I like to follow the rules; I do not have the steady nerves it takes to enjoy the thrill of doing something I could get in trouble for, especially legal trouble. It completely freaks me out and ruins any pleasure I might have gotten out of it in the first place but even I can get in trouble without trying!
While riding the metro I like to guess where people are from, possibly where they are going, think of back stories for each passenger.
This young couple in front of me for instance, they have been separated for quite some time and have just been reunited. This must be why they cannot resist kissing each other passionately while their hands wander rediscovering their lover’s body amidst all these perfect strangers.
This young woman next to me, she is heading to a job she dreads, dreaming of when she will meet a rich handsome man so she can make beautiful babies and live the rest of her life out in peace.
These three friends in front of me all from different ethnicities, what about them I wonder… just then they whip out badges and begin to question everyone on the train. People begin to panic, some try to walk further down the train trying to avoid contact and some, like me, wonder what chaos is unfolding around them.
I quickly realize they are checking everyone for proper metro tickets, no problem I’ve got mine and confidently pull it out, hand it over and the next thing I know I am being pulled off the train and questioned in German by a stern woman in her 30’s who seems to take great pleasure in finding people who are breaking the law so she can collect a hefty fine from them.
So what was my violation?
I was just buying a one-way ticket, not a round trip ticket and my options were to buy a whole or a half ticket.
Common sense tells me that whole would be roundtrip and half would be one-way, right?
Well this is not the translation Vienna uses, in fact half means child. As in half size.
My officer speaks almost NO English so she calls over some backup to help translate where they explain to me that I have bought a children’s ticket and that I am to be fined. I try my best to explain the simple error and how that could be confusing, I use my best “please officer, don’t give me a ticket” face but all this is to no avail. They tell me repeatedly, wrong ticket, you pay.
“Wrong ticket, YOU PAY!”
Obviously they don’t have any sympathy for travelers who don’t understand that half actually means child and no matter how much I fight and try to explain the misleading translation, offering to just go buy the right ticket. Still no sign that they are going to back down so I reluctantly ask
“How much is the fine for having the wrong ticket?”
Their response is a staggering “$100 Euros”
Which is roughly $125 US Dollars! My mouth drops, I once again try to protest this HUGE fine for such a small error but they insist ““Wrong ticket, YOU PAY! Cash or card?”
With all the dread and distain I can manage I hand over $100 Euros which is a week’s worth of travel money.
So on my last day in Vienna rather than wandering through another expensive museum or pay for an over charged tour I decide I would rather head back to my favorite local spot at the Museum Quarter to enjoy Vienna’s local beer, have some lunch and read my book. It was quiet and peaceful and just what I needed to help ease the tension between me and Vienna’s lack of help and understanding to the tourists visiting their city.