Today, just as I was getting onto the CalTrain, an officer stopped me and asked to see my ticket. I reached into my pocket and pulled a ticket out. Only it was the wrong one—the ticket I had bought yesterday which was now expired.
“Oh, er, uh… Let me see that,” he said. “Sorry, Sir, that’s yesterday’s ticket.”
There was an awkward pause as I fumbled through the debris in my pocket. If I didn’t have it he was going to have to write me a citation for around $300. Luckily, I found the right pass, the one for today, and I showed it to him. He smiled and a look of relief showed on his face. We were both glad he didn’t have to dish out punishment in that moment.
As I made my way to my seat, I kept pondering that moment of mutual relief I had just shared with the CalTrain officer. It was clear that neither of us would have taken pleasure in my receiving a citation.
I don’t believe that most people enjoy punishing others, even in the form of a job. Cops, judges, officers, meter maids—most of them are just doing their jobs in this funny world in which actions are performed in exchange for green paper. Just like me. Just like you.