Traffic Tickets Just Don't Work
A Ukrainian perspective on the American police system...
I went to Boston last week to attend the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions. And the highlight of my entire week? Definitely my cab ride on the last day, when I was headed from Cambridge to South Station to catch my train home to Philly. Here’s what happened…
The cab pulled up to the entrance of the hotel, and my driver was an older man. He was probably in his late sixties, with a solid, stocky build, with more hair on his eyebrows than on his head. He looked like a big old bulldog, but in a cute, grandpa-type of way. His name was Joseph. He had a voice so gravelly, you could use it to sand wood.
I love taxis, I really do. Because I love talking to my drivers, hearing their stories. After we starting talking, I told him about a weird experience I had taking a black car from the hotel the other day. “It was strange, and the guy was really rude. He demanded a flat rate that was twice as much as it should have been."
At this, all of a sudden Joseph came alive. It was like I was talking to a whole different person. And he was pissed. Like, really incensed. In the rearview mirror I saw his eyes bug out, and he shook his finger at the windshield and exclaimed, “That guy is gypsy cab! That is no Uber, no real taxi, that gypsy cab! That is no taxi!”
I nodded in understanding and said, “You know that’s what I was wondering, because I hadn't called for an Uber or a cab, he was already sitting in front of the hotel when I came out. I thought it was odd.”
Joseph snorted in disgust. “These guys are gypsies, that is how you call them. They are no taxi.” He jammed his finger at his chest multiple times and said, “I am taxi, I follow regulations. I do not get out of car and wave down the people and make them get in my cab. No! Never! It is against the regulations! This is no good, no good.”
I just keep nodding, this explained so much. “You know, on my way into Boston last week I think I ran into one of these guys as I was leaving the train station. He actually came inside the station and followed me back through the exit door, telling me to get into his taxi. I kind of looked at him and was like, ‘Dude, back off. I have no idea who you are, leave me alone.’ He got angry but I ignored him and went and found a real taxi.” (I figured that Joseph would be on my side on this one.)
I was right; Joseph was extremely offended on my behalf. I was starting to get the sense that this was a significant ongoing frustration for him. He spat out, “That is no legal. No legal! If police see him, he get $500 fine.” He slapped his right hand across his left for emphasis, “Just like that." He caught my eye in the rearview mirror. "No talk, no nothing. He pay $500, just like that. But the police will no catch him. I know this, because if I see one person do this I call police, but they take forever to get here, and he is gone.”
He paused to bask in his indignation. Then he slapped his right hand across his left again. “Just like that.” It really did sound quite frustrating. Joseph continued, “But this America, and you can do nothing. If you say there is crime, police say, where is crime? And if the man gone, then the police say there is no crime!” He shook his head in disgust, muttering, “No proof, no crime.” He continued, “But anyway, the ticket no work. Even if police catch the guy and he have to pay ticket, it no work. He do the crime again the next day,” (slap, smack,) “just like that.”
At this, I couldn't help but stand up for our legal system, even just a little bit. “Yeah, America is pretty big on the whole ‘innocent until proven guilty’ thing.” Joseph eyed me in the rearview and I could tell he wasn't very impressed. I had a hunch so I followed it, asking him, “If this had happened in the Ukraine, would it go down any differently?”
Joseph nodded his head furiously, clearly very excited. “Yes, yes. In Ukraine, is VERY different.” I asked him how, and he smiled evilly. “In Ukraine, he get punch in face!”
I burst out laughing, like, I lost it. He just said it with such righteous indignation, and with absolute certainty. Just to clarify I asked him, “Do you mean that the police would punch him in the face or you would?”
Joseph smirked at me. “In Ukraine, police punch the face! Tickets no work, but that work.” And, well, I had to agree with him on that one.
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