Tuesday, March 7, 2017

So, continuing with the theme of "it's the people. It's the damn people"...

Not long ago, Christina told me that she is frequently a victim of "fare-jumping" (which is a term I just made up). It goes like this: When one inserts their metro card into the turnstile, a pair of glass half-doors slide open to allow that person to pass through into the metro system.

Those doors then shut behind the person, but remain open just long enough for another, second, person to slip through with the first person. So what happens is that people who are too poor, or too stubborn, to buy their own metro tickets hang around the turnstiles and when an unsuspecting paying passenger inserts their card and goes through, the lurker cozies up behind the paying passenger and squeezes through with them.

When Christina told me this was happening to her regularly, I was slightly alarmed. It feels like a real violation of personal space, not to mention illegal. I suggested various approaches to her to prevent this behavior, such as walking through backwards, etc. She was equivocal.

So today, this morning, it happened to me for the first time. I put my ticket in, and, as sometimes happens, the doors did not swing open because I was accidentally too far forward, confusing the proximity sensor. The proper maneuver is to step backwards, which allows the sensor to reset and the doors to open. But as I stepped backwards, I backed right into a guy who was trying to squeeze in with me. When the doors did finally open half a second later, I stepped through and immediately stopped and turned around to face the guy, not allowing room for him to come through with me. The sensor still detected a person in the pass-through zone, so the doors remained open. We looked eye-to-eye, he smiled sheepishly and stepped back, and the doors closed. I was annoyed, and I'm sure it showed in my face.

But in the next few minutes, I felt several other things. The guy happened to be an old man, clearly poor, and he looked like a nice guy. He had smiled at me. The situation suddenly seemed more complicated. Is transportation (on the metro, for instance) a fundamental right? What if you can't pay for it? And as I went over the situation in my head, it also occurred to me that instead of facing a nice old man, I might just as well have been facing a big strong thug. Or a drug addict. Was it worth it to me to have that kind of a standoff? Kodiak was with me this morning, which would have made a bad situation (IF the situation had turned bad) even worse.

I told Christina the story, and she says it continues to happen to her, regularly. Although she is still far from happy about it, she is kind of getting used to it.

So again... life in the city. The good and the bad. Wouldn't it be nice to have all the cultural, intellectual, economic, and material resources of a city, but without the annoyances of people? But without people, there would be no city. And with the economic stratification which only seems to be getting worse on a global scale (which is of course a factor in the fare-jumping situation described above, as well as most crime), these issues will probably not be getting better any time soon.

A few weeks ago, I awoke around 6AM and was gripped with the idea of taking a bicycle ride. It was the first time I'd seen large areas of the city with no people. Nice.

Oh well, today is beautiful and sunny. I think I'm going to go ride my bicycle. With all those people.

1 comment:

  1. Hey. Not to miss your point, which is certainly more about personal space and involuntary collusion with a stranger's scheme - but this caught my eye today: http://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/03/08/why-cities-are-starting-to-decriminalize-fare-evasion/