TriMet Mind Tricks

This story was submitted anonymously – no one wants to be known as a fare dodger!

There was the time I got away with riding the MAX without paying, by using Jedi mind tricks on a transit policeman.

Now before I start, I have to make the usual disclaimers about how I believe in law and order, I always pay my fare, “I am one of you” and so forth. Which is all true. It was quite an accident by which I found myself sitting blithely on a train without the proper comprobante de pago/boleto validado.

“Oh yes, certainly. An accident. Please do tell us about the circumstances of happenstance by which you came to be in this unfortunate situation, Mr. Fare Dodger!” said nobody ever.

Yes I realize any excuse is bound to sound downright cockamamie, and I also know Sing Sing is full of innocent men, to hear said men tell it. When I see a fare inspector or transit cop busting fare dodgers, do I adhere tightly to that foundational idea of liberal democracies by which an accused is presumed innocent? Do my thoughts run toward “Oh, the poor dear must have dropped it after having duly paid for it?” As the person goes through the tedious ritual of pretending to search every nook and cranny of their person, their bags and accoutrements, seeking that which they never possessed, do I protest indignantly, “Surely the official can see that the ticket must be around here somewhere?” (In that particular case I usually end up feeling sorry for both parties – the accused for obvious reasons, and the cops because they have to stand around while someone elaborately saves face.)

Regardless, this one lovely afternoon I found myself sitting squarely afoul of the law. I might never have even known it if the cop hadn’t walked up and asked to see my ticket. But he did, and I opened my wallet and found only a ticket with yesterday’s date on it. I believe I actually said out loud — with a cop standing over me — “Oh shit!” Which I believe in Cop Language translates roughly to “I am guilty of something and you caught me fair and square!”

However, the cop was multi-tasking. Efficiency don’tcha know. Gettin’ it done. Probably not his favorite part of the job, and who can blame him? He was asking to see the fares of, not just me, but several people. And he was already involved in a two-way conversation with some people across the aisle at the moment when I gave that audible confession in Cop Language. He didn’t hear it. And my luck kept improving in this regard — turns out the people across the aisle didn’t have their proof of fare either.

What happened next, I am at a loss to explain, as it had more to do with instinct than with any type of thought or intent. I must have sensed the cop’s distraction, and the opportunity. I pulled out yesterday’s ticket and displayed it in such a way that if he wanted to see the whole date, he would have to ask me to move my thumb. This wasn’t consciously calculated mind you, but rather motivated mostly by sheepish embarrassment, the way you might cover up if you had a rip in your pants. At the same time, I turned and looked at the people across the aisle. This too was partly for simple motivations — curiosity mainly, perhaps a bit of “Shoot, we are all gonna get busted!” camaraderie. And yet I can’t deny that perhaps I am more devious than I ever thought possible. In focusing my attention on them, laser-like, I was also subtly directing the cop’s attention toward them, and away from me. I was like a treacherous Obi Wan Kenobi saying basically “I believe those are your droids right there.”

Well what happened? The cop looked quickly at my ticket, saw that I had one, and moved on to the more-important business of busting fare dodgers.

Epilogue: Well I wasn’t going to get arrogant about it: Having been thus warned, I made sure to get a proper ticket at the next stop.


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