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Monday, May 21, 2007 

Public Transport Nightmare

I was traveling by bus number 8 to downtown today morning to work at UVF as usual. I got down at the State Street stop and just as I had bid the driver goodbye, a man asked me to show my ticket. I reached into my pockets and fished out the UTA pass and handed it to him immediately. UTA pass is the public transport pass that is given to University of Utah students that allows us to travel on the city buses and the light rail system (TRAX) for free.

No sooner have I handed it to him, that I realize what I was doing. Handing over my valuable pass to some stranger. Oh no! I consider snatching it back and running. Only then I look up to see the man wearing a blue shirt with the UTA logo and his name tag under that. Then I realize that he was the ticket checker from UTA. I relax. My pass is valid till September of this year and so I expect him to hand it back to me. Instead he squints and starts reading something thats apparently written in fine print on the back side. He then says "Sir, the card says 'Not valid for travel on bus routes'". I say, "What the heck? Let me take a look", and he hands over the card back for me to look. To my surprize, it indeed says that. Weird.

While I'm considering how that went unnoticed by me for so long and how could it have happened, he has begun adding up the fines on a device and says "Sir, your fine will be three dollars and ten cents." I am surprized that I have to pay a fine, but not so much so by the amount. $3.10. Measly three dollars and ten cents of fine. Never heard of that before. I think that normally, the fine would be $25 or even $50. I consider paying it off and walking away, but I couldnt comprehend the surprize of the "no bus routes" mystery completely yet. I keep looking at the card, turning it over and reading both sides again and again, questioning myself, almost ignoring him. How could I have missed that fine print until now? How do my friends travel to school using this card - we all have similar cards after all. How did I get by using this card on the bus until now - for almost two years. I make it a point to not let him know this detail, lest he fine me backdated for all these two years.

I'm still in my own world thinking all this, that the man reminds me again "Sir?". I put a hand in my front pocket again, grab a few dollar bills and am about to fish those out when I notice that the picture on the card is not mine. Now memory comes back and I figure out that card is not mine at all. In fact, all the differences between this card and my card are more apparent now. My card is horizontal and this one is vertical. I realize that this is someone else's card. In the excitement, I tell this to the ticket checker. Bad move. He points out that I have been using someone else's card to travel and tacks on another fine to it. Oh no! How stupid?

He mentions the new total "Its $13.65 with the additional fine, sir". I just find the amounts too ridiculous and am about to pay him when I decide all this feels just wrong. I decide this is unjust and am not going to hand over my money so easily. I will try to prove him wrong and find any excuse if that doesnt work. And if nothing works, just plain bargain. Yes, this whole affair feels so wrong, that it feels worth fighting for. So I try to explain my situation to him.

ME: "Sir, I am at University of Utah student. You must surely know that we all get a free fare pass. I obviously grabbed my roommate's card by mistake". I lie. I have no clue who the guy is in the picture. But why add another layer of complication. "Can't you excuse me this time, please?"

HIM: "I am sorry sir. I can't trust you on your word. Can you prove you are a University of Utah student?"

ME: "I sure can."

Then I think of how I'm going to do that. I instinctively start opening all the pockets of my backpack that I am carrying, hoping to find something. I cannot find anything that relates me to University of Utah in all the small pockets of the backpack. So I open the last and the largest pocket. It has my laptop. By this time, all my stuff from the backpack is out there lying around. It feels like I am wasting everyone's time and creating a big deal for no reason. But I decide to pursue this anyways now that I have started.

So, I take out my laptop and turn it on. As the desktop shows up, I see a folder called "Graduation pics". I am excited and show it to him. "Sir, you see this graduation pics folder? I just graduated this May and that will prove to you that I was a student and that'll prve that I do possess a card that is valid until September." I double click the folder icon to open it and look at him with pride of victory in my eyes. For some reason, he is getting madder. His eyes keep getting wider to the extent that his eye balls might pop out. I can't comprehend. So I look towards my screen. And I see that the Graduation Pics folder has opened up and all the pictures in there are not what I thought at all. In fact its filled with porn. My face grows pale. I'm embarassed to no extent. I have no idea how this happened. It seems like some sick joke someone's playing on me. The ticket checker seems angry. I seem to have offended him.

I decide to call quits and just pay him. I mutter "I'm sorry" slowly and I shut the computer and put it back in the backpack. I gather all the stuff lying around, dump it in my backpack too. I am still embarassed and can't look him in the eye anymore. I put the backpack on my back, pull out two ten dollar bills and hand it over to him. He hands me back my change. I feel lucky to have not been fined like a hundred dollars for traveling on a fake card that is not even valid for bus travel. I accept defeat. I begin to walk away and the man walks in the opposite direction. I look at my watch, its been half an hour. What a waste. I feel like a failure.

We are ten feet apart when lightening strikes my brain. Again. "Oh shit", I say to myself. How could I have been so stupid? "Wait!", I yell out to the man. He turns around, looks frustrated, but says nothing, almost wanting to ask "What now?" I fish out my wallet from my back pocket. I feel really stupid now. How could I have forgotten that I carry my own bus pass in my walet and I am indeed carrying it right now. So what, if I was carrying someone else's card? I am also carrying my own. I shouldn't be fined at all. With full confidence, I walk towards the man, open my wallet and show him my card, which is valid for travel on bus, train, everywhere. Heck even space. I feel confident. I feel victorious. He is mad. Almost furious. But he hands over my money back without saying anything. This feels so good. I am so happy. Victory at last.

And then, I hear something ringing. Its my cell phone. I find myself in bed, trying to find my cell phone on the side table with my hand. I wake up with a splitting headache. I can't comprehend. Was all this a dream? Its 10:30 am. The room is dark. Past fills my head. I decide that was a dream. I am in the reality now. Then I remember. I had woken up at 7:30, showered, gotten ready, had breakfast and decided to take a nap because that was way too early. All this had to be a dream. I wash my face and picked up my backpack to walk towards the bus stop to go the UVF. No ticket checker asks me for any thing when I get down. Was all that really a dream? Nightmare , really, if you ask me. But I never remember my dreams when I wake up. And not to this level of detail anyways? Could it be that that was the reality and this, what I was living right now a dream? This world is weird. I wonder how these fantastic dreams come about?

Jackson Pollock's Galaxy, a part of the Joslyn Art Museum's permanent collection. Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License v.2.0

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It took me a paragraph or two, but I finally realized that it really was a nightmare - not real life. Ha ha ha. I hate those dreams. - Em

sometimes dreams are so real right...:-) though most details kindda dont make sense.
- Thanh


abinav here... ;)

yea yeah.. .dreams are weird...

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About me

  • I'm Indyman
  • From Seattle, WA, United States
  • I am a Risk Management Consultant at KPMG. Before this, I was an Investment Associate at University Venture Fund in Salt Lake City, UT. My personal interests are in venture capital, private equity, technology, real estate, entrepreneurship, investing, stocks, india, patriotism, mumbai, hanoi, vietnam and life in the united states.
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