This occurred at the 77th Street station on the Lexington Avenue line (i.e., the 6 train). I mistakenly entered through the turnstile on the uptown side, but I needed to go downtown to get to the Javits Center. Like most NYC subway stations, the one at 77th Street does not have any internal stairways to transfer from the uptown to the downtown side. You have to exit the station, cross the street, and re-enter on the other side.Story and Discussion
Now, I use a monthly unlimited-ride pass (the price of which recently just went up again, to $76). But when I tried swiping it through the magnetic reader of one of the turnstiles on the downtown side, the message "just used" came up on the turnstile's screen, and the turnstile would not budge. This is ostensibly a fraud-prevention measure: in order to prevent the same person from letting lots of other people into the subway without having to pay their own fares, once you use your unlimited-ride card, you have to wait 18 minutes before using it again. The problem arises in situations like the one that I was now encountering, where it doesn't make sense to require someone to wait 18 minutes just because they made an honest mistake. So the clerk at the token booth has discretion to remotely activate a turnstile to let the person through to the platform.
In fact, ironically, that had occurred just minutes earlier. When I was erroneusly entering the uptown platform, I swiped my card in the turnstile's reader; the turnstile couldn't read my card, and then when I re-swiped the card, it said "just used." That actually happens a lot. And when I told the clerk on the uptown side, she then let me onto the platform. It was only after she did so that I realized that I was on the wrong platform.
But now, when I told the token booth clerk on the downtown side of the station about my innocent mistake and asked her to let me through one of the turnstiles, she refused. "Transit policy requires you to wait 18 minutes," she insisted, like the good public servant that she was. I offered to slide my card through the reader at her booth, so that she could see that I had just used it across the street. She refused, saying, "I don't want you to do that."
Well, I wasn't about to waste 18 (okay, now it was probably down to 15) minutes of my time standing in the station (and not even on the platform, mind you, which has benches, but outside the turnstiles, where there's nothing to do but watch other people enter). So I snuck under the turnstile. Unfortunately, there were 2 cops right at the other side. "Sir, I need you to step aside," one of them said to me.
As he wrote me a summons (in the amount of $60), I told him what had driven me to a life of crime. "I'm not saying I disagree with you," he said, "but I have to do my job."