It's a statement we hear more often these days, now that the district refuses to insist people pay a fare to ride transportation. Management has loosened its policies a bit to be "fair" to the "fareless," but inspectors still do random fare checks on the lines with most evaders. I'm not sure what happens to the "risk" takers, but I've seen plenty of them cited for stealing a public service.
One recent fine winter day found plenty of deadbeats out for a ride. I smiled and welcomed each to my bus, knowing at which point lurked a few supervisors and police officers. Sure, times are tough all over and I don't wish ill upon anybody, but some people are chronic fare evaders. Many brazenly waltz past me with the aforementioned statement uttering forth as if it's no big deal. Those who work for a living sneer when an obvious bum strolls past, not even bothering to stop and offer me a heart-wrenching "dog ate my fare" story. This behavior seems to insult those who pony up every day, rationing this or that to ensure they can pay their way.
Two teenagers decided to try this "risky" trick. "Can I ride at my own risk?" one asked me. "I don't have fare money."
I don't know how, but they missed my brother supervisor standing just outside the front door of the bus. He smiled at me as I replied.
"Well," I said drily, "why don't you ask that feller right behind ya?"
Teen One turned abruptly to see Mr. Supe, who offered a cheerful "Hi!"
Teen Two had one foot on the bus and one off. As they both turned to see who awaited them, Two said "Oh hell nah I'm out," and beat tracks, stage left. One looked at Supe, then said to me, "Never mind, I'll walk. Bye!"
When I was struggling to keep a family fed and housed as an unemployed middle-aged student, a generous bus driver refused my fare. The memory of his generosity guides me when I see someone who is honestly just barely making it. Perhaps it's a single mom with two kids, or an older guy who fights retirement because his Social Security just doesn't quite pay the bills. Or it could be the guy who has spent the whole day filling out applications and beating the street to find work after losing a good job. Been there, done that. I get it. One look in someone's eyes can reveal an entire volume of truths.
I have been the working poor. Never however, have I been a bum; those are the people who believe they don't have to contribute anything, that society owes them everything. Sorry guys, but bottom feeders get none of my sympathy. You're often the ones who assault us, or at the very least cause a disturbance, or panhandle on my bus so you can be the first in line at the liquor store. If I recognize you standing alone at a stop, I'm apt to just ignore you and keep rolling.
Those who paid their fare deserve a smooth, drama-free ride. You freeloaders can just keep standing in the rain and hope my follower isn't wise to your game. The fare-paying public on my bus expects me to get them to their connections or destinations on time; you bums are simply wasting it.