I am a criminal. I have broken the rules of our society and paid the price. People will judge me for the rest of my life. As I walk down the street I already feel their disapproving eyes on me and I hear their hushed whispers to each other.
“Look… there goes the guy who forgot to buy a new train ticket.”
My crime is forgetfulness. Anyone who travels on the train with a monthly pass knows it is all too easy to forget it needs renewing during the early morning half asleep walk to the train station.
I only realized my mistake when I heard the familiar call, “Kaartjes Alsjeblieft,” from the train conductor who had entered the carriage to check everyone’s tickets.
I am an honest person. I didn’t try to pass my ticket off as being in date. When she approached me I apologetically explained my mistake and felt rather stupid. From the look on her face that followed I instantly knew I was in trouble. She was looking at me like she had just caught a hardened criminal stealing charity money from a children’s hospital. Apparently I had also taken their teddy bears just to be extra mean and make them cry.
“You don’t have to tell me if you do not wish to but why did you not buy a ticket?” She asked me with a stern face. It didn’t have the same ring as “you have the right to remain silent” but she said it as if trying to achieve the same level of seriousness and authority. Obviously no one messed with the train service when she was on patrol.
Over the course of the ‘telling off’ she asked me the same question several times. It was as if she was looking for a hole in my story, waiting for me to make one slip that would bring my whole web of lies (as she believed) crashing to the ground.
“I didn’t realize it had run out at the start of the week.” I told her truthfully. “I forgot to…”
“The start of the week?” She interrupted through clenched teeth. “You’ve been traveling with out a ticket for more then one day?”
She made a move that suggested she would have reached for a can of mace if she had one. From the way she talked I was half expecting to end up face down on the floor as she forcefully handcuffed my hands behind my back.
Suddenly the train carriage began to feel like a police interrogation room. I thought about asking for a lawyer or turn snitch and give up the names of other people with out tickets. There was no way I was becoming someone’s bitch in the slammer. Luckily I only had to pay a fine and I could put the plans for my prison break on hold.
I can live with the fact that I had to pay a fine for forgetting my ticket (even though I would have rather kept my money obviously); it might help me to remember next time. However I did not like the smug way the train conductor acted during the whole event. I was obviously a liar and a thief in her eyes. I got the impression she had failed the police force entrance exam and was taking it out on me.
The moral of the story: Never equip train conductors with firearms. Innocent people will die if they have had a bad day.