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Free Ticket To Ride: The Muni Experience

The voice inside my head told me to get off at the next station. Something’s not right. I took out two, one dollar bills from my wallet, put on my backpack and got off the Muni Metro train, just in time for a policewoman with a blue cap to ask me for my train payment receipt. I told her I just got on the train, one stop ago at Taraval; there was no way to pay, so I got off. In a chilly voice she asked, “Didn’t you see the sign that said you have to pay for a ticket on the first car?” I told her that I did read the sign, but I was on the last car, and that’s why I just got off at West Portal, so I could pay. “Well,” said blue cap, sizing me up. “You should have pulled the cord so the driver could stop and you could pay.”

My look of disapproval at her suggestion didn’t engender her to me. “I’m not going to pull the cord for the driver to stop a load of passengers, so I can go to the front of the train to pay,” I said. “That’s rude.”

Again, her look of disdain froze me into a corner. “Look, I have two dollars in my hand, why would I do that if I wasn’t going to pay?” I pleaded, hoping she would take pity on a distraught 47-year-old professional woman. Looking around I saw two scruffy teenagers with their skateboards also getting tickets for their transgressions. “I’m sorry ma’am, I’m going to have to issue you a citation,” she said in a textbook, case-closed, detached manner.

The resentment, anger and frustration I felt was bitter. I didn’t continue arguing. There was no changing her mind. The way she saw it, I was a law-breaker. I signed the ticket and for revenge, didn’t look her in the eye as she tried to give it to me. I snatched it from her cold hand and walked away. In an act of vigilante defiance, I tore the ticket in half. It felt so good; I tore the half in half again. Then I bunched them all together, and tore it again. I wanted to throw the ticket into the sky like confetti at a ticker-tape parade, but my law-abiding nature prevailed. I shoved the minuscule pieces of paper into my pocket and boarded the next train – me and my nihilistic shadow self, taunting and laughing at fate. This time I knew I was breaking the law. Now it didn’t matter. I was not innocent and I knew it.

Earlier in the day, on Market Street I heard a disheveled homeless man repeating out loud over and over, “Experience is the best teacher,” then laughing to himself, as if he understood a secret. His prophetic words echoed in my mind once again. Yes, I thought to myself, experience is the best teacher. There is no way I could relate to being wrongly accused if I had not experienced it for myself. Injustice in any form is intolerable. Yet it is rampant everywhere: shoplifting, racial bias, drug abuse. The results are disempowerment, anger and rage. Where does that energy go? Oftentimes it is channeled into violence and even suicide.

I learned an important lesson. Sometimes it takes a smack across the head to jolt me into feeling compassion for the human condition. Good or bad, it is a struggle. Men and women rot in jail, accused of a crime they did not commit. Heaven help them. I have no answers. As for me, I will simply piece together the bits of ticket like a jigsaw puzzle and contest the citation. If the powers that be have a sense of humor, they will see through the Frankenstein-ish ticket and laugh to themselves, knowing that if I was indeed guilty, why would I be so incensed to rip the ticket up? Innocence will once again prevail and the world will be made whole, at least that’s the wish I hold for myself and all those who are wrongly accused.###

Ingrid Hart
The Divine Daytripper
P.O. Box 3205
Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-3205
(916) 368-2643

“We all shine the moon and the stars and the sun.”--John Lennon

All contents © 2008 by Gene Mahoney