Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers


I rode the Light Rail into the city yesterday for the first time in more than a month. That it’s been that long is saddening; the Light Rail is easily Baltimore’s best offering for public transportation. It runs on a faux honor code: without turnstiles, riders are expected to purchase a ticket before boarding and required to provide the ticket when prompted by a MTA official. Often one can ride and never see anyone ask for a ticket yet there are guaranteed hours where you will be questioned: to and from an Orioles game, 5 p.m. on a week day, common lunch hours, 10 a.m. on the way to work in the morning.

I am usually intercepted on the way home from the city and am almost always questioned by the same gruff woman. She has shown evidence that she’s cuddly and harmless but in her city uniform she is imposing. She bellows respect when she asks the car to quiet down and get out his or her ticket. I always have my ticket yet I fear her.

I also fear an almost as imposing man who has a penchant for making terrible puns, which include his lack of reluctance to provide a ticket for you, though “it will cost a lot more.”

So it’s probably this fear that has sent me into a tailspin of love for yesterday’s MTA police officer who showed more patience than anyone ever has before. She stepped onto my car after Center Street and I was unable to produce my day pass as a result of a hole in the pocket of my purse. My card floated in an abyss between the purse’s lining and the exterior of the purse; as I frantically searched I called out, “IT’S IN HERE SOMEWHERE.”

She nodded and inspected everyone else’s pass. She approached, smiled, and said, “I know you have it somewhere. Have you found it yet?”

At that moment my fingers touched the card and I whipped it into the airspace of the car with a relief I’ve never allowed expressed on the train before.

“See! There it is!” Then she told me to have a nice day and moved to the next car.

This morning I was on the 8 near York Road when a woman joined a small crowd the exit the bus and hit me with her shopping bag. This is something I’m used to, but her sincere apology was not. I hope the rest of her day was pleasant.

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