Loser Cruiser

I wrote a guest rant on my good friend Ian’s website. Quite the honour actually, because Ian is always full of interesting ideas, and writing them down in his unique, straightforward voice. I’m truly thankful for his encouragement and invitation to write down my own little thoughts, of which I have many, almost all of which I have not written down.

I was sitting on the 160 cross-town bus, half-asleep after the work Christmas party (which featured a disappointing lack of table-dancing), when I became aware of some minor commotion at the front entrance.

“I’ve had a long day, I just want to go home.”

“If he’s using the pass, you’re not using the pass.”

“I just want to go home, it’s been a long day.”

“Get off the bus.”

The person at the entrance who had been talking to the driver waved over a friend who had sat down at the back of the bus. He handed what looked like a bus pass to his friend who had just walked up from the back. I can only assume his friend had gotten on first with that bus pass, then tried to slip it to the person at the door to use, right under the driver’s nose.

They both got off quietly. As the driver began to pull away, the person who “just wanted to go home” turned around on the sidewalk to face the bus. “Fuck you you FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!” Complete with middle finger.

The driver didn’t react, thankfully. It’s not always that way, from what I’ve seen.

The driver was probably used to this aggression and didn’t think much of it. I hope he didn’t. He hadn’t been nice or gentle about anything, but if anyone was being a “fucking piece of shit,” surely it couldn’t have been him?

I’ve seen all sorts of people try to ride buses for free in Vancouver. Many of them don’t even appear homeless, or approaching homeless. Sometimes the driver allows it, sometimes they don’t. It’s mostly a non-event, but sometimes it gets ugly.

Why? Why do people react violently when they can’t ride the bus for free?

A few months ago, I bore witness to another event that boggled my mind. This person, on her way to the back of the bus to find a seat, threw some coins at the machine and declared, “That’s all the change I have.” All in one swift motion, without even so much as glancing in the direction of the driver.

“You. Big. Idiot. The bus fare is not equal to whatever change you happen to have in your pocket, and the driver can’t open the coin/ticket machine, so congratulations! You’re now a few cents poorer and you have to walk in the rain!”

That’s the scathing comeback I formulated in my mind, after I got home and took a few hours to wrap my mind around the unbelievable audacity of this person.

Could she not see the driver would be doing her a favour by letting her ride the bus for less than the price that everybody else rides the same freaking bus for? Should she not therefore have at least acknowledged the driver’s existence as a human being?

In reality the bus driver said nothing and kept on trucking.

I’m neither proud to admit, nor overly ashamed to tell that I’ve been caught for fare evasion on the Skytrain twice within a 12-month period. The fine is $173. The first time, I got my fine reduced to $50. The second time, it was $100.

For whatever reason, I didn’t have a decent income in this recent past. I remember I would pass through Commercial/Broadway, trying my best to ignore the mighty Megabite/Buddha’s/A&W combo, trying to tell myself I wasn’t that hungry, that I could save a few bucks, make it home in an hour or so and eat then. And when I did cave and buy some food, I’d always feel guilty after eating it. Money was tight.

But no matter how little I had in my bank account, I had at least enough sense in my head to understand basic pillars of society, like:

  • You have to pay for goods and services.
  • If you don’t pay the full amount of money, you don’t get those goods or services.

That stuff applies to delicious junk food and public transit fares alike.

I’m lucky I only had to pay $150 for two violations. They had every right to fine me $173 each time, for a grand total of $346 that I did not have. And here are these people, running around like they’re entitled to free public transportation. They get indignant, and outright aggressive, when they’re told to pay the fare or get off the bus.

Excuse me Vancouver, but what the hell? If you’re going to ride a bus, especially a bus like the 160, which takes you all the way across Metro Vancouver even faster than the Skytrain can, maybe you shouldn’t be so goddamn surprised when you can’t do it for free. Stop being such an entitled brat; stop acting like free public transportation is a God-given right.

Not having to pay is the exception, not the rule. I know the cost of living is ridiculous here, I know the bus system is subpar and Translink’s zone map is kind of stupid. But do you really think treating the bus driver like crap is your best revenge?

Perhaps try taking some of that outspokenness and complaining to Translink or our local government. What you definitely shouldn’t do, is act like a loser and be rude to some hapless fellow who’s only doing his job, but might go out of his way to let you ride the bus for free anyway, from time to time, just because.

Public Service Announcement: If you feel you’ve been unfairly targeted for fare evasion in Vancouver, take a gander at this here document from the Bus Rider’s Union. Definitely don’t read it if you’re some sort of loser who regularly doesn’t pay Skytrain fare and finally got caught and now you’re trying to weasel your way out of paying what you owe.

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