When $250 Goes from Being Not a Lot to a Lot; or, Receiving a Transit Ticket at a Particularly Difficult Time in My Life

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Transit cops at the station – instantly I feel overwhelmed because my backpack is so crammed full of things, and somehow everything except my wallet.

I pull up my class schedule on my phone and tell the officer I’m a student, I actually just came from class, and I have a spring pass, just not here – I forgot my wallet. He tells me he believes that I am a student, but have still failed to produce a valid pass, which is the particular offence he’s concerned about. Feeling a little stressed, and apparently concerned about bureaucratic strain, I inform him that giving me a fine is just going to waste the system’s time because I’m going to appeal it. He says that’s on me and within my rights.

I think of how much money I have in my account and how much money I owe to various places and how little my job pays and start to cry. ‘Why are you crying?’ he asks incredulously, ‘I’m talking to you calmly.’

I’m deeply embarrassed, but I can’t help it.

‘It’s not you’, I say, ‘there’s just a lot going on right now’, even though the tear catalyst is totally and completely him.

He asks if I have any ID. Initially I say no, because I have no wallet, but then I remember I actually have my passport in a small pocket in my backpack.

‘Oh, so now you have ID?’ he says.

I tell him I stayed somewhere else last night and packed my bag in a rush, and that I’m a little overwhelmed trying to remember what is or is not in my bag. In another last ditch attempt to dissuade him, I tell him that once prior I had forgotten my pass and showing my course schedule to the officer was an acceptable alternative.

He replies, ‘Oh, so you’ve done this before?’

He writes me a ticket. $250.

He reads through the various steps I can take to pay or appeal it. He recommends I go to the courthouse and speak to a Justice of the Peace to attempt to reduce the fine or extend the payment deadline. They payment deadline is approximately a month and a half from now, and if I have not paid it by then they can issue a warrant for my arrest. I take the ticket without looking at him and he says ‘Thank you for your cooperation.’

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