Tuesday, September 07, 2004

"I'm a fare evader." As some people will know, I'm a fare evader and I enjoy it. I used to fare evade by buying a 10 x 2hr ticket and validating it when I saw the Met inspectors get on the tram. This ticket lasted me from last November through to April, and then I went "screw this, I'm going to fare evade in a purer and more committed way - by not buying a ticket at all." And all the times the trams fucked up for various reasons, I would say to myself, "Thank god I'm not paying for this (except through my taxes which the state government uses to prop up the privatised transport companies)."

After a while, I began to fantasise about getting caught. When I told people about this they started making fun of me by parodying the scenario in breathy pornographic tones: *wah-wah guitar funk* "And then the man walks up to you in his dashing charcoal-grey uniform and you say 'Is there a problem, Revenue Protection Officer?' and he says 'Do you have a ticket to ride?' and you say 'Oh, I've been a bad, bad girl,' *more wah-wah guitar funk* and he says 'How bad have you been?' and you say, 'I'm a fare evader.' And he says 'You will have to be punished.'"

You know, that kind of stuff. It's a sad, sad world when the word 'fantasy' can't be bandied about without people thinking you're a pervert. Anyway, this is how my fare evasion fantasy actually went ...

I'm on a crowded tram, but not so crowded that people are packing the aisles. The Met inspectors get on and come up to me saying gruffly, "Can I see your ticket, please?" And I say pleasantly, "I don't have a ticket." The Met inspector says "Why not?" and I raise my voice so that everyone sitting around me can hear, and say triumphantly, "Because I'm a fare evader."

Oh, there were some exciting times! Especially last week when a bunch of them got on my tram and I didn't bat an eyelid and they didn't even ask for tickets. Although the wind was taken from my sails somewhat when it was pointed out to me that they probably weren't Met inspectors at all but mere tram attendants.

But I think there's a blitz on at the moment because they're everywhere this week, and apparently they've been having meetings about the old "Euro coin looks like a dollar coin" trick. Anyway, yesterday I was catching the tram to work because I was going to _____'s birthday drinks and I didn't want to drive. I got on the Latrobe St tram at William St because it gets to St Vincent's quicker than the Collins St tram - plus there are never any Met inspectors... except for yesterday.

I saw a bunch of them at the Swanston St stop outside the Hungry Jacks, and because the tram wasn't crowded enough to satisfy the environmental requirements for my fantasy, I decided I would get off the tram and get caught for fare evasion on a more auspicious occasion. But it turned out to be even less auspicious because the Met inspectors didn't even get on the tram; they waited at the stop and I fell straight into their clutches!

Now, it was my impression that there was a test case a few years ago which decided that it wasn't legal to corner people for fare evasion once they've got off the tram, but no doubt they've closed that loophole. But anyway. Instead of a packed tram, my audience for my fare evasion speech was a bunch of thoroughly unimpressed Met inspectors. But I pressed ahead with the dialogue anyway, including the insouciant "Because I'm a fare evader."

The inspector wasn't fazed by this. He just cut straight to the "well show us some ID then" bit of the transaction (and it really is a transaction). It would have been quicker to say "That'll be $150, thanks," and then I would say "OK, do you take EFTPOS?" It was all I could do not to say "Nice to do business with you," at the end.

Anyway, having been caught I was in a euphoric mood, but for some reason I still felt as though it would be inappropriate to get on the tram I could see coming up Latrobe St. So I pretended I was going to cross Swanston St and then I just bolted up Latrobe St to the Russell St stop. I was about to die of unfitness when I got on the tram, but worse still, the bunch of Met inspectors had all got on it, and they knew exactly who I was!! So even though my throat was on fire and I was about to pass out, I had to sit there with my mouth closed and my nostrils flaring like a racehorse, instead of panting with my mouth open like a dog, which was what I felt like doing.

And then to top it all off, another one came up to me and tried to catch me again! I proudly produced the business card ("You have been spoken to by an authorised officer who reasonably believes that you have committed an offence under the Transport Act...") that the first Met inspector had given me. And the second guy gave me a travel pass. How thoughtful of him.

Now for the maths:

5 monthly tickets (May-September) @ the audacious price of $93.80 (why, I remember when I considered $80 to be daylight robbery!)
= $469

100 daily tickets (May-September, allowing for 20 full days of transport a month considering that I drive a car and also walk to uni two days a week) @ $5.80
= $580

25 ten x 2hr tickets (May-September, assuming 50 two-hour trips over an average month) @ $26
= $650

250 2hr tickets (May-September, assuming 50 two-hour trips over an average month) @ $3
= $750

1 fare evasion fine for five months' public transport, plus the excitement of not getting caught in all that time
= $150

As you can see, it's cheap at the price!

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