i autoload my clipper bus card with my credit card because i hate money and money hates me. we agree to interact in silence and only as needed for our mutual survival. i swipe the clipper on the bus swiping clipper machine and it goes “beep,” and i’m golden. sometimes, it goes “boop-boop,” which means it didn’t work and you have to swipe it again. i don’t always notice that.
on one of my commuting days, i walked up to the platform from the underground train and the public transit gestapo was asking people for their proof of purchase. they scanned my card and asked for my id. in true gestapo fashion, the asshole refused to tell me why. whatever, i hemmed and hawed, and then he wrote me a $103 fare evasion ticket. i guess it went “boop boop” and not “beep.” i’m all, what the hell are you talking about? i pay my fare! he’s all, you can dispute it later, ma’am. i refused to sign the ticket; he refused to care. a dude getting ticketed next to me was all i’ma take this all the way to the supreme court! sigh. this is so fucked. on the rest of my commute home, i was on the verge of tears; emotional and fuming. all i could think of was google buses, poverty, wealth disparities, and injustice. they can suck it. i love fighting tickets and i usually win.
the law says you have to be intentionally trying to evade fare. so, i printed out a record of all my electronic payments from the last few months to show i commute daily and pay my fare daily. several times a day, in fact. i sent it along with a firm and pleasant letter stating my case, and awaited my denial letter telling me to appeal in person. they give you 21 days or something to go for your in-person hearing. i missed the deadline by a day. it’s not 21 working days like any other normal business allows, it’s 21 calendar days. i’m told i now owe an additional $30 late fee. $133 total. i’m as sincere as a sincere person can sincerely be, asking the window person to please grant me a hearing. i can’t pay this ticket -cannot, will not, should not- and there’s no reason for it. look at my paperwork. please. maybe she cares, maybe she’s not allowed to care, maybe part of her used to care, or maybe none of her ever will. she tells me i can do project 20 -where you “volunteer” your time off of a ticket. she tells me i would have to pay m.t.a. $55 and then pay project 20 another $20. poor tax on top of poor tax on top of poor tax. but i can volunteer wherever, right? no. Half of it has to be done with the department of public works. poor tax on top of some public humiliation wearing an orange vest cleaning up people’s crap on the street. i start tearing up. no, no, no, no, no, no, no. they can’t do this. how do people do this? what if you can’t afford it? she tells me they withhold taxes or your car registration. no, no, no, no, no, no, no. what do you do if someone can’t afford it? shrugs. this is a light skinned middle-class girl freaking out at systemic impotence. i just can’t. i walk out and cry on the sidewalk as tech buses roll past me.
how can they do this? how is this ok? i think of all the poor people getting ticketed on the bus, and i think of all the privileged asses on tech buses with their illegally elite door to door transport. if any of them gave a shit about anything, they could pay their damn taxes and public transit could be free for all. they could. i know it. nobody cares. with my pride buried in the pit of my belly, i walk back in and suck some cock.
i show up for my indentured servitude at like 7am on a saturday to the fresh scent of urine and feces warming up on the sidewalk in the mid-market morning sunshine. the “office” you have to report to is a little room near the entrance of a bart train station. there are about 50 other people in line. we all get a number and then they pull numbers randomly to assign you to a supervisor to go clean somewhere. there are several regulars that staff seem to know by name. i go into the little office to ask if they have a bathroom and they say no, and i’m all “whuuut?? they don’t even give you a bathroom. that’s hella scandalous!” the man in charge says, “what’s your number?” i show it to him and he tells me i’m staying with him today and i’ll find out if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. shit.
turns out, it’s a gross old man thing. i spend the rest of my “shift” -a total of an hour- as “back up,” sitting in a room with five other young girls; we wait there in case one of the other supervisors needs an extra person. these girls are project 20 veterans. the asian girl with tiny tattoos all over her hands and body given to her by an ex-boyfriend tattoo artist -which her father is paying to have her laser off- had over 100 hours to work off (over $600 in tickets). she recounted a tale of having to clean up dead rats in chinatown. the young latina girl who just had to add extra “volunteer” hours because her car got booted that morning, told us about how someone grabbed her crotch when she was cleaning in the tenderloin and she whacked the dude with her pick up stick. these chicks are m.t.a.’s golden geese. our supervisor would come in and out of the office, talking pleasantries like a grampa about keylime pie from jack-in-the-box and his impending retirement, and then going out to smoke cigarettes or do something else. we were basically the typing pool gals there to keep him company. i wasn’t mad.
i came back the next saturday trying to figure out how i could weasel my way back into the sexist back-up room. fuck it. if i have to pay this poor tax then i will suck that cock and get mine. i see grampa and, with lashes batting and my best old-men-like-smiley-girls smile, i’m all, “you gettin key lime pie today?” “not today. what’s your number? you’re staying with me.” sweet.