True Gripes: Fined for honesty: On the spot for renewing a pass - late

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The Independent Online
As I stumble drowsily up the steps towards the bank of ticket machines I fumble in my pocket for my weekly Tube pass. My out-of-date pass. As I examine it closely I realise that it ran out yesterday and I should have renewed it this morning.

I don't worry because I assume it'll be fine to buy one now. I shuffle towards the 'Assistance' cubicle, ready to explain my situation. But the man behind the glass has different ideas. He informs me that I can buy a new pass, but must also pay a pounds 10 spot fine for travelling without a ticket: fare evasion.

I'm stunned. I am actually doing the opposite of evading paying my fare - I am actively trying to pay it. I buy a weekly pass every week. This week I just forgot to renew it. I should have renewed it an hour ago. Instead I'm trying to renew it now.

'I'm sorry, Miss (that's Ms to you bonehead), but you could have renewed your pass before you got on the train. You were travelling without a pass, we must fine you.' His petty whine thrusts me immediately into death-bitch gear.

'I could understand if you caught me wriggling under one of the barricades,' I say, semi-ballistic. 'But this is stupid. I'm trying to pay. If I wanted to evade my fare I wouldn't be coming to you, would I?' He fixes me with a dead-fish eye.

He doesn't care about the loopholes in this stupid new fine. About the hapless innocents who get caught up in its net. I write out my cheque and march to work. When I arrive I write a snotty and expletive letter to London Underground on posh headed paper. I say that I'm furious and that I want my money back (so far, one month later, I've had no reply).

Then a work colleague informs me that these fines are actually discretionary. I am even more annoyed.

A full week goes by, and I find myself in exactly the same situation at Moorgate Tube. A late night, a rushed and bleary morning, and yes, I'd forgotten again to renew my pass. This time I stride confidently to the 'Assistance' cubicle. If they make me pay this time, I know my rights. I'm not going to pay. I'm going to get crazy. In one breath I explain my plight, I tell them that I was fined last week, that I'm cross, and that I won't pay another fine because I know these fines are supposed to be discretionary. 'Yes, and we can use our discretion however we want,' the man (a different one) says coolly.

He is not buying my frazzled emotional freak act. He looks at me blankly. He makes me feel like I'm in the wrong. Spoilt. Petulant. Immature.

OK, so the man's a good judge of character, but surely he's not going to fine me? Again.

'I won't fine you this time, but I could if I wanted to,' he says.

I silently write him a cheque for my pass, but in my mind I'm repeating one word over and over in my head. Pig.

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