As the Blue Line pulled into the Hollywood station, I locked eyes with a Transit Cop inside the slowing train. Protect and serve young man, yes sir, that’s our tax dollars at work, and I’d be proud to have a beer with you young man, but just not at this very moment. You see, I have no ticket, and no plans to buy one. I also had the relative confidence of a rule breaker that the transit officer would not think highly of such a move, but then again, we were not yet friends, and so I did not care. I was not currently concerned with his feelings, nice person though he may be.
No, we both had our roles to play on this clear, cool morning. I had somehow lucked into the part of Rule Breaker, and his starched white shirt identified him as Johnny Law. So as we locked eyes, he nodded, and I smiled, we knew that the game was about to begin, and we both relished our respective positions.
On the phone with my mom at the time, I quickly turned and walked back up the stairs toward the ticket machine. No harm no foul, and if I could get off the platform before The Law made contact, then I was home free. A two dollar ticket beats a one hundred and fifteen dollar citation any day of the week, yet this was the cowardly approach. No, I would not being buying any tickets today, thank you kindly, and this young officer was going to have to work awfully hard to tag me with a citation, but we both knew that I would be getting across the river and back to downtown, sooner rather than later.
Still on the phone with my mom, I watched the train stop from the top of the stairs; people got on, but The Officer did not get off. Too easy. The train headed east as I strolled back down the stairs, intending to catch the next train three minutes later. I boarded that train with no problem, no further contact with transit authorities, and headed east myself, pulling into the Lloyd Center station minutes later.
Imagine my surprise when I saw the familiar white shirt waiting on the platform, catching people exiting at the Lloyd Center. Now we were approaching gray legal territory, because the Lloyd Center was inside the Fareless Square, a free zone of sorts, where no fare is necessary to use public transit. The problem was that I was coming from outside the fareless square, and I’m pretty sure that even though I would be on safe ground, he could still pop me for failure to follow the rules. I waited for the train to slow, and the inevitable crowd to form around the door. We locked eyes once again, and my smile returned. The doors opened and the crowd surged onto the platform, but I cut left, walked briskly down the train and got off at a different door. I turned to look at the transit cop, now engulfed by the exiting masses, a salmon swimming upstream, not today sir.
I cut up a block and kept heading east, fully intending to get back on the train at the next stop. A beautiful morning, maybe I’ll get a street vendor burrito. I smiled at the business women in the office park, and they scowled in return, but they could not sour my mood. I turned the corner at a leisurely pace, the 7th Street Station just ahead, when I spotted the annoyingly familiar starched white shirt. Unexpected. A quick left into the parking garage, I doubled back. Now this was starting to get interesting. If I boomed straight east, he’d bust me for sure, but at the same time, I had to get across the river, I had to get home. I needed coffee.
Back to the Lloyd Center station, this time at a fast pace, my patience wearing thin. Waiting for me at the Lloyd Center station was a gaggle of gutter punks, transients, and all around true believers. Perfect, these yahoos never paid, and what’s more, they were natural enemies of transit cops world wide. With their sleeping bags, cardboard signs, and accompanying road dogs, they are the bane of a rejected, polite society. I boarded the train with them, and quickly settled in amongst them, chatting up a man wearing a cut off denim jack with the homemade inscription, “Jesus will eat your Children.”
As we approached the 7th Street station, I saw the starched white shirt on the platform, hanging out, waiting for me to make my move. At this, I slumped low in my seat and looked the other way. The officer did not board. As the train doors shut and we started to pull away from the station, I turned and smiled. Johnny Law and Rule Breaker locked eyes again, I smiled, and he nodded. He wants things to be one way; but it turns out that sometimes it’s the other. Till next time.