I was standing outside my train tonight, answering questions for the passing commuters as they boarded the 6:18 train to Harrison, when a 40-something biker dude and his old lady slalomed down the platform toward me. They each were carrying a plastic bag in one hand and a Budweiser tall boy beer can in the other. The dude was sporting a mullet hairdo with matching handlebar mustache and wearing the mandatory leather biker vest over an orange tee shirt that stretched over his bloated beer belly. His woman was much shorter than him and had curly red hair and freckled, sunburned skin. She wore a black, skin tight shirt with a plunging neck line that nicely displayed her ample bosom. She also had a beer belly, and several rolls of fat spilled over a pair of too short cut-off jeans which clung to her wide rear end. The biker dude pulled out his Harley Davidson wallet, which was tethered to his belt loop by a metal chain and retrieved his train tickets. He handed them over to his motorcycle mama.
“Does this train go to Harrison, New York?” she asked.
“Yes it does… It’s our last stop.” I answered in a polite tone.
“You don’t got no express train or nothin’?” She seemed impatient.
“Not at this hour,” I said, “but Harrison is only six stops away.”
“Well, I don’t know!” She acted as if I had somehow insulted her. “ I ain’t from around here.”
When I came around to collect their tickets, she handed me two “Off Peak” fares. “I’m sorry,” I said. “But you have off-peak tickets here, and you’re on a peak train. That means it’s rush hour, so you owe me $2.25 more per ticket. The woman was incensed. “They consider this rush hour?” (It was 6:18 pm) “Well they should have told us that when we bought these here tickets.”
I explained that if the ticket agent had sold them a peak ticket, they would have been charged $2.25 more then, instead of me charging it now. “It all evens out in the end,” I said.
“Well that’s just ridiculous,” she protested. She was really starting to make a scene now. The biker dude again pulled on his metal chain and pulled out his oversized wallet and handed me $2.25.
“I’m sorry, I said. But it’s $4.50… $2.25 per ticket.”
“What? She screamed. “First it’s $2.25, now it’s $4.50. What are you trying to pull here! Her voice grew louder and louder and people started to look up from their newspapers. “Well mister,” she said. “I demand receipts and I want those little stubby things back.”
“You mean your tickets?”
She obviously thought I was trying to scam her and biker boy and she was practically calling me a thief. I felt a little insulted by this, and I could feel my Irish temper starting to rise. I wanted to say something snappy like: “Honey, I’m not going to risk my job over $4.50, or “If $4.50 means that much to you…you can keep it.” Instead, I bit my tongue, collected their fares, handed them their receipts and walked away.
It is part of my job to stick my head out the train’s cab window and inspect the platform before opening and closing the doors, and when we reached Harrison Station, our last stop, I did just that. I remembered that this was where my biker friends were getting off, so I kept an eye out for them just in case they tried to:
A. Punch me. (This has happened twice in the past. The first time the punks broke my nose.)
B. Spit on me. (This also has happened twice before.)
C. Kick me. (Merely once)
D. Give me the finger. (Numerous times…and I’m a nice guy.)
When the “uneasy riders” got off the train, Motorcycle Mama walked up to my window. “Here we go,” I thought. “Can I get a picture with you?” She asked as sweet as could be. She then handed her camera over to Biker Boy. “We’re visiting from San Diego,” she explained, “and we ain’t never been to New York before. Hell, we ain’t never been on no train before either.”
Most conductors would have told her to get lost, and slammed the cab window in her face. Others would have called her a few choice names and given her the finger. I, on the other hand, said... “Sure.” (I told you I was a nice guy.) She stood next to me and we smiled together like two old chums while Biker Dude fumbled with the camera and took several snapshots.
Later I thought…I wonder if they’re going to send these pictures to the railroad with a complaint letter. It will say something like… “Here’s the #%$* conductor that overcharged us.”