The one that pays for all…

04/17/2008 By Shawn Burns

I promise this will be my last Caltrain story for a while, and the one that pays for all:

Erin and I were late for our train today. By, oh, 30 seconds. It pulled up as we were still about a football field away, and I still had to buy a ticket on the platform (you must buy a ticket before you get on, no matter how willing you are to pay them directly later). There was no way I was going to make it in time. I would just have to buy a ticket and wait for the next one, in half an hour.

As I was rushing up the platform it looked like it was getting ready to leave on time, and then something changed. The doors opened, and remained open. I was almost in range of the last open door, but I was still a hockey neutral zone away from the ticket dispenser, and I was going to have to get to my wallet (in the backpack today), select my ticket, insert my credit card, and wait for the ticket to print before I could snag that berth.

But there the train sat. It wasn’t leaving on time. Like it was waiting for me.

"Oh Backpacking Dad. Don’t you just want to sneak through this open door here instead? We’re waiting just for you. We saw you hustling up the platform. Don’t you want to try to get away with it today?"

No, serpentine train voice in my head. No I don’t.

"But you will be late for your daughter’s swimming lesson. And isn’t she more important? There’s plenty of room, and no one will question YOU. You have the magic, distracting Baby of Cuteness."

Screw off, train voice. You’re making me feel guilty.

I thought about doing it. I stepped slightly to my left, toward the open door, and then I reconsidered and made a bee-line for the ticket dispenser, resigned to missing this train but retaining my moral authority.

Just as I made that decision I found out why the train was lagging a little bit. A Conductor-Type ejected a 20-something slacker who kept protesting that he had a ticket (for the wrong zone, or wrong day, or one way from earlier or something), to no avail. Dude was booted, and the train left just as I got to the ticket dispenser.

Today, they were checking tickets. And today I didn’t give in.

I win, Universe. And you can go to hell, creepy train voice.