Personally, I believe fare evasion is a serious crime. Well, you don’t harm anyone physically, you don’t beat your grand mother or eat little children. However, you harm the community, just like tax evasion.

I am a very proud holder of a so-called semester ticket, a wonderful invention to make the life of students less expensive. It allows students to use public transport at a fraction of the full adult fare. In Hamburg, the ticket is valid in combination with a personalausweis (identity card) or driver’s license. Random ticket inspections are rather rare during the day (I get checked once every three months, on average), and even rarer on night buses that won’t allow you to board without producing a ticket anyway (checked about twice in seven years).

As it happens, I left work late yesterday to take a night bus, as I ususally do three to four times a week. I took the ticket which comfortably fits into my jeans’ backpocket – German identity cards are huge and require A4 folders and I had lost my driver’s license for riding my bike intoxicated (well, I didn’t really, but it’s a) possible and b) adds to the drama). The third ticket inspection in my seven years of life in Hamburg – surely happens when you have nothing else on you to prove that you are the legal ticket holder.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, they are damn right. After being removed from the bus, I stood there listening to the guy’s lecture about how I have to carry photo ID on me. I didn’t even protest, probably the reason why he ended rather quickly: “We’ll let you off this once. Normally I would have to call the police so they run a personal data check on you. But this would mean that we have to stand in the cold and wait for them.” He let me recite my student number, wished me good night and jumped on the next bus behind ours to continue his job.

Great! I should have insisted they call the cops. In that case they would have taken me to my house. Remember: I didn’t have any ID on me. And in a case where you can’t produce ID, police accompany you home so you can prove to them who you are. (This fact leads to a widely spread belief among the German population that you have to carry ID on you at all times. This is wrong, you need to possess official ID, identity card or passport, from the age of 16, but you do not need to carry it with you.)

So I ended up freezin to death, because they ejected me from the bus in the most god forsaken place of town, miles off a taxi rank, to wait for the next bus some 30 minutes later. Thank god I live in a town like Hamburg, where you have the luxury of buses at half hour intervals; during the night, that is.

Still, I would have preferred to be lifted. Would have been a better story.

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