One morning last week, the fare inspectors were thick as ants on a PB&J sandwich. A team of them, including a couple of Portland cops, were waiting at the Hollywood Transit Center, human speed bumps on the way to my destination.
I boarded and found a seat. A couple of inspectors boarded right behind me. I'd seen the one who was working his way towards me before. He's an efficient one, glancing at passes and tickets as fast as they appear with a "Thank you," taking a second longer to acknowledge a transfer, taking his job seriously and calmly.
I showed my pass for the second time in five minutes. Two seats down, a man flashed his wallet and the inspector said, "That's September. Do you have an October pass?"
The rider was a 30-something white guy dressed for work, definitely not a typical target for harassment. But he did not have the pass. As the conversation continued, his voice rose higher and higher, as if he were being harassed, which he was not.
In his defense, the rider showed that he was carrying passes from several prior months and even found a receipt proving that he had bought an October pass. The officerr opened his ticket book. The rider blurted out that his wife must have borrowed it over the weekend and not replaced it.
At this point, I knew the man was in trouble. You might assume, having bought a monthly pass, that you could loan it to another person. Obviously, only one person at a time can use a pass, so what's the problem? Well, in its accounting for estimated income from passes sold and estimated income from people nabbed using passes wrongly, the head bean counters have concluded that the best numbers will occur when there is no pass sharing. Remember, these are the same people who eliminated Fareless Square and significantly cut back service within the last year or so.
"May I see your identification, please?"
The man replied, "Hold on," and made a phone call. The inspector, to my surprise, kept patiently quiet. I suppose the rider was hoping to find out if his wife had returned the pass to his lunch bag, or some other unlikely but possible spot that would save the cost of the coming ticket.
But the call didn't connect, and the cop had to ask again for ID.
"Why?" the violator asked, handing over a driver's license. "Don't you like me? Are you trying to bust my chops?"
The cop muttered something about procedures while scribbling.
The violator said, "This is not fair, that I should have paid for this month, not to mention many other months, and this one time. . . "
The cop glanced up at him.
"My wife borrowed it and didn't return it to me," he said. Whining and trying to blame his poor wife. I felt sorry for (and superior to) the violator for his ignorance.
The inspector gave him the ticket, saying "Sharing a pass is not allowed. The pass is issued to one person, for his sole use." The violator stared like a dead trout.
The inspector went on to explain the violator's options. He could pay by mail or credit card, or he could appear in court. The inspector had conveniently already set the court date and time.
The violator was done protesting. The cop was done explaining. The $175 (or more) ticket was doing the talking now.