Tickets and Contracts
Four of them fucks came on that day, two men and two women. They worked in mixed pairs, one pair starting in the front, the other in the back. The men were deputies, they had sidearms. The women were security; they didn't have guns. It was one of the women shouting though: "TAP cards out! Get your TAP cards out!"
"Get Yer fucking Ya-Ya's Out!" I said under my breath. I was still a newb then and hated the forceful intrusions. But really it didn't matter to me. I had a Metrolink monthly pass. You can ride the Metro for free with one. You're still supposed to TAP, but no money comes off like with a TAP card. Plus, they're harder to scan with the smartphone scanners they use. Sometimes they just say okay and pass me by, wave me by if they're guarding turnstiles or stairs. They almost always guard the stairs at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks.
They nailed three different riders in just that car that morning, going south. It was the same each time: "You loaded it, but you forgot to TAP." There were prerecorded announcements over and over on those trains: "And don't forget to TAP." There was even a tapping sound effect in the Spanish version, I guess because TAP is an acronym and they don't translate it.
I knew enough to know that you could legitimately forget to TAP. Or you could be in a rush. Sometimes you bounce up the stairs at 7th St./Metro and there's that train waiting for you and you need to make it because you never know when the next one is coming or how close your next connection is going to be or a thousand other things. You just want to make it, anyway, and it's all out or nothing and no time to TAP. But mostly it isn't like that and "forget" is a euphemistic out for all involved. TAPping costs you money. Forgetting saves you some. Unless you get a ticket. Then it costs you. Those Metrofuck accountants must have figured out there's more money in writing tickets than in manning every station, every turnstile.
"Let me see some ID," they said.
ID. Apparently you must carry ID at all times. At least if you want to ride a train in Los Angeles.
"Your papers, Fräulein."
No one really said that.
The first two culprits whipped out their IDs, signed and took their tickets. But the woman huddled, bundled in a quilt in the back corner single seat started pulling papers out of her bag, envelopes, bills, muttering about how she didn't have no driver's license, didn't have no ID. The deputy working the back snatched a tri-folded sheet of paper from her trembling fingers and said, "This will work, this will work." He filled out a citation, handed it to her to sign.
"Don't sign that!" The voice came from right behind me. "Don't sign it, it's a contract once you sign it." The man who spoke had handed over his ID. If you didn't have ID, I guess they arrested you there and then. He handed his over for failure to remember to TAP. He was waiting for his citation to be filled out. But he wasn't going to sign it.
The woman working the back finished filling out the man's citation and handed it to him: "Sign, please," she said.
"I'm not signing that," he said. "It's a contract." He again told the woman huddled in the back corner not to sign hers. She'd already signed it.
The woman who'd written the man's ticket said to the man in the back, "He refuses to sign."
"It's a contract," the man said. "Don't sign it." He said it loudly, as if to us all.
The deputy said, "If he doesn't sign, it goes to warrant." He said it in a matter-of-fact voice. He said it as if he didn't give a shit, but to the extent that it would fuck up that fucker's life, it made him happy.
The train reached Firestone Station. The first pair was already off the second car and onto the first car. The doors were closing. The second pair, the ones who'd started in the back, which was really the front, where the woman still sat huddled under her quilt with her bagful of papers and her fresh citation, hurried out onto the platform and moved quickly for the first car. The doors closed in their faces. They looked back. All the doors were closed. They stood on the platform of Firestone Station and watched the train pull out south. They froze and turned to each other.
How looks the face of one who has just missed the train, the face on which the doors have just closed, the face in front of which the train has just left the station? Some plaster nonplused pusses, noses in the air, bodies walking as if they'd meant for things to happen exactly as they had. Others press to Plexiglas, fingers tapping, maybe banging, doors like the extremities of the last ones out of the zombie zone, pleading to those safely inside, helpless legs kicking the air, helpless tongues cursing. Some of those SOL faces whip out security-blanket smartphones for remedy, excuse, solace. Some turn away out of shame, disgust, denial. Some look bewildered, incredulous, bemused. But these two faces, vomiting out of their green uniforms, with their weapons and their thick pads of tickets yet written, their stashes of contracts signed and unsigned--just turned up to the South LA sky and laughed.
Jeff Nazzaro commutes three hours each way via public transportation from his home in Riverside to his teaching job at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He mostly loves it. It gives him time to write and sometimes material. Other commute-inspired work has appeared in Aberration Labyrinth, Utica, A Story in 100 Words, and Talking Soup.