Thursday, July 30, 2009

Maybe Obama will invite me over for a root beer (I don't drink)

This whole Henry Louis Gates/Officer James Crowley controversy has got me thinking about two incidents that happened to me several years back.

Some 18 years ago, I was collecting tickets on an early morning train when I came upon a bench/row where all three seats were occupied by passengers. Being observant, I noticed that I had previously placed two seat checks in front of two of the passengers here. This meant that there was a recent arrival and someone owed me a ticket. I used logic and assumed that the gentleman sitting on the aisle was the last to enter the row...therefore, he was the one who owed me the fare.

"Tickets please!" I addressed the well dressed African-American businessman in the aisle seat. He ignored me.

"Excuse me sir...can I get your ticket please."

The man slowly folded his newspaper and looked up at me with daggers in his eyes and smoke coming out of his ears.

"Let me ask you something conductor...There's three of us sitting here." He pointed to his two seatmates, a white woman sandwiched next to him, and a white man whose face was crammed against the window. "And yet... you only ask ME for a ticket."

I'm a little slow, especially at 6AM, and I wasn't catching his drift. The woman seated in the middle seat nervously rummaged through her pocketbook and handed me her ticket.

"That's right," he repeated, now knowing he had an audience. "There's three of us sitting here...and yet you only ask ME for a ticket. Hmmmm....Why is that???"

I finally realized that he was accusing me of racial profiling.

"Sir." I felt insulted. "I asked you, because you're on the aisle and I assumed that you must have been the last to enter the row."

"Yeah," he said. "You and I BOTH know what you assumed." With a snap of his wrist, he unfolded his newspaper and continued reading.

I stood there hurt, stunned and amazed and I didn't know what to say next. I finally blurted out... "You're paranoid" and I walked away.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that racial profiling doesn't exist or that it isn't a major problem in the minority community. I'm just saying that sometimes...sometimes...sometimes a guy is just trying to do his job.

The second incident happened over 20 years ago. It's a tale about my short lived life of crime. I've covered the story before on these pages, so instead of repeating myself, I'll give you the link from my archives:


Anonymous said...

Bob, another great story. I agree, you were just doing your job.

Anonymous said...

bobby, great story

Andrew Sellars said...

But you know the only thing in this story was that you were not invited to the White House for beer. Only on Metro-North would you find a guy like this pulling the race card. But it was not as funny as the Asian woman pulling the race card

Anonymous said...

you should of locked him up for non payment of fare

Anonymous said...

bob i commented. you happy now. KC

Anonymous said...

What rings false about this story is that an experienced collector would think that the aisle passenger arrived last. The middle seat is the least desirable and is usually the last one occupied in a three-seat configuration. Just watch people boarding trains in Penn station.

Even giving Bob the benefit of the doubt, it really would be wiser to ask "who owes me a ticket?" in situations like this, regardless of the ethnicity of the passengers involved.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you understand the background of racial profiling. You think being Irish-American constitutes as a minority group.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult to do your job without the impression of impartiality these days. My suggestion is to use "postive profiling. If you were asking the African-American gentlemen to show his ticket, then it would of been better to ask all three people in the row just to be equally unfair.

Anonymous said...

Bobby keep up the good work. Everyone needs to play by the rules. If they don't like it ,then they can take the bus.