Sunday, September 15, 2013

When In Doubt or Fear Take A Deep Breath

It is the stories that we tell each other. Our life experiences and those of our kind. This is a short story about perception, fear and riding the rails. The Los Angeles Sheriff Department (LASD) patrols the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles. They also have jurisdiction over the jail system and provide security services for our mass transit system.

You need to know something about the Sheriff deputies. The deputies do go through a training system similar to the LAPD. These are law enforcement officers.

There is a difference. The LAPD offices work with the general public. They are trained to work with different kinds of people. They observe the day to day activities of Angelenos. They can perceive the difference between non-criminal people and those up to no-good. They ain't perfect. There are issues but you have a 60/40 chance of having a civil conversation with them.

The Sheriff deputies are assigned to the jail system as one of their primary duty bases. It is service to a specialized population that requires a different set of skills.

So when the Sheriff deputies get promoted, transferred or bounced from the Twin Towers they are placed in contact with the general public.

Stew on that for a bit. Ex-jailers going into day to day contact with regular citizens.

In our local media there are plenty of stories about the LASD. The bottom line is that you don't want to make unnecessary contact with them if possible. You can be hurt. You can be dead. And, the LASD is truly an equal opportunity organization. There is no privileged with these folks.

There was one deputy in Pasadena that use to inspect the buses. You could tell he hated the job. Hated the passengers on sight. His shirt was so tight I bet he stitched it himself in just to contain his wrath.


Yesterday I was on the train. I had charged up my TAP card. I had my receipt. I hit the tap portal that proves you paid the fare. You want to make sure you do this because there is a $250 fine and 48 hours community service. You would get to spend more time with the deputies. Not something to aspire to on a weekend.

I'm grooving on the train, the A/C is on and it is a mellow ride. Soon, there was a change in the force. Two deputies get on board to inspect for fare compliance.

You can see the body language of folks stiffen up. Those few that hadn't paid their fare were trying to ease on down to the next care to get off. Some didn't make it.

I'm looking and not looking. The deputy comes up to me and ask for my card. He has a smile on his face.

"It is a beautiful day today, isn't it?" He takes my card and runs it through the scanner.
"Why, yes it certainly is" as I try to bite down the fear and look him in the eye.

If he is willing to be nice I'm willing to try to be polite.

There is a problem.

"I can see you added fare at the Fillmore station but it is not showing that you tapped at the terminal."

"I'm sure that I tapped my card." I'm trying to stay cool because $250 is a lot less to loose than getting bashed in the head.

"No problem, those are older terminals. Just make sure you hold it for a longer period of time."

That was it. Brain is trying to remind me to exhale. I would have too except his partner was writing out fare evasion tickets like white on rice.

And breathe, and did I tap or think that I tapped? I usually tap. This could have gone so wrong. What if I didn't tap? I was rattled so I honestly don't know if I did or didn't.

Still, in my years of riding I have rarely seen a deputy smile or be willing to be friendly.

It was a good day. 

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