A Battle Unfought

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transit violation citation front-violation

Some battles you shouldn’t fight. Period. Like the battle to get a US$100 fine (see image above) rescinded.

The day was Saturday, April 16 and the place Queens, New York. I was on my way to my good high school buddy’s place in The Bronx. The metro via Manhattan were all over the place with delays and closures for maintenance etc. So I headed in the opposite direction, towards Flushings/Main Street. The trip involved taking the bus after that. And that’s where I got into trouble!

Getting off the metro at Flushings/Main Street, the bus I was supposed to catch never showed up. Following the alternative Google Map gave me, I found the other stop. Entering the bus, I looked for the machine to swipe my Metro card but found none. Remembering a time when I had been in a similar situation in Boston, I figured it must be the same with this bus. I couldn’t however remember how that ended. It certainly didn’t end the way it did in New York!

At the first or second stop, a number of cops entered. Walking down the aisle, they asked to see our tickets. I showed him my metro card (see below) and told him that I had transferred but that there had been no place to swipe.

NYC Metro card front-resizedHe tells me that I was supposed to have gotten a ticket before boarding the bus.

At the next stop, a number of us are told to alight and the officers start issuing tickets. (See image at the top.)

I tell him that I was a visitor and that I didn’t know I had to get a ticket for this particular bus. That it was the first time I had actually come in that area of Queens and the first time I had taken that bus etc. I show him some proof of being a visitor. I tell him that I sound like an American because I went to school in Iowa etc. etc. etc.

He asks me about my trip, what I did, where I went, what I saw etc.

I also tell him that the metro card has money on it because I topped it up earlier that day (see image below).

proof of top up of metro card

He makes a note, on the ticket, of the metro card number (24128482).

NYC Metro card back-resized

When I ask him why he can’t just overlook this time, pointing towards another officer, he says that his superior is here.

“You can contest it,” he adds. Saying, “Call this number in four days and they’ll help you” he circles a number at the back of the ticket.

“But that’s when my flight is!” I protest.

He says, “Then don’t worry about. Just ignore it!”

But I don’t.

I call the number the morning of April 20, Wednesday. My flight is mid-afternoon that day. After explaining my situation, the woman on the line says I can contest it but that I have to come down to the office, in Brooklyn! Just the round trip would have taken about two hours. Who knows how long the rest of the stuff would have taken! I just didn’t have that kind of time.

The alternative, she informs me, is to contest it by mail once back in Nepal (see image below). It would involve preparing notarised statements. Apparently, using my metro card number, I could get details such as usage and credit remaining in it. All that, of course, would help my case.

transit violation citation back-hearing

But, the last time I had gotten something notarised (in Azerbaijan I believe) cost me US$45 and it wasn’t a straight forward process either! Plus, Nepal being Nepal, I imagined the whole process taking an inordinate amount of time!

I also imagined my friend, whose address appeared on the ticket, getting notification after notifications and my wild imagination also imagined a summon down the line!

Besides, it was only my second ticket in the US!

Worse things have happened to me in the country, like being held responsible for an accident on the highways of Colorado when I was rear-ended by a massive Ford Expedition. (My car was totalled but I suffered no injuries…not that I know of anyway!)

But more importantly, some amazing things have happened to me in the country AND the country and people of the US have given me a lot!

To begin with, there was Grinnell’s generosity of 1990! Then there was the Grinnell friends and family playing a significant role in giving me the most humbling experience of my life. When jailed in Qatar in May 2013 they rallied behind the “Free Dorje Gurung campaign” to get me released. Then, Grinnell bestowed me, in the Spring of 2014, the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

The preceding 13 months too, I had been shown incredible hospitality and generosity by friends and others in the country in my travels. And all those are but just a small sample!

A US$100 fine seemed a small price to pay for my mistake, even if an honest mistake. Plus, contesting it would have also spoiled the memories of the incredible 13 months in the country!

There was also the embarrassment to the friend I was staying with to consider!

(Ignoring it was not an option! Not to me.)

So, I just paid it.

payment of ticket

Do you have similar stories? Stories of where  you were clearly in the right but didn’t fight the system? Feel free to share below.



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