Like most days I began my morning by riding Caltrain from San Francisco to Palo Alto. About 10 minutes in I realized that I had forgotten my train pass. I decided to do the “right thing” and inform the ticket attendant that of the situation. Here’s where it gets interesting. He advised me that speaking with him was not helping me and that I should run up 2 cars and then hop off at the next stop and purchase a ticket. I politely replied, “My bike is on the train. You are giving me a 30 second window to do something that takes at least 2 minutes.”. I mean even if I teleported to the machine I still have to put the money in the box and wait for the machine to spew out my ticket. He then told me to get off at the next stop or be written up. Okay so that’s when I decided to conduct an experiment. The max fine for not having a ticket is $250. I sneeze that. Perhaps he gets off by striking fear in the hearts of most by treating them with a fine, but not me. I had already decided to get off the train, but not before I tested his humanity. I put on a sad face (the kind that looks like I’m fighting tears back) and pleaded, “I have a wife and 2 kids at home. I have been unemployed for 6 months and am on my way to a big interview (monster lie). I was honest with you about not having a ticket. Please let me slide this once.”. He told me to “that’s too bad”. This whole experience left me with a few questions:
1. Is this really Caltrain policy? That is, I turned myself in. Is their idea of customer service advising me to sprint for the machine? If I was a 60 year old lady would they advise the same?
2. How can some people be so not nice? I mean why would you as a Caltrain attendant threaten to fine someone who willfully acknowledged the situation?
3. Am I alone or does this happen often? The Caltrain is used by thousands of hard working people everyday. Certainly a percentage of which forget their ticket. Do they get chucked from the train or did I just happen to catch the ticket checker when he was on his period?