This morning a pair of transit cops were waiting at the train station, checking proofs of fare payment. My heart sank as I looked at my watch: I had forgotten it was August 1st, I still had a July bus pass. Now perhaps it's just terrible luck, but I'm suspicious. On my internship ending a year ago, I had been taking the C-train every day for a year (though only for two stops), and I have also taken the C-train about 20 stops every day--but only twice in all that time has my fare been checked: today, and again about two weeks ago.
So they gave me a ticket for $150.
It seems to me like a classic case of fundraising. It's like placing a speed camera at the bottom of a hill to catch speeders, on a straight road, when road conditions are perfect and visibility is ten miles. It's like the ticket my brother was given in Nevada, for rolling a stop sign in the middle of nowheresville.
It may be technically legal, but in my mind it's wrong. When I showed them my July pass, they must have known that statistically, I was a faithfully paying customer. And, of course, I was and am. Almost everyone that has a monthly pass is planning to buy another one, but they pretended not to know that as I questioned them about the matter. I asked one of them repeatedly how many tickets he gave on a typical morning of the first of the month, but he would only tell me how many he gave on a typical day: 6. Well, he was giving out tickets to two people on the train I was on (myself and a young woman who also had a July pass), and if that rate kept up during both rush hours, he would probably give out out at least 50 tickets for the day.
They asked for ID and it took awhile to find a photo in my messy wallet. I explained that I had just moved out and did not have anything with my new address on it in my wallet. I gave them my name, new cell phone number, date of birth (he asked for it twice), and new address, and when I told him I did not know my new postal code, he responded:
"You're only making it worse for yourself."Jeez! I'm not sure what that meant, but I'm a longtime paying customer, and if I hadn't been feeling sad at that moment, a statement like that would have made me steaming mad. Instead, having taken the ticket, I slowly pushed my bike up the steps--the escalator having been taken offline--rode to the nearest store and bought two books of bus tickets.
I then rode to the edge of an empty parking lot and cried. I'm not entirely sure why.
It's not really about the money, except that as a frugal individual I hate to have a hefty chunk of change taken from me. Perhaps what really made me sad was the principle of the thing. It's just wrong to give tickets to people on the first of the month, when they have a pass from the previous month, especially in the morning. They pretended not to see it, but they know that what they really fined me for is absent mindedness. When I was going to high school, the bus drivers had mercy--heck, this situation seemed to come up at the beginning of almost every month. I have always been and will always be forgetful--and isn't everyone, at least sometimes?
If I see these guys again on the first of the month, assuming I actually have proof of fare, I hope I can gather the courage to give them a piece of my mind. There will be no question who has the moral high ground then. But I'm usually too timid in person.
I saw a movie recently called "Pay it Forward", about a boy who does good deeds for three people and then tells them to "pay it forward", rather than pay it back, to another three people. I wonder if those transit cops ever had this happen to them. Perhaps they've been through this themselves, and they felt it was their chance to "pay it forward" this morning.