I sat quietly noticing a young girl smiling at me on the bus. I was in the sideways seat, she in the front facing seats. Maybe it was the colorful ball of fur on the top of my hat. I gave her a smile back. I called it my transit smile.
It's where I physically turn the corner of mouth upwards, pause for nearly a second and then look away as if something else caught my eye. There is no warming of the cheeks that I feel when smiling at a friend. I assume I am carefully making sure not to feel uncomfortable myself or make anyone else uncomfortable while on public transit.
Next, I was pulled off the bus for not having a paper ticket by men in uniform. I later found out they are from the Transit Adjucation Bureau, but to me they looked like cops. One of them was asking for tickets. A ticket I opted not to get while running to the bus on 34th and 1st ave because I didn't want to be late to work. A ticket from those little machines by the bus stop that issue paper tickets that no one ever checks.Until, they did last Tuesday.
I was confused at first exiting the bus. When he took out his cop-pad out and started writing me a ticket, I was angry. Then I was crying. I was lying, crying and doing everything I could to get out of the ticket before I knew it was a $100 fine which then turned into me shaming, accusing, and lying some more.
What a different Jessica than the one carefully smiling back at a woman in a way that wouldn't make her uncomfortable.
"I didn't know this bus needed a special ticket," I said. Finishing with, "I was rushed."
If I were to coach a liar, I would say stick with one lie or it sounds like a cover up.
"I am a teacher," I literally cried.
"I can't afford this," I said knowing full well I had just bought a $98 shirt from the Chloe sample sale the Saturday before.
A shirt I didn't need was a $100. A ticket I thought I didn't need was $100.
It was worth it to me. The fine. It opened my eyes to a little hypocrite in me with great abilities to cry on cue. I thank my training at the William Esper Conservatory and my own childhood trauma for prepping me for this role. And God.
"Do you think I'm an idiot?" I scoffed when the Transit Bureau Cop said, "You can call this number to contest the ticket. Sometimes they will reduce the fee."
I ended my performance with, "They won't do anything for me, but YOU could have."
Walking down the street I felt alive with a heavy heart beat. I felt slightly ashamed. I felt like a teenager. I was wiping tears from my eyes. I felt confused about who the hell just acted like that. I felt badly I was caught doing something that could have easily been avoided. I felt good that there are rules that are enforced.
I'd pay $100 again to see me perform if it makes me a better person next time. I think it might.
What if I had said to the TAB man, "Yep. I totally skipped on buying the ticket because I was rushed. This sucks. How's your day going?"