While collecting tickets on my train on Saturday, I came upon a dad and his two young children. The kids, a brother and sister, seemed very excited to see me. This is pretty common especially since the popularity of The Polar Express movie. I think they half expected me to serve them hot chocolate, dance around and maybe a do a few back flips. I didn't want to totally disappoint them, so when I took their tickets I punched several holes in them just like the conductor in the movie. The dad smiled, pulled out his wallet and showed me his monthly commutation ticket. Being the trained professional I am, I noticed he had strategically placed his finger over the gender icon on the face of his ticket. Monthly passes are non-transferable, meaning that a ticket holder can't let anyone else (including their spouse) use their pass. A lot of passengers think that conductors are stupid and instead of paying for a ticket, they'll hide the M (male) or F (female) icon on their tickets and try to get a free ride.
"Sir," I said. "Can you please remove your finger so that I can see the whole ticket?"
The dad squirmed in his seat and reluctantly removed his finger. Sure enough, there was a big fat "F" printed at the top.
"Is that your ticket?" I asked.
"Yes it is." He said.
"Okay. There must have been an error when they printed your ticket. It's marked with an "F" for female. If you hand me your ticket, I'll cross out the "F" and write an "M" in its place."
"No," he said. "You can't do that."
He stood up and gave me a beckoning wave toward the vestibule. He then climbed over his daughter and stepped out into the aisle. I followed him into the vestibule area, which was just out of his kid's earshot range. I expected him to give me one of the same old tired excuses.... something like, I picked up my wife's pass by accident or I took the wrong wallet or I just got out of jail and..etc....etc. But this guy surprised me.
"Conductor," he whispered. "The reason my pass is marked female is... I only dress as a male when I'm with my children. I usually dress as a woman."
I think my jaw hit the floor.
"Okayyyy!" I said, not knowing exactly what to say... "Have a seat."
When I relayed this story to my fellow conductors, they all burst out laughing. I, on the other hand, had to hand it to the guy. When you think about it, it took a lot of courage to admit that he was a cross dresser. I think if I were him, I would have just paid. Maybe I should petiton the railroad to add a new icon..."T" for transgender.