She’s got a ticket to ride (not)
I may be the only person in the history of San Francisco tourism to get booted off the trolley car.Visiting last week for a convention, I brought my 9-year-old along for a visit with her cousins. On the last day, she joined me in the city to stay at my hotel and see the sights. First stop, Fisherman’s Wharf. In a classic “small-town-girl-in-the-big-city” moment, I decided to leave my purse at the hotel; after all, who needs all that extra weight when carting around souvenirs from Pier 39? So with my credit card and some cash in my pocket, we were off. Little did I know I’d go through my cash quicker than a tourist buys a T-shirt. No problem, I assured my daughter, we’ll just hop on the trolley. There was no ticket booth in sight and hordes of people were crowding on the trolley, so I assumed it was free (like I said, “small town girl”).The trolley started moving and I heard the conductor announce he was coming around for tickets. I tried to seem confident as my daughter looked at me anxiously.”I’m sorry, I don’t have a ticket,” I said politely.
“Is OK, five dollar,” he said in broken English.”I’m sorry – I don’t have any cash either. Can I pay you at the end?””Wah?! No! No ticket. You off!”I could feel the eyes of the crowded trolley on me. “You! Off here. ATM.” He waved his finger furiously in my face. “I don’t have my ATM card,” I said sheepishly.
“No!” he barked. My daughter visibly winced as I tried to disappear. He signaled to the brakeman to stop the car immediately. “You! Off here, lady.”I looked around at the dismal surroundings. We were just eight blocks from the wharf. But here, gang graffiti decorated every wall. Homeless people roamed with their carts and a seedy looking group of people made the “Adult Bookstore” sign look even more unattractive. “You can’t make me get off here,” I pleaded. “I’ll pay with my credit card at the end of the line,” I offered.”No! No ticket, no ride.” He waved his hands in my face and shouted once more for effect, “You! Off here, lady!”The crowd of mostly compassionate faces parted, clearing the aisle for us to walk. Clearly there was no reasoning with the conductor, so I did what any self-respecting mother would do in my situation. I threw myself on the mercy of the brakeman.
“He’s trying to make me get off because I didn’t know I had to have a round-trip ticket but I have no idea where we are or how to get back to my hotel from here and I can pay you at the office at the end of the line, and besides,” (here I appealed to his sense of compassion while at the same time making it perfectly clear that I wasn’t about to get off that trolley), “I’m with my little girl.”He sized me up, nodded and, mercifully, kept driving.I highly recommend the trolley in San Francisco, but be sure to buy yourself a ticket.Then again, it’s the unexpected that makes a trip so memorable.Charla Belinski’s column runs every other Sunday in the Post Independent.
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