeast native, she proudly proclaims, “That’s my second neighborhood!”
She loves to go out and meet up with friends for a drink. “When I go out, I wanna go downtown. I love it!” she exclaims, “I love Woody’s. I have great friends in there. I just love everyone, because they know who I am.”
Marlene spends most of her free time traveling to be with family. “My son is in the army…he’s a lifer,” she explains, “He’s stationed at Fort Campbell [Tennessee] and has been deployed five times.” Her son has three daughters, who she lovingly refers to as “my beautiful divas.”