A cinematic drama unfolded on an early train into Grand Central today. A young man sat in front of me and seemed to go to sleep. The ticket taker came by shortly thereafter.
She asked for his ticket after punching mine. I couldn’t hear the details, but something about a mistake. Apparently, he had meant to get off the train several stations before arriving in New Haven from New York. Maybe he missed his stop because he fell asleep…I’m not really sure.
Politely, the ticket-taker explained his options: buy a ticket from her or get off at the next station and buy a less-expensive ticket for the next train. He must have said he had a ticket, so she said she’d be back.
The next station stop came, and she had not returned.
When she did make it back, he talked with her again. This time, she said, “we all make mistakes. One or two stations would be okay. But not five or six.” Then she used her tiny computer and quoted him a ticket price of $12.
The guy must have taken out a large roll of cash, but refused to pay, again arguing that he already had a ticket and made a mistake.
“Everyone else here has bought a ticket,” she said slowly and with forced calm. “You have to buy a ticket or get off at the next station” and paused. I guess he didn’t respond so she said, “I’ll stand over there by the door, and you’ll get off at the next station.”
And she did. The train pulled in to the station.
“Okay, now. Let’s go.”
The man didn’t move.
“Let’s go,” she insisted.
He said nothing and sat very still.
“This train’s going nowhere until you get off.”
A woman who had just boarded groaned. “I have to get to work!”
We all sat.
“I’ll have to get the police now. We’re going nowhere,” the train ticket taker stated.
We sat some more. The woman grumbled and made eye contact with me and rolled her eyes.
Over the loud speaker, the conductor called for the head car, meaning the first car where we were seated, to close its doors. Another voice responded, “we’re waiting on the police.”
Probably only three or four minutes passed. The car was silent. The ticket taker came by. She loosely gestured toward the man in front of me. “The police will be along for you,” then she released the door, and the train started to move.
The next station came and went. Then another. People boarded, but the ticket taker didn’t reappear.
I thought, “well, he got away with it.” I figured to save face, she was avoiding the car.
He seemed to fall asleep again. When we got to his station, he was out. I tapped the back of his headrest. “Hey,” I said.
The louder, “Hey. This is South Norwalk.”
“Thank you,” he said quietly, standing to exit. He nodded his head, with another soft “thank you.”
The woman across the way announced, “oh, there are the po-lice.” I perked up and thought, “huh! I guess she had a plan after all.”
The two cops entered the train through a different door, and the non-payer started in the opposite direction, opening the interior door to the next car.
One of the policemen must have seen, and said, “hey, you, stop!”
Both cops then picked up their pace and exited the train.
The woman across the aisle twisted around to watch and started a commentary. “Uh-huh, they got his wallet. His phone. Oh yeah. They snapped ’em on. Yeah.”
The doors closed, and the train started rolling.
The ticket taker came in and apologized to the woman. “Sorry, I was rude. We had a situation here.”
“Cuffed him.” Pause. “You gonna make your bus?”
A tough-looking man said, “you were real nice,” and tapped her consolingly on the arm. “Real professional. He had a wad of cash,” he declared in disbelief and looked at me.
“Stupid,” I said adroitly.
Then the ticket taker went up a few rows and turned around. “It wasn’t fair to you,” she pointed emphatically at a woman. “Or him,” and pointed, “or her.”
Then she turned around. “Tickets!”