Almost Arrested in NYC

Funny stories of yesteryear – Part 2

Written March 31, 2006

Dramatization

The following is a true event in the life of Miriam Tavis (now Bernard ;))

One frigid February night in New York City, my dear cousin Emily and I had just finished seeing an off-broadway musical. We left the theater in good spirits, only to get outside and find that a light snow was falling. Being from CA, I was greatly excited at the sight of this snow, so we snapped a few pictures and continued on our way.

About 15 minutes later, we arrived at the correct subway station on 42nd and Broadway, smack-dab in the middle of Times Square. We descended the stairs and I retrieved my handy-dandy subway card. Emily swiped her’s and went through the turnstile, then I swiped mine and began to go through… (Sidenote: If you have never been in a NYC subway station, as you enter, there are big metal turnstiles that go from ceiling to floor, and allow one person at a time through. It remains locked until you swipe your card and it briefly unlocks.)

As I pushed through the turnstile to enter the station, it felt strangely tight. I couldn’t move very well and I was really uncomfortable. Once I got through, I turned around to the sight of an Indian woman who had rudely pushed into the turnstile with me! What the heck? Was she in that much of a hurry that she couldn’t just wait her turn?

I was still puzzled by this rude woman, and by the time I had decided to forget about it and turned back around to continue on with Emily, there was a man and woman dressed in baggy clothes in my face saying, “Get up against the wall! Get up against the wall right now!!!”

Oh. My. Gosh. I thought, “This is my first time in New York alone, and I am fully getting mugged.” Was it a conspiracy? Did the Indian woman steal my wallet and now these other two are here to finish me off? My adrenaline was pumping so hard and so fast… the woman in baggy clothes was up in my face as I got against the wall and prepared for the worst.

But wait… while the woman was yelling at me, the man was up in the face of that Indian woman who pushed into the turnstile with me! What the heck was going on? And then, just as this mean lady pushed a badge in my face, it hit me.

I had unknowingly committed a crime. The man and woman shouting were cops dressed in plain clothes hanging out by the entrance to the subway station. They were just WAITING for someone like this STUP lady to decide they were too cheap to pay for the train, and then they’d bust em.

BUT I WAS INNOCENT!

Not according to them I wasn’t. It didn’t matter to the cops that this woman was wearing a Rite-Aid uniform, and I was wearing slacks, high-heel boots and a sparkly sweater… I mean, we CLEARLY weren’t coming from the same place and it was obvious we didn’t plan this crime ahead of time. We hardly even spoke the same language! None of it mattered… I was in big T.

Emily was standing about 5 feet away in complete shock that this was happening. She tried to step in and tell the cops I was innocent, but they said “Ma’am please wait over by that trash can until we finish here!” So she complied.

The woman held me against the wall and barked “Gimme your New York State ID!” These cops were not in the mood to be sweet to 18 year old Miriam. I explained to her that I was a tourist from California, and I could show her my California ID if she wanted that. Her answer was, “Technically, if you get caught for fare-sharing and you don’t have New York State ID I’m supposed to hand-cuff you and take you to the station.”

I assumed she was not referring to a subway station.

I tried to explain further. “I’m just here visiting my friend. She lives here, but I don’t.” The woman said, “Okay then let’s see her ID…” and motioned Emily over. Emily then said, “Well… I don’t exactly have a NY State ID… yet. I only moved here 6 months ago, so I still have my CA ID.”

THANK YOU Emily. This helped tremendously.

The entire time the cop was squawking about New York State IDs I’m thinkin, “Lady… do you even know what subway station you’re in? This is 42nd and Broadway. EVERYONE coming through here is gonna be a tourist…” But I didn’t dare say it out loud.

Then the man, who had been questioning the Indian woman came over to me. “Do you know this woman?” He asked. I looked at her. Her huge brown eyes looked SO afraid and she mouthed “I’m sorry” to me. I rolled my eyes and looked back at the cop. “No I’ve never seen her before. I was just going through the turnstile and it felt really tight… I didn’t even know what was going on. I’m from California… I don’t even ride subways!”

The female cop KEPT reiterating that she was supposed to arrest me, and I began to imagine what a night in jail would be like. Emily looked so worried, and I was feeling utterly victimized by the entire situation.

They finally took my California ID and decided to “let me off easy” with a ticket for 85 dollars. They kept the true felon there for further questioning. I didn’t wait around to see what happened with her. As I started on my way the male cop said, “Don’t do it again!”

“Okay Mr. Policeman! Next time I’m innocently entering the subway station I’ll make sure to carry a club and frequently look back to make sure there aren’t any tightwad Rite-Aid employees coming in behind me!”

Actually, I said, “Yes Sir.” and walked away.

I was so frazzled that when I reached the trash can where Emily was told to wait I had no words. We just linked arms and began walking QUICKLY away from the scene. Roughly 30 seconds later, I began to see a speck of humor in this whole situation and let out a little, “Huh…” with a half smile.  Emily looked at me and I looked at her… and we broke into a fit of laughter that lasted the entire ride home.

What. A. Memory.

Follow-Up: I tried to contest my $85 ticket several times, but kept getting the same answer: “Please report to the New York City Courthouse on May 5, 2005”. Well uh, it seems that New Yorkers don’t understand the concept of TOURISM… because I was not going to fly back to New York just to have a trial over this. So I paid the dang ticket.

And yes, I’m still holding on to my grudge.

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