Saturday, August 25, 2007

Uneasy Riders

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?”

Yeah…my 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.”

5 comments:

glemak said...

awesome story bobby - can picture it like i was sitting there watching it happen, nicely told :)

Neva said...

When you work with the public, nothing amazes me...not behavior, clothing --or lack of-- anything and that in it self is amazing isn't it?

Tony Alva said...

The last couple of trips I made into NYC on a train I felt bad for the conductor having to deal with a large group of intoxicated young folks who spent twenty minutes digging through their purses and pockets looking for their tickets all the while laughing and talking amongst themselves.

I remember saying to myself: What would Bobby do?

MotherOf3Guys said...

Great story...sometimes you just have to grin and bear it!

The Legendary Train Man Paul said...

Well Bobby....think about what I been thru both working here and with NYC Transit!! (Total combined rail time of almost 9 years!!) I, myself, despite my outgoing, cheery ways, have been spit at (did hit me in the face while I was working the N Train at Times Square...the guy better never cross my path ever, and I DO NOT forget faces!!), swung at (no hits), been called out to fight at New Rochelle (which I actually almost entertained due to my South Jamaica Queens hardscrabble upbringing, but looked at the pic of my wife and kids and thought "This punk ain't worth it!!"), had eggs thrown my way (no hits), had paint balls shot at me on the Brighton Line (Q) in Brooklyn, which thank God did not hit me, but well decorated the side of the train, been called every colorful metaphor in the English language, been cursed out in 4 different languages when working a rerouted M Train in Brooklyn (to be exact, English, Spanish, which both I clearly understood, also Chinese and Russian, which were quite funny sounding, but the message conveyed was all too clear!!), constantly blamed for things I did not cause, do, or occurred before I even signed on for duty....but yet still am able to tell the most irate, irrational person to have a nice day and even don a smile!!

Hope the NH line keeps on being fun....since I am 3 line qualified, I gets the fun from EVERYWHERE!!! :-)