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Seattle
Friday, April 3, 2020

Sound Transit’s Typhoid Marty?

Sound Transit urges passengers to practice good hygiene and avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus, but it seems to be having a harder time getting the word out to its own personnel.

On the train. The ticket inspector shown is not the one who handled the fare card.

Last night, ticket inspectors boarded the Link light rail—the first time I’ve seen them since construction for the new Eastside line tore up the Pioneer Square station, introducing confusion and delays. I held my wallet out as usual, with my senior fare card half-visible, for the approaching inspector to swipe with a handheld electronic reader. He directed me to take the card out. I replied that this was the first time in seven years (during most of which I used a likewise-personalized UW Husky Card) that an inspector had required that—was this a new policy?

“It all depends on the individual inspector,” he replied. “A card might be stolen. I need to make sure there isn’t a woman’s name on it.” (The card shows only a name, not a photo.)

For a moment I wondered if he thought I looked too young to have a senior card but realized, nyah; this must be standard procedure. I shrugged and took out the card. He took it, examined it, decided I could be an Eric, swiped it, and handed it back.

I didn’t think to ask whether he’d actually snagged any stolen fare cards this way, or how he dealt with passengers with gender-ambiguous names or transitional gender identities. But I did tell him this seemed an odd measure to take in an epidemic, when we’re supposed to maintain social distance and minimize potentially contagious contact. (He was protected by winter gloves, but he was positioning himself as a vector between any passengers whose cards he handled.)

“Just doing my job, sir,” he replied.

That’s more or less what the original Typhoid Mary said as she defied quarantine orders and continued working as a cook and spreading her namesake disease.

The passenger wearing the surgical mask in the facing seat continued staring at his phone.

Eric Scigliano
Eric Scigliano
Eric Scigliano has written on varied environmental, cultural and political subjects for many local and national publications. His books include Puget Sound: Sea Between the Mountains, Love War and Circuses (Seeing the Elephant), Michelangelo’s Mountain, Flotsametrics and the Floating World (with Curtis Ebbesmeyer), The Wild Edge, and, newly published, The Big Thaw: Ancient Carbon and a Race to Save the Planet.

2 COMMENTS

  1. My card has been checked between 5 and 10 times on my not-too-frequent trips on light rail. As I recall the inspector took my car more often than not. If this happened to me now I would take the card home, swab it down and prop it up on edge to dry. And wash my hands, of course.

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