Last night, on the train home, I saw someone who had not learned one of life’s most valuable lessons.
When you’re breaking the law, don’t argue with the cop.
Riding Baltimore’s Light Rail is, for the most part, a honor system sort of affair. There are ticket machines where you buy your pass, and then you board the train. No one checks your ticket when you board the train. No one checks your ticket when you disembark.
Occasionally, and I run into this maybe once a week at most, a Metro Transit cop will do a “fare inspection.” The cop goes to the front of the car, announces that there’s a fare inspection, and everyone aboard the train pulls out their ticket from wherever they keep it — I keep mine in a pocket of my Hellboy briefcase/bag-thing — to show the transit cop. And you can tell the frequent riders; like me, when they see a transit cop approaching the front of a car, they’ll fish out their ticket before the inspection is even announced.
Now, there are signs posted every-fucking-where in the trains and at the stops that 1) you must have a ticket before boarding the train and 2) it’s a $500 dollar fine for not having a ticket.
Keep that in mind. A five hundred dollar fine, versus a ticket that ranges from a $1.60 to $3.50.
The transit cop, last night, went to the front of the car, announced the fare inspection, and people started digging around for their tickets.
The cop checked a family to his left. They’re people I’ve seen before, as they boarded at the corporate park where I work; I suspect they’re patients at the meth outpatient facility in the neighborhood. He turned to a kid on his right…
…and the kid didn’t have a ticket.
They had a conversation, and I couldn’t catch all of it; I was too engrossed in looking at some space pr0n in the latest issue of Astronomy, specifically a feature on colliding galaxies. What I caught of it was that the kid was a student, whereupon the cop asked to see his ID. The kid fished out his ID, handed it over, and the cop explained to him the way the fare system worked, even pointed at the signs posted in the train. The kid argued that he was a student, he could just hop off at the next stop. Then, still holding the kid’s ID, the cop turned and worked his way down the aisle.
He went back to the kid, their conversation continued, and the cop said, “You can’t just ride the train. You have to have a ticket.” Also, the student was twenty-three. I caught that tidbit.
The train reached the next stop. The cop took the kid off the train. And on the platform, the cop pointed to more signs about having a ticket or pass before boarding. The conversation became animated, and as the train pulled away, I watched as the cop pulled out his ticket pad. He was giving the kid a citation.
Five hundred dollar fine.
I’ve seen other people get snagged in a fare inspection. Invariably, the person gets off with a warning and is put off at the next stop to buy a ticket.
This is the first time I saw someone actually get a ticket.
Here’s the life lesson.
Don’t. Argue. With. The. Cop. Just don’t do it!