I take the train to my job in Hastings-on- Hudson 3-4 days out of the week via the Metro-North railroad. For those that don’t know, the monthly unlimited pass is $200+ per month, with the 10-trip passes ranging from $66 to $100-something. Somewhat of a hefty price tag in comparison to the unlimited subway/bus.
Jump to my train ride home today:
So I was sitting on the train on my way home. For those who have never ridden the Metro-North, they have employees that walk up and down the cars asking for your tickets. You buy tickets based on zones and lines. Different zones cost different amounts and different lines take you to different places. The line I ride is the Hudson line. Tickets purchased on the train are double the price of those bought at the station.
The gentleman approaches me. I hand him my pass. He looks at me and says that this is the wrong ticket. He goes on to explain that I have a New Haven line ticket and we are on the Hudson line. Mind you, the tickets cost the exact same. Not a big deal. I even have a 10-ride peak pass (yes they charge more in the morning, almost double the price per ride) to add in my explanation to him,
“Oh, that was a mistake. It was supposed to be for Hastings-on-Hudson. Look, my morning peak pass is for Hastings-on-Hudson too. It was a mistake that the machine printed this New Haven line one out. Not a big deal. My current pass would work this once, right? It’s pretty obvious it was a mistake. And you see me everyday.”
“No. It’s against policy to allow anyone to ride on this line without a Hudson line pass. You’ll have to buy another pass.”
Mind you, 2 other MTA officials had stamped this 10-ride pass- which is why I never noticed the mistake in destinations before- and had no issue. But not for robo-cop here.
Me: “Really? It’s just this once and it was a mistake.”
MTA guy (looking at me like I’m totally stupid): “No. I can’t do it. It’s against policy.”
Me: “Sir, but you have all the authority in the world right now to stamp my card. It was a mistake.”
MTA (with a face as if he was physically incapable of punching holes in my card): ” I can’t.”
The situation made me extremely upset. I don’t lose my patience often, but there are certain situations, such as that, that really urk me.
He insisted that he could not stamp my card. He insisted that the policy would not allow him to do it, as if the policy was standing behind him with a gun to his head. It was absolutely ludicrous to me, but what was more ridiculous to him was that I believed he had the power to say yes.
There was no mystical policy cop standing beside him; he was the policy cop. And even if there was, he still had a choice. But it was easier for him to use the rule as a reason for why he wouldn’t let me ride 5 more stops on a pass I paid for that only had a difference in name but was worth the exact same amount.
And that is what people fail to realize. They willingly hide behind comments like,
“I have to” or “I can’t”.
“I’m sorry, I can’t go to that birthday party. I have to work.”
“I can’t buy that chocolate, my husband won’t let me.”
“I have to work everyday until I’m 70 and then I can retire.”
If you say those types of statements enough, you come to believe them. You believe that you are powerless. And it’s this mindset that prevents you from really living. It’s the fear of standing out, of being controversial, of being different that gets in the way of innovation and of justice.
In college, I once read a study on the corruption of large companies. It talked about the injustices “the company” had caused. It studied how employees regarded the”the company” that was treating its employees, its customers and the environment poorly. Everyone blamed the company.
It then went on to explain what a company really is. It’s a legal entity. A piece of paper that says you exist. It yields no real decision-making power in the slightest. But every person who works there does.
So who really has the power?
But that’s a harder truth to bear. That implies responsibility and God forbid, actual thought.
You always have a choice. The ‘have-tos’ of the world are ways to hide from having to make important decisions.
Make no mistake, you always have a choice.