You are hereEssays on Life / Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride
I had exited the park and was waiting for a red light to change on Riverside Drive and 72nd Street when the police car pulled up beside me. It flashed its light and a police officer, sitting inside, said something unintelligible to me.
“Are you talking to me?” I asked, realizing that I might be coming off as a sarcastic Robert De Niro wannabe from Taxi Driver – not a good stance to take.
“Yes,” the cop said, as he got out of the car. He was young, polite, and soft-spoken; his partner was a heavy-set woman who didn’t smile.
“What seems to be the problem?”
“You were riding on the sidewalk.”
I was surprised. “No, I wasn’t. I was riding in the park.”
He smiled. “That’s the sidewalk,” he said, pointing to the promenade behind us.
“I’ve been riding my bike through the park for 30 years and no one told me that that’s the sidewalk.”
“Ever gotten a summons before?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Let me see your license.”
I handed it to him and he stepped into the car and got on the radio. I stood there with my bike, and noticed the doorman and some people across the street staring at me and talking. I began to feel twitchy, sort of like Richard Kimble in The Fugitive, nervous about the authorities but accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
I thought back. Well, sure I had gotten a summons once before – in the ‘80s, for running a red light – but I had never paid it. Was this karma? A payback? And I had driver my bike on the sidewalks at one point or another to avoid an oncoming truck or bus (and, hell, as teenagers, we shot a chase sequence with two bikes riding on a crowed West 70s sidewalk, avoiding pedestrians and shooting at each other, for God’s sake, and no cops intervened). But, clearly, this time, I was in the right.
As if to bolster my point, a little old lady on a bike rode past us onto the “sidewalk” from which I had just come.
“What about her?” I asked the female cop.
“We only do one person at a time,” she said, sort of lamely, I thought. If they really wanted to make a point, they could have pulled her over and had her wait, as I was doing.
The male cop came back, brandishing a newly written summons. What happened to the “first offense we’re letting you off with a warning” school of policing? Gone with the “end of the month need to fill my quota” approach.
“How much is it for?” I asked.
“It’s not much,” he said. “Thirty dollars.”
“An expensive lesson,” I said.
“Expensive!” exclaimed the cop. “Double-parked cars get tickets for $110!” He paused and then told me where the court hearing was. “Don’t miss it, because it will be kind of a big deal if you do.” I looked at the ticket later, and it said, “Failure to appear will result in the issuance of a warrant for your arrest.”
A quick series of images – of me as an interstate fugitive pursued by this young cop, who was obsessed with my capture – flashed through my brain. “I’ll be there,” I said. Another series of images – of me as fighting for the truth at my hearing, pleading “Not guilty” as I tore open the “ticket quota” scandal – danced before my eyes. Then I shook my head, sighed, and thought, “That’s another $30 wasted,” as I rode through a red light.
October 1, 2013