Monday, October 12, 2009

My Skip Gates Moment

If you saw my 4am Tweet on Sunday morning, then you already know that I had some sort of a run-in with the NYPD...the circumstances of which are simply ridiculous. I was coming home from the Lower East Side after a late night with friends Rich D. and Leah G.. While I certainly had been drinking, I was not the least bit inebriated. So, rather than spend $35 for a cab ride all the way back to the Heights, I decided to brave the subway system knowing full well that weekend construction, along with limited late-night service, would result in at least an hour-long trip. Not a big deal---I do it all the time.

When I finally caught the A-train local at West 4th Street, it was about 2:45am and the train was, of course, virtually for the usual assortment of late-night riff-raff. Knowing that my train would dead-end at 168th Street (again, due to construction), there was no risk of over-sleeping in closing my eyes and taking a 45-minute nap. While I never was fully asleep for more than a minute or two, when the train pulled into the stop at 125th Street, a police officer walked on to the train and, using his night stick, loudly banged on the seat next to me. I was not asleep, but I did have my eyes closed and I also had my foot up on the empty seat next to me. Remember---this train is 90% empty. I opened my eyes (more like they popped out of my head) and the officer said to step off the train. More than a bit confused, I asked what for, to which he said I was sleeping on the train and I had to get off.

If you've ever had to wait for a train at 3am, you know that the LAST thing you want to do is step off the train you ALREADY had waited 30 minutes for. I reluctantly stepped off the train, wide awake...not sluggish and fully sober. Here's the rough dialogue which took place:

Me: I don't understand. Why can't I just get back on the train? I'm clearly not drunk and I'm wide awake.

Officer: Take the next train.

Me: But why? This train is still here. I don't want to wait another 30 minutes. This one is right here.

Officer: Take the next train.

Me: But that's ridiculous. Why?

Officer: Go over there and sit down.

Me: Why?

Officer: Go sit down.

Me: I don't wanna sit down. I wanna get back on this train and get home. I don't even understand what I did.

Officer: You were taking up more than one seat. It's a quality of life violation.

Me: A quality of life violation??? Every person on that train is taking up more than one seat. And I'm the only one on there who isn't pissing themselves!

Officer: Don't make me ask you again. Sit down.

Me: No. I'm gonna stand. I've done nothing wrong and I don't have to sit if I don't want to.

At this point the train, which had just been waiting there for several minutes, finally closes its doors and departs.

Me: Great.

Officer: Let me see some ID.

I hand him my ID and, after some cooperative back and forth, he asks if I have any warrants.

Me: I'm wanted in Arizona for taking up three whole seats on a bus once! But I was fatter then. Of course, I don't have any warrants.

In retrospect, I have no idea why I used Arizona as the state of choice for my belligerent response, but that's hardly the point, I suppose. I was now surrounded by five of NYPD's finest and my ID was being run. One of the new officers brings out some Mentos to give to one of the other cops. I hold my hand out...

Me: I hope you brought enough for everyone.

To his credit, he did! He gave me one and I chewed it as the jerky officer continued to check my warrant status. I started talking to a different officer at this point.

Me: This is ridiculous. You can see with your own eyes that I'm not doing anything wrong. I had my leg up on a second seat. The right thing to do would be to wake me, warn me, and send me on my way. Why you gotta pull me off the train like this? This is an absurd waste of your time and mine.

Officer: It's for your own good. There are a lot of bad people out there who will come up to people sleeping on a train and use a razor blade to cut open their pockets and steal their wallet.

Me: Then arrest them! Arresting people so they can't become victims is like the worst preventative strategy I've ever heard.

The jerky officer comes back over and returns my ID. This has now been going on for about 15 minutes.

Officer: No warrants.

Me: No shit.

Officer: I'm gonna give you a court summons to appear. You can either pay the fine or request a hearing.

Me: New York's finest. Five officers to make a point about putting my leg up on an empty A-train at 3am. You guys are awesome.

So now I have a $50 fine for "obstruction seating." Was I a jerk? Yes. Absolutely. However, while I have a tremendous amount of respect for law enforcement, I have even more respect for common sense. There was no value in him pulling me off the train. And if he wasn't going to give me a ticket before I opened my mouth, he shouldn't have given it after. It's one thing if the officer in question was out there writing tickets to everyone doing this, but he wasn't. He singled me out and then, as if to punish me, demanded I sit in a corner and take a time out.

Nobody puts Kraig in a corner. Nobody.


Blogger Morgan said...

i was with you right up until i had to picture you saying "Why you gotta pull me off the train like this?". you would never not speak in full, grammatically correct sentences.

October 13, 2009 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger travisneal said...

That's a good story. I've had some encounters like that and I ask for the officer's sergeant. Of course they say I have no right to such a request but sure as shit the sergeant arrives within a few minutes. It's never helped me but I could tell that the officer will get some grief afterwards for being a douche.

October 13, 2009 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

Morgan - Oh, please. You've totally heard my ghetto-speak when I get angry.

Travis - Encounters? What kind of a hell raising are you up to these days???

October 13, 2009 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Josh Stevens said...

you didnt break the law. i disputed this exact thing and it was thrown out:

I am disputing the violation number 101923920. For the same grounds as violation number 102478063 issued the following day at the same station, I believe this violation should be dismissed.

Regarding the validity of the ticket, I was neither sleeping nor had my feet on the seat. Additionally, I was the only rider in the car at the time of the violation.

Per Section 1050.07 of the MTA Rules: No person on or in any facility or conveyance shall sleep or doze where such activity may be hazardous to such person or to others or may interfere with the operation of the Authority’s transit system or the comfort of its passengers.

Also per Section 1050.10: No person on or in any facility or conveyance shall: (1) occupy more than one seat on a station, platform or conveyance when to do so would interfere or tend to interfere with the operation of the Authority’s transit system or the comfort of other passengers.

At 2:30 a.m. on an empty subway car, neither of these activities poses a threat or nuisance to myself or anyone else.

February 11, 2010 at 12:34 AM  

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