I enter the train at Churchill Station. I'm running late from work to home and wondering if dinner will be ready. As I get on the train, I notice there is an ETS (Edmonton Transit System) officer on it, standing at the front. He seems to be casually chatting with a younger, heavier man. This man, who reminds me of my elder's adopted son vaguely, has a mushroom cut which is blowing my mind cause the last one I recall seeing was in grade 4.
The next station the guard gets off and three people, the young guy included, let out a sigh of relief. They don't seem to know each other but all bond instantly on the fact that none of them had a bus ticket or transfer and had the ETS official been checking, could have easily given them all a hefty fine.
The young guy is laughing, as is another man near his age who looks almost albino his hair is so blond with matching eyelashes and eyebrows. Yet, for such a weak looking complexion, his cheek bones are strong. He says that he was pretending to be asleep, hoping they wouldn't bother him. The heavier guy says he tried to look really interested in his paper, a free local magazine. They share in that feeling of almost being caught and the joy of not being caught. A woman, who is older and in dingy clothing, is laughing too but talking over them both. She's somewhat obnoxious in her talking, mentioning other times she's almost got caught. I get the feeling she's enjoying being apart of something. Maybe she's lonely? Maybe she's just that type who talks constantly to anyone willing to listen. I don't know.
I sit down behind them and turn down my MP3 player to eavesdrop more closely. I don't care that they didn't pay. I used to do that all the time and have recently done it accidentally a few times (forgot my bus pass). I remember the little rush of fear and adrenaline when an ETS official stepped on my train car. I can tell all three don't know each other. They're sitting in separate areas and go back to their own world, except the old woman. Let me correct that. She's most likely 45 years old...50 tops. But she looks 60. She has weather beaten skin and looks as if her being alive is just a combination of several lucky incidences of getting away with something. She is still talking, clinging on to that momentary bond they had all created and not willing to let it go.
Another stop. This time two ETS officials get on. They start at the back of our train car and begin their inquisition for tickets. I hear them, right away. So does the blond guy.
I panic a little bit. I can't find my ticket in my purse. But soon enough it reveals itself, tucked into a corner and I can breath easy again.
Whatever bond these three strangers had is gone completely. As the next stop comes up, the almost albino struts off casually, but quickly. Not even warning the two others that the guards are approaching. He is gone and the two officials are getting closer. I hear the "Can I see your transfer or ticket please?" approaching me from behind. But the woman doesn't. She is in her own world still. A never-ending obnoxious yapping that no one is listening too. The heavy set man suddenly become aware of officials asking for tickets and not long after, so does the woman. A guard asks for mine, which I quickly supply and then moves on.
The heavy set man and the woman are sitting parallel on opposite sides of the aisle. I watch, wondering which one is the guard going to ask first. Thinking about how short lived that victory was for who ever gets asked. We're at a stop and the woman has stood up to get off the train. The guard chooses her. As she walks off toward the nearby exit the guards howls, "Ooohhh no you don't. Where is your ticket?". She already seems to know the answer and the woman doesn't lie but she's on the defence.
"I don't have any. I was just riding....", I hear her crass voice fade as the door close.
This time, the heavy man is alone and he's not breathing a sigh of relief. He just got away again. There is no one to celebrate with and no comradery as he goes silently to the next stop.
I think about the randomness. I think about every little variable. If I hadn't noticed the guards and had struggled to find my ticket when they asked me, it would have brought them both precious seconds. If she would've stopped talking and took a minute to look around her, she would've had time to escape. If he was the one to get up, hastily, in an attempt to slip away, would the guard have asked him for his ticket? Or did the woman's dingy clothes, dilapidated face, and drab hair fit the profile of someone who didn't (or couldn't) pay?
I don't feel bad for her nor do I feel happy for the two men for getting away with it. I didn't look for any meaning. I just accepted it as it was. Completely random and absurd.