Sunday, October 21, 2007

Busted for Lack of Ticket

I’ve long wondered what happens if they catch someone on board the trains without a ticket. For the first couple of months I rode the Max regularly I never saw this happen, nor did I have anyone ask me to show a ticket. Then one day as we rolled into a station, a girl looking out the window called out the word “inspectors” in a loud but casual voice when she saw two yellow coated men on the platform. At that moment, every one of the six or seven passengers in my section of the train stood up and headed toward the nearest doors. As the doors opened, they all peered attentively down the length of the train, and then at some unseen signal which apparently conveyed that the inspectors were not in fact boarding, they all changed their minds and returned to their seats. This, in addition to a few conversations I’ve heard on board and on the platforms, gave me the impression that a huge number of people ride ticketless.

This evening some inspectors popped onto the front end of the train very suddenly and started asking to see tickets. A young girl in front of me said she didn’t have one. The inspector paused, then repeated her statement as if to make sure that was what she really said, paused again and then asked to see some ID. He sat down in a vacant seat in front of her and studied the ID for a long time. Then he asked the girl if she’d ever been warned before about riding without a ticket and she said no. Each question and answer exchange he dragged out for as long as possible, while eventually the other inspector, having made her rounds, came and sat down across from them to watch and listen while interacting with some kind of a bulky electronic clipboard. Among other things the man asked her if she thought that boarding without a ticket had been a bad choice for her today. I assume she said yes.

In the end he told her with a great sigh of annoyance that he could do one of three things: One, he could give her a warning; Two, he could give her a ticket for (I think) ninety dollars; Three, he could ban her from using the trains for ninety days. Which one of those did she think would be best? She must have chosen thing number one, because he proceeded to write her out a warning, a task which also seemed to take forever, during which he explained to her that if it turned out that this was not in fact her first warning, one of the other options would likely follow. Then he had her promise to get off at the next station and buy a ticket.

After he left, another young passenger asked her how old she was, to which she answered “Seventeen.” The other passenger then gave her some kind of a juvenile pass she had shown the inspector, saying she herself was getting off at the next stop anyway. Well, that was kind of her, since the girl may not have had any money on her. Bet she won’t be doing that again after that interminably humiliating experience.

So now you know what happens if you don’t pay – in case you were wondering. File this under "Dumb things to do when you're seventeen and no later."


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