Thursday, April 20, 2017

[BERLIN] Caught Ticketless on the Tram


There are days when you just know that the universe is shitting you. Today is one of those days. For those who are not accustomed to how public transportation works here in Central Europe, let me give you a brief orientation. You can ride the subway here in Berlin without having to pay anything. You see, there are no turnstiles or gates preventing you from going to the platforms. If you are from Manila, this is downright strange. After a few weeks of residence here, though, you just get used to this trust system.

In theory, you have to pay for your fare. For us language students, the norm is having what they call a Monatskarte or a “Month Card” in English. This card costs EUR81 (~PHP4,400) and is valid for Berlin’s AB zone for a month, where most of the places you need to visit should be unless you reside in Zone C, which requires an extra extension ticket. This fucking ticket lives inside my wallet, two of them, in fact: one for March and one for April. Today, the ticket decided not to be in my wallet for whatever reason. Hooray.

For the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn, being a Schwarzfahrer (lit: black traveler = travelling without a valid ticket) is rather easy. With the many cars a train has, you can literally play hide and seek with an inspector, if ever you are so unlucky to stumble upon one. On the bus, you have to flash the ticket to the driver, but sometimes they are too lazy to care. The tram is almost similar to the U-Bahn/S-Bahn, except that it has less cars so escaping is a little bit more difficult. Are you feeling adventurous today?

But why do you need a ticket if there are no barriers anyway? Well, there are random inspectors wearing civilian clothes roaming around. If you are just here for a short period of time, the probability of meeting one is very rare. I actually think of them as unicorns or urban legends. People talk about them from time to time but you just can’t verify their existence, until they surprise you one day and slap you with a EUR60 (~PHP3,300) fine. Today on the tram, I got bitchslapped with that fucking fine. Bad day.

I already saw that lady inspector two days ago on the same tram, a few feet away from me. I actually got excited. I wanted to approach her and voluntarily have my ticket inspected so I would feel righteous following the law. But then again I already needed to alight the tram because the trip was rather short with just two stops. Today when I saw her again I knew this was going to be the day. Inspect me! Inspect me! As she came closer, I withdrew my wallet from my jeans’ pocket. The ticket wasn’t there.

She told me that I had the right to remain silent. I then cocked my head to the side and told her that she can’t arrest me. I have connections, biatch. I am friends with the ex of Angela Merkel’s cousin’s babysitter on Facebook, and Gerard Schroeder and I go to the same Imbiss for Currywurst. She was having none of it. She then handcuffed me and shoved me to the tram wall. Little children began to cry and the elderly were praying, pleading her to stop the violence. And then it rained as I shouted NOOOOO to the heavens.


Nah, I think that scenario only happens in soap operas. What happened is that she demanded to see my passport as I double, triple, and quadruple checked that particular wallet sleeve where the effing ticket was supposed to be. All around us, the other passengers were probably judging me in silence. Take a video, guys. Upload it on YouTube. I’m a certified attention whore. She then filled out a money transfer form, wrote 04.05.17 as the deadline on another form, and issued some sort of receipt amounting to EUR60.

No, you don’t have to pay the amount upfront. She instructed me to go to a BVG office close to where I reside. In this case, that’ll be Jannowitzbruecke. This happened at 9 AM so my mood for the entire day was already ruined. I was so stressed out that after class I had to go straight to the Chinese resto I frequent to overdose on rice. Because rice is life. And when the world is shitting you, you only have to eat rice and everything will be okay, right? Right? I then went home to confront the Monatskarte on my desk.

But the Monatskarte wasn’t there. Fuck my life? The last time I remember pulling it out from my wallet was Sunday afternoon when I showed it to a friend in Aachen as we were on a bus going back home from Vaals. And then that same Sunday, I recall flashing it to the 165 bus driver on the way home to Kreuzberg. I then remember how it wouldn’t completely go inside the wallet sleeve because my passport photos in the same sleeve were blocking the way. I no longer recall what happened after that.

Did I accidentally drop it on my seat while on the bus? If I didn’t, force of habit tells me that I would have just placed it with the Aachen Einzeltickets unsecured on top of the credit cards. When I got back home that night I brushed off all those tickets and random receipts to the desk, which is why I was expecting to see the Monatskarte there in the mix. Oh isn’t it annoying buying something for a certain reason and not having it when the need for it finally arises? Or maybe this is just the universe's way of mugging me? Fuck?

What annoys me now is that I still have a week left here in Berlin. Now I will have to buy a weekly ticket for EUR30 (~PHP1,500) on top of that EUR60 (~PHP3,300) fine on top of the EUR81 (~PHP4,400) I paid for that fucking Monatskarte, wherever the fuck it is. Anyway, I will go to the BVG office tomorrow to pay the damn fine. Online anecdotes say that the amount rises after two weeks. Some people argue that it’s not a fine but rather a more expensive ticket offered by the BVG in lieu of pursuing a court case. Is it a criminal offense then?


I have no idea. People who argue about the issue online have mixed sentiments and info. All I know is that this won’t be my last time in Berlin. I still have a long way to go to up my German proficiency level. I’ll definitely be back here in Germany, and I don’t want any hassles when that time comes. I guess this is why I prefer a metro system with barriers. At least there is no room for not paying a ticket unless you intentionally choose to do so. Oh well, enough rants. Life goes on, EUR60+EUR30 poorer. FML?

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