“I fought the Sort-of Law, and the Sort-of Law did not win.” Ah the memorable refrain from a memorable song by a memorable band called The Clash, a band made memorable because they sort of lazily mentioned it in an episode of Stranger Things. However, this iconic line also described my Monday morning.
You see, in the recent past, I was attempting to take the 1 Train home from 72nd Street, when a grievous miscarriage of justice occurred. I swiped my legally purchased and functional Metrocard at the subway turnstile and after a myriad of “Please Swipe Again” messages, I received the dreaded “Just Used” message, despite the fact that the last time I had used my Metrocard was four hours ago! Four hours is a very loose usage of the word “just.” Nevertheless, I was trapped. The turnstile stood immovable, and no Station Agent was present to help me through. My wife waited patiently on the other side, having successfully penetrated the MTA’s fortress.
So after what seemed to me like hours of deliberation (but what may have looked to an external observer as instant unhesitating action), I stepped gingerly over the turnstile to partake of that which had been unfairly snatched from me. And oh, the freedom.
As my wife and I walked down to the subway platform, I heard someone call after me, “Hey! HEY!” But being a well-trained New Yorker, I know better than to respond to a random person yelling; that’s how you get stabbed. So I pressed on. But then I felt a tug on my arm, so I wheeled around, ready to absolutely not physically resist the person, but really look like I was capable of doing so. Into my face was thrust a badge; it was an undercover cop. And just a quick note to the NYPD–your badges look super fake. The badge I saw looked like it could have come from a Spencer’s Gifts.
The undercover New York City Police Department officer proceeded to write and issue me a ticket for “jumping over the turnstile to avoid paying the legal fare.” It took a minute and a half to write the ticket and for some reason fifteen minutes to radio this heinous crime into headquarters. Another quick note to the NYPD–it seems like the strategic resources for and expertise of undercover cops is best suited for, y’know, stopping heroin deals or gang violence, not for stopping someone from maybe not paying $2.75 to ride a train.
The glorious irony of the situation was that as we were waiting for the Comish to radio back in from Headquarters, we watched a woman have the exact same problem at the exact same turnstile that I did. Except, when the turnstile told her “Just Used,” a uniformed cop happened to be walking by and swiped her in with his own Metrocard after she asked for help. Which prompted me to turn to the undercover officer and say, “Man, I wish you had been wearing uniforms.” This is apparently not an acceptable legal defense. Or maybe “We don’t even work with that guy” is an acceptable counterargument, because that’s what the undercover cop said as she handed me the ticket.
I wasn’t about to take this lying down. In fact, I didn’t lie down that day until 11pm, long after I’d resolved to fight this thing even if it brought me to the halls of the Supreme Court (spoiler alert: it didn’t).