Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Virtuous Fare Inspector

My favorite fare inspector boarded the westbound Blue Line at the Rose Garden.

He once let me go when I had boarded without a fare because I was clearly under the influence of pain medication. I boarded in front of Kaiser Interstate, arm wrapped in a bandage, and my man was right there. He escorted me off before the doors closed, ticket book and pen ready.

When I explained that I was "out of it," he said "I can give a certain number of breaks to riders each day. Today you're one of my chosen people."

So I like the guy because he was merciful.

This more recent day was a different story. The fare inspector and his partner got on, one at each door of the car. His buddy was at the other end, behind me. My friend started in my row. At the next stop, Chinatown, a bicyclist tried to drag his mechanical up the middle stairway. The inspector was there and said, "You have to board by the back door, near the bike hooks."

The bicyclist said, "Are you gonna hold the door for me?"

Not "Would you mind holding the door for me?" but "Are you gonna..."

The fare guy said "No. If the door closes, push the button."

The biker went to the back door and hoisted his supercool road bike up into the Max. The inspector was working his way back there.  "Fare please.  Thank you.  May I see your fare?  Thank you."

A shlumpy lump of anonymity swaddled in a giant hoodie had no fare. The inspector began to write him up. He was straight across the aisle from the bicyclist.

The bicyclist I could then see in all of his glory.  He looked like an advertisement for a high end bike shop. Tall, lean but with broad shoulders and a magazine smile, golden hair curling out from under his helmet. He wore all the beautiful gear -- the moisture wicking shirt in bold colors, the matching pants showing off the rippling thigh muscles, hi-tech shoes -- the works. He slid a phone out of his backpack and flicked it.

"Hey," he said, waving the phone at the inspector. The inspector glanced over, peered at the phone and said "That's no good."

"Excuse me?"

"I'll be with you in a second." He turned back to the shlumpy rider.

The attitude coming off the bicyclist as he waited wafted back to me. He was nursing a little grin that said he intended to master the situation.

The inspector handed out a ticket, said a few words to the shlumpy fellow and turned to the biker, who again showed him the phone.

"I can see you've got the app but you haven't paid the fare for this ride."

"I'm paying the fare right now." He swiped and showed the screen. "I was waiting for you."

"You're required to pay the fare before you get on."

"I was a little preoccupied.  You interrupted my attempt to board."

The inspector leafed to the next citation on his pad. "Can I see some I.D.?"

The biker whipped out an I.D. and followed up by showing the phone again.  "See, same name as on the phone."

The inspector took note of the name and called in to find out if the subject's name was already in Trimet's database.

"Look," the biker said, continuing to wave the magical phone like a Bible in front of a werewolf. "Look, I buy a bus ticket every day. There's the record."

In a clear and empathetic tone the inspector said "I believe you. But the rule is you need to pay the fare before you get on the train."

He handed the biker a ticket and explained, among other things, that the fine was $175, but if the biker went to court the judge could discount it. "Any questions?"

The litttle smile, which had gone away, appeared again on the biker's face. "How do you live with yourself?"

"It's dealing with good people like yourself that makes my job worthwhile."  And the inspector moved along.

So I also like the fare inspector because he's fair. Handing out mercy and justice, what a great guy. Made my day.

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