One of life’s unspoken rules, along with “treat others the way you want to be treated” and “let’s all pretend coconut water doesn’t taste like sweat,” is that the one time you deviate from doing the right thing when no one’s watching is, without fail, the time someone is paying attention.
(To be clear, I’m not advocating killing babies, although I understand why you might be confused.)
Hypothetical example: every morning, you pay for a day pass to commute via rail even though you’ve never once seen officials on the train enforcing ticket purchases. Then, one day, when you change up your routine and try to buy a one-way pass in the afternoon, both ticket machines jam. Your 4:30 train arrives, but you still can’t get a ticket. You want to get on anyway because it’s an honor system and no one ever checks, but you know that if you do board, there’ll invariably be an officer who asks to see your ticket and before you know it you’re in custody at the county jail where your mom refuses to bail you out until you’ve cleaned your room.
Obviously, the above didn’t actually happen but only because I strictly observe the Rule.
The doors of the 4:30 rail hissed open. I gazed helplessly into the compartment for a minute before the rail snaked off into the distance. Now that my ticket-less self wasn’t on the train, I knew no one would be checking. (Not to impose more significance on my existence than it deserves, but the universe has a nose for this sort of thing.)
The train’s exit had freed the crosswalk, and I crossed to the other platform to use another machine before sitting back to wait.
I take the DART, which stands for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, every day to get to my downtown summer internship. While I’ve collectively only spent 24 hours on the DART (and most of it I spent gazing out the window at scenic concrete while listening to Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle—someone please talk to me about this), the DART’s really put me through a lot.
My DART Experience, as of three weeks
- Two girls having an all-out fistfight one compartment down. With every scream, the people in my compartment tried (unsuccessfully) to pretend they weren’t interested in what was going down.
- A guy running the gamut of navy seats while peddling the largest Hershey’s bars I’ve ever seen
- Two people meeting on the rail, hitting it off, and exchanging numbers: a modern fairytale
- Accidentally sustaining eye contact with someone holding up a “YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL” sign, after which I probably came off as an utter narcissist
- A guy asking me if I had something to eat. I passed him an apple the size of three fists, and he asked me if I “did anything to it.” Mildly offended and caught off guard, I responded with “it’s an apple.” I’d never been accused of trying to poison someone, but at least now I knew I’d be pretty terrible at it.
Gradually, however, I grew accustomed to the DART’s eccentric charm. I adjusted to a new normal. I spent so much time planted in the rail’s navy-cushioned seats that I got to know it intimately. Or so I thought.
Upon the next train’s arrival, I scooted into a window seat. A middle-aged woman with a purse into which I could probably fit my entire upper body slid in next to me. No sooner had we settled in than a DART officer began trudging down the aisle, gruffly demanding to see proof of ticket purchase.
My mind short-circuited. Could this really be happening? Someone was asking to see my ticket when I actually had it ready? Had the Rule become defunct?
The lady next to me flipped open her wallet. Other passengers began to pull out their phones (of course, I registered dimly, there was an app for this all along) while I sat back in shock. The women across from us tilted screens toward the officer, who nodded briskly and looked to the next row. And then the row across.
She’d ventured a couple more rows down before I registered that, in a cruel twist of fate, she’d skipped me. Only me.