Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Old Man Fibber

I overheard the old man who was sitting a short distance from me on the evening commuter train complaining to his companion about Mexicans who come to this country illegally, work but don't pay taxes, collect welfare, and send the money to their six kids back home. He said he lived in Arizona. Apparently he has bought into the inaccurate anti-Hispanic rhetoric that has left much of the rest of the country wondering whether people in Arizona are getting too much sun.

A few moments later, the conductor walked through the car collecting fares. The old man showed the conductor a card which the conductor told the old man he had never seen before. The old man said the card was supposed to get him a free ride because he was a senior citizen. The conductor examined the card and read what it said on it to the old man, which explained that it was not a free-ride card at all. The conductor, apparently feeling sympathetic towards the old man, told him that he would let him ride for free today, but that he needed to buy a ticket the next time he rode. When the conductor was out of earshot, I heard the old man say to his traveling companion, “That's what the conductor told me this morning.”

The old man didn't really seem to be so confused that he didn't understand that he was supposed to pay for his train ride. He just decided to scam a free ride and let the rest of us passengers pay his way. He settled back into his seat and continued to complain about Mexicans who were, in his imagination, scamming the system and making the rest of us pay their way.

The old man has plenty of company, including the senior citizens who drive to the free movies at the public library but don't want to be annexed into the village so they won't have to pay the road and library taxes the village charges. And there's the old lady in the next town who never returns her library books because her library doesn't charge senior citizens fines. There are also the seniors who liked getting free bus rides during the former governor's term even though they knew they could afford to pay and they knew that the public bus service was having serious financial problems. Everyone, particularly seniors, seems to like a bargain. Plenty of people like it even more if they think they are getting special treatment. And some like it even more if they think they are getting away with something.

Is this human nature at work, or just people blaming nature for their own selfishness? Is the old man letting good old-fashioned racism color his views of others whom he accuses of doing what he is actually doing? It's hard to say. Maybe the Hispanics who mop the train station floor and maintain the tracks and who actually do pay taxes and don't collect welfare could answer the question.

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