Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Johnny Lion's Bad Day

One of the more memorable books from my childhood was Johnny Lion's Bad Day. It is about a sick day confined in bed and the bad red medicine gives Johnny terrible nightmares. Over time, in the Pinksen house, Johnny Lion's Bad Day evolved to describe that day when the universe metaphorically kicks your ass and you feel you would have been better served to stay in bed, build a little fort and wait for the bad karma or whatever it is to pass.

Today was just one of those days for me. To start I made my way to the train station to await my 10:30 train into the city. But the strangest thing greeted me. The train heading away from the city was driving on the wrong tracks. I thought to myself "how strange, I wonder if that is a sign of things to come" If only I had realized.

My train ended up being 24 minutes late which would still allow me just enough time to connect with a bus to get to uni....provided there were no further delays But as it turned out I was not to be so lucky.

But first, a little background on how ticketing works on the Brisbane Public Transit System. On the trains things work on a honour/fear of getting a hefty fine system where occasionally ticket inspectors will board the train asking to see all tickets. Failure to produce on means an one the spot $150 fine. Then there are also occasionally inspectors at the exits of the stations. Not one to play the game of inspector russian roulette I always buy a ticket when I can. Unfortunately my station was recently vandalized and it is no longer possible to buy a ticket there. So instead I purchase my ticket at my destination.

Generally this little system works well. All inspectors before have understood when I say "I got on at Wynnum" and politely remind me to buy my ticket when I get off. But today was a different story. Today it was not a Queensland Rail employee but a Police Officer who requested to see my ticket when I disembarked the train. As I tried to explain the situation to him he refused to listen and instead proceeded to demand my identification and write me a ticket. The more I tried to explain the angrier he became. He ranted on about how he was a police officer and did I know what it meant to be in trouble with the police. He threatened to send me to court and berated me for being a foreigner and not following Australia's rules.

Lucky for me his partner was a little more understanding and while all this was going on went to confirm my story with the ticketing office. He returned, informed his partner and I was allowed to leave but with no even a hint of apology for the huge inconvenience they had just caused me. The inconvenience of having missed the bus to campus and hence missing my class since on request of the professor we are not to enter the lecture hall late as it is quite disruptive.

It was just as well since the entire thing had given me an absolutely pounding headache.

But the whole experience has just given me new understanding of innocent people who end up in confrontations with the police. Things really can escalate quickly when the police jump to conclusions and refuse to allow a person to explain their situation.

On a loosely related note I recently watched "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" a three part documentary about four boys in Western Australia who 8 years after the death of a teenager were convicted with his murder but not without much controversy and questions about police conduct and missing evidence. It certainly has me questioning the judicial system here in Australia.

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