I’m pissed. It was a great day. Until Muni made it suck.
Yesterday, I received a Muni citation for $100 for forgetting to scan my Clipper card. It didn’t feel like a slap on the wrist, it felt like a wrenching punch in the gut. Okay yes, it was my bad, but...really?
I was on my way to the Embarcadero cinema to meet some gal pals for food porn, courtesy of Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I boarded at King St, across from AT&T Park which, as some know, doesn’t have a turnstile. Nope, you can just hop on board! Running late, I didn’t even think to whip out my wallet...
Until I almost did, three stops later, and three steps out of the train at Embarcadero station. I suddenly realized, while the train doors were still open, that I hadn’t scanned my Clipper card. I had a split-second thought to jump back into the train and scan it. Then I had another (stupid) split-second thought - “the fare inspectors wouldn’t be hanging out at Embarcadero station, at 7 p.m., on a Wednesday.”
I cruised up the escalator and, of course, there they were.
This happened to me twice before in eight years. Once I was let go. Once I got fined.
I was let go on the same premise that I thought I should be let go this time. The fare inspector had noticed that I paid. Every. Single. Time.
I was fined years ago after waiting 45 minutes for the N in Cole Valley in an effort to save $20 on a cab back to Nob Hill. I ended up having to pay $75 (it was 2006) because the train was so crowded that I couldn’t board in front. This was back in the day when the only way to pay was by feeding two dollars into a machine. I gripped the two clammy dollar bills in my palms until I exited at Powell St. Again, I forgot to jump up to the front and pay before exiting. I complained louder last time, shaking the two bucks and shouting, “You can have it, I want to give it to you!” but the fare enforcer shut me up by telling me he was issuing me a ticket anyway, and would I prefer $75 or $150?
This time, issuing officer C. Garron was nice enough. She said she would help me out and tell me how to contest it. Meanwhile, another fare evader wasn’t having it and pushed past her to the gates while mumbling he had a meeting to go to. The altercation intensified and her fare officer cohort glanced back briefly at the exchange, but turned back to check the steady stream of escalator ascenders. Eventually, the offender just hopped over the wall as officer C. Garron calmly pulled out her walkie-talkie to radio police. The offender sauntered away slowly, not in any hurry to avoid the law.
Exasperated, I meekly mumbled, “I’m kinda in a hurry too.” I pleaded again, “I always pay, I just forgot, I’m happy to run downstairs and tag it on the next train (uh, why didn’t I think of that at the top of the escalator, would they really have chased me down the stairs?). She focused on me, despite the onslaught of exiting commuters, nodded empathetically, and said “I know, but that’s not how we work.”
So she wrote me the ticket and even contributed to the officer comments in cursive, “Regularly tags Card. not tagged, stated forgot.” I was so annoyed at the thought of having to deal with this.
I wanted to scream, yeah yeah, you want to fine me? well, go ahead, I’ll just, uh, write about...it. Damn it.
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