I get robbed.
I slept fitfully between the clean, white, hotel sheets. The bed was too soft and I couldn’t get the pillows right. I hadn’t spent a night under a roof in a bed in a week and I was used to my sleeping bag, thin pad and cozy tent. The hotel room was nice, but I couldn’t hang my head out and see the stars.
I tossed and turned and finally around 5:30 got up and took a shower. My cycling equipment was spread around the room and I began repacking for the trip home to Shoreline. I had stored my train tickets in a pouch I carried around my neck. It also contained my wallet, cash, keys and other vital items. But when I went to retrieve the tickets, they were nowhere to be found. I tore everything apart and did an inch-by-inch search to no avail. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just have Amtrak print me out some new ones, but when I asked at the station, I got a shocking response.
“You’ll have to re-buy the tickets,” the lady behind the counter said matter-of-factly. I stared at her in dumb disbelief. I showed her the receipt proving that I’d already paid for the tickets. “Yes,” she said, “I see here on the computer that you’ve in fact paid for the tickets.”
“Okay, then, I said, just print me out a new copy.”
She gave me condescending look. “The money is in the ticket,” she said, “you have to re-buy your tickets.”
“What do you mean, the money is in the ticket? That statement doesn't even make sense,” I said. “It’s a piece of paper!”
“No, it’s money.”
“No,” I said, “it’s not. Can I pay my rent with it? Can I use it to buy groceries?”
“Of course not,” she stammered.
"Okay, then, that makes it just a couple of pieces of cardstock you print out of your HP Deskjet. It’s not money.”
The woman had clearly engaged in this debate before. “If you loose your tickets, someone else could find them and use them. That’s why you have to re-buy your tickets.”
I was flabbergasted. “You mean to tell me you think someone is going to find my lost tickets, decide on the spur of the moment, ‘hey, I think I’ll take an impromptu train trip from Eugene, Oregon, to Shoreline, Washington’?”
“It could happen,” she said.
“Does it happen very often?”
“I have no idea.”
“So, you’re willing to alienate a customer to guard against the one-in-a-trillion chance that someone might get a free train ride?”
She gave me a stern look and countered with the bureaucrat’s trump card, “Sir, I don’t make the policy, I just carry it out.”
“Ah,” I quipped, “the Nuremburg defense.”
“What?” she replied, clearly confused.
“Never mind,” I said, sliding my debit card through the slot, “just hook a brother up.”
I was back in civilization.