Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

The sort of thing they nailed Capone for.

I do not believe in an absolute morality. Environment and circumstances often conspire to leave absolute morality speechless and staring blankly into the pile of ashes that was once its righteousness. Murder is wrong but tyrants must be toppled. Jealousy is wrong but apathy can be devastating.

I do, nonetheless, believe in evil. I do believe that some acts cannot be justified except by one insane person speaking to another.

I do not believe in sin. I believe in pain. I do my best not to be the cause of it.

Chicago-cardWith that proclamation as prologue, let me tell you how I may have inadvertently stolen tens of dollars from the city of Chicago over the past few months.

When I was laid off in August, I had in my possession a Chicago Card, the small scanner-sensitive piece of plastic that the CTA issues to make life more convenient for those who commute frequently on the buses and trains. My card was automatically reloaded each month from my paycheck; when the warmer weather arrived and I began to bike to work more often I would consistently receive email messages telling me that my card had been loaded to a maximum ceiling amount and would not accept any further funds.

On the day I was let go–fortuitously, a day that I had not ridden my bike, which would have made carrying home my personal effects difficult–I still had a significant balance on my card that I was told I could continue to use until the card ran out of money, at which point the card would be useless (as it was issued through a business entity it could not continue to function as a personal, tax-free card). I have been taking public transportation more often recently, as the colder weather arrives, and thus far had not experienced any problems whatsoever…the scanner always beeped approvingly when I placed my card against it, the turnstile unlocked and let me through.

Today, however, curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to check the value on the card at a fare station in the Loyola station.

$0.00

Although it would not be impossible that I had just yesterday used the very last of my remaining fare money, it is fairly improbable. In the spirit of experimentation, I used my card on the turnstile. The LCD display confirmed that $1.75 had been deducted and I could pass through.

So. I have no idea how long I have been out of CTA funds, but the CTA seems to think that I have a bottomless card. What I can’t figure out is the origin of the money; how can this card keep receiving funds from a paycheck that no longer exists? If my former employer was somehow bleeding money from my public transportation sojourns, wouldn’t they have noticed by now? Wouldn’t they have taken steps to deactivate the card?

I purchased a temporary pass with a ten-dollar bill I had on me. I fear, for lack of a better word, this broken commercial item sitting in my wallet, fear the temptation to continue using it until finally the system catches up with me, I fear the system catching up with me and exacting a punishment for seemingly little more than the spite of knowing that I had managed to defeat it.

At the same time, I have not taken it out of my wallet and I have not cut the card into tiny pieces to be thrown away. I do not believe in an absolute morality, I have a mind prone to concocting disaster scenarios, and while I will do the honorable thing and purchase all of my bus and train fares in the future, I cannot make myself simply toss the card away. Perhaps it will finally deactivate, but until then, I can imagine a number of situations where I might want to have it at my disposal.

Is that immoral? Perhaps. I’ll own it for whoever needs to judge me.

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This entry was posted on November 19, 2008 by in Biking, Chicago, Society, Work.
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