I had my first run-in with Ühisteenused (Joint Services), Estonia's euphemistically entitled public transport ticket inspectors and performers of other odd jobs. I probably owe the system close to one fine's worth ($60) in free rides, so I had been waiting to pay them that sum of money and see the inside of their paddy wagon for gonzo journalism purposes (as well as for the fact that it seems to be a Berlingo type LAV). There continue to be complaints of occasional controller brutality so this would be a service to the community, I tell myself.
I know. Irresponsible -- and did you know, I jaywalk, sometimes, too? Estonia has trouble balancing its state budget and then you have people like me. No doubt it's a rather unthought-through attitude -- perhaps paying a fine would have negative aspects I haven't considered, like an administrative fine on my record, if they keep records of such things. But I'm just used to not paying. In Portland, there's a "fareless square", which I never had the need to travel beyond. In most other cities, you pay as you board. In Tallinn, if you ride with a child under 3, which I occasionally do, you ride for free legally. So I have grown used to not buying tickets and frankly, with kiosks having grown scarce, I wouldn't know where to buy them. Piletilevi, maybe?
So, anyway, this tram I was on yesterday stopped short of the stop. There was a paddy wagon waiting. And men in windbreakers.
The windbreakers looked much like my jacket.
I noticed when my wife gave me this jacket that it looked somewhat similar to the one worn by the ticket inspectors and the meter maids. (Though it is clearly a cut above the Ühisteenused jackets.) I wonder if it played any part in them ignoring me.
These ticket inspectors were very efficient. They boarded the tram and went about their business, it seemed, silently. In the old days (1990s) I remember a lot of hectoring and intimidation by people who might or might not have been controllers.
I guess it pays to outsource to G4S. This raid looked like a drill, with both sides -- transgressors and controllers -- going through a choreographed ritual they had performed many times. It was almost as if the "bad guys" weren't even told to leave the tram. They knew the jig was up and took their seats in the paddy wagon for processing.
I stood there by the doors of the tram like a beanpole. I nodded professionally to one of the controllers as he passed and he looked up blankly. I would like to say that he complimented me on my jacket, but he did not.
Within a minute or two the controllers had rounded up their quota and left and the tram continued on its way and I hadn't moved or been asked to do anything.