Mon 13 Aug 2007 9:20 PM
Ever try to do the right thing? Terrible idea because the forces of fate are loathe to permit such acts of responsibility society puts forth as ideal standards. Time and time again the inclinations of would-be do-gooders result in failure, ridicule and winking, “should’ve known better” glances as the viral tales of defeat spread from amused bystanders to friends, family and co-workers.
My own life has been a steady trickle of avoiding situations which require a choice of right or wrong because the fear of retribution and the desire to act in accordance to values promulgated by church and state conspire with handshakes and bank transfers to tear me asunder. I hate the metro stops along the Embarcadero for the simple fact that they have fare boxes at either entry and standing on the platform suggests that the social contract has been signed– you have paid the entry fee and are waiting with evidence of this transaction for your civil chariot.
It may surprise you that I’m at all hesitant to pay for the bus. Okay, it doesn’t surprise the people who think of me as a pauper among misers nor the people who know of my coin jars but it might seem contrary to those who know my opinions on civic infrastructure and transportation: cities should not require the use of a car for the citizens to get to and from home and work and all points between. San Francisco has a far-reaching bus and trolly system which provides ample coverage but has never been able to manage this service in a timely, clean or safe manner. If the bus driver isn’t taking out a stop shelter or if the train isn’t dragging old Chinese women underneath then there’s a lunatic who has spent the past week marinating in their own shit yelling at their invisible friend or some kid with a gun in their backpack in the wrong part of town. All this after you waited for half an hour in the rain and get skipped by the first two busses which are packed closely followed by the third which is only going half the route.
So when you walk up to one of the Proof of Payment (POP) stops you’re subject to trying to ignore the fare cop who’s standing in your personal space shouting in a desperate attempt to raise their voice above your headphones– wearing dark sunglasses helps. But the cops are no where to be seen when you’re standing at the entry eyeing the fare boxes and so the casual observers will see only you paying for no damned reason and thinking you’re the fool for doing so. The only reason is fear of being caught but I always lost in the battle of fears and I always paced nervously around the stop near suffocation. For some reason I never had any problem smoking the whole time which is also liable for a ticket even after a maintenance worker warned me.
The odds are on your side, of course. How many fare cops can there be out there at any given time? There’s seven metro lines with any number of cars on the rails going two different directions. The underground stations are probably where most of the searches take place because tourists are easier to intimidate and not even the fare cops actually wanna ride MUNI. Hell, it’s not that long ago no one even gave a shit about the fare collection. Little kids would stare down bus drivers after running on the back door, bums would wave spent kleenex for fast passes and station attendants, if there was one, were usually too busy talking to someone to notice anyone hopping the stile. Shit, they didn’t even seem to notice anyone opening the wheelchair gate and its piercing alarm. But then they built these new stations out by State and the mall which was a joke. Except to Jay, the only person who was ever busted for fare evasion resulting in the second time he had to go to juvenile court. (more…)