Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Accidental Scofflaws

Shannon visited for a week. I figured he'd be out most nights, visiting with friends and relatives. But instead, he was on deadline, so he worked well into the night.

Saturday night rolled around and his plans fell through, leaving us looking at each other. I texted Denise and Roberta. Denise had a migraine. Roberta was napping. Shannon and I were going to have to entertain each other.

"Let's go eat."

"Let's get more pizza!" Shannon had discovered that a pie was $3.50 down the street and had been on a pizza kick for a few days.

"Last night's pizza made me sick. I ate too much of it and I'm lactose-intolerant. Let's go to Hoboken and get burgers at Arthur's instead."

Shannon was up for that, so we walked over to the trolley that goes along the waterfront. The Hoboken train was just pulling in. We raced to the farecard machine.

A queue of four. Argh! The train's doors slid open. We raced to the next machine. Another line. I did some mental calculations.

NJ farecard machines=suck. Take forever. Times 4=we'll have to wait 15-30 minutes for the next train. Odds of being checked for farecard=slim but not impossible. Fine? Big. A friend had gotten caught without a card once and had to pay $100. What's worse, minimal risk of getting caught and fined or waiting for another train?

"Your call," said Shannon.

"Let's go." We jumped on the train.

Saturday night in JC. A bunch of high school kids were on the train, making noise, wandering around, singing and rapping a bit, and roaming the aisle.

I was tense over the risk we were taking and didn't notice our surroundings. Shannon didn't care that the kids were dominating the car. He has kids of his own. Kids don't scare him. The kids ignored us as we ignored them.

In Hoboken, the doors slide open and everyone piled off. But something wasn't right.

Policemen at the end of the platform were checking for tickets.

Damn. How embarrassing.

"Can we just get back on the train?"

I ran a few more mental calculations.

Train won't leave for at least 10 minutes. We'll be sitting ducks in the trains alone, clearly having jumped back on in full view of the police.

"Payphone," I said. I picked up the payphone and spoke into it as Shannon stood next to me, attentively interesting in the phone as well.

The kids were being hassled by the police. Had they paid their fares? I couldn't tell.

"Shit, this is so embarrassing. We're going to get fined for not paying $1.90 each."

Bad call. Mental note: Don't do stupid things when you can avoid them.

We stared intently at the payphone. I spoke enthusiastically into the receiver, which had no dial tone at all. The policemen finished with the kids and wait—both wandered away.

I hung up the phone and we walked off the platform into the Hoboken train station.

"Sometimes it's good to look boring and middle-aged."

1 comment:

Ed Ward said...

Amateurs! The Berlin traffic system is 100% honor-driven. I knew someone who went 19 years without getting controlled. When it happened, she figured that the 60 DM, pro-rated, was fair. Another woman I know was "riding black," as they call it (Schwarzfahren, which word also means "hitchhiking," oddly enough) on the east side of town, and the controllers got closer and closer. The old lady next to her turned and asked "You don't have a ticket, either?" No, she admitted, she didn't. But why was the old lady, eligible for a senior discount, doing this? "Oh, she said, "once it was your political duty not to support the system." Then she giggled. "Now I just do it for fun!"

The controllers got off the train before they reached them.