i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Stressful Day With MTA

last friday i was headed to queens to meet some friends around noon. i swiped my reduced fare, unlimited metro, ready to board the b train downtown. but there was a message which read: see agent. the agent informed me the card was cancelled. puzzled and embarrassed, I asked why. he suggested I phone customer service. 

I felt like florida after losing james on good times - damn, damn, damn...

normally i'd demand an explanation; as if i were innocent. at the beginning of this month, i noticed a $35 overdraft fee on my bank statement. yet there was no creditor listed. i quickly called to seek a refund. three days they returned the money. shortly thereafter, i received a notice from my bank stating mta was unable to charge $56 from my savings for my card.

this is (only) the second time i've been penalized by mta for neglecting to have money in my savings account. when i got the card i set up the agreement online. i don't drive and use the card regularly, but not daily. sometimes more than six weeks or two months go by without mta replenishing $56 for the monthly half-fare card.

initially i thought the card was cancelled because of the expiration date. however i realized i needed to make amends. i waited almost 15 minutes (!) to speak with a person, to no avail. i called again later, waiting almost ten minutes with the same result. finally, exasperated and worried about my future travel security, i called and spoke with someone who gave me three options.

1) mail the card in for a replacement card; 2) get a temporary card from a bus or subway agent; 3) come in to the office for a replacement card. sigh. i was tempted to ask her: can i buy a vowel? but she may have neither understood nor appreciated my daytime talk show reference at 5:15 pm on a friday afternoon. i couldn't bear going the weekend and not have some answers.

i got to the lower manhattan office around 8:45 am. there were about 25 people waiting outside. i surrendered my sense of entitlement and terminal uniqueness one prayer at a time. surprisingly, the line moved swiftly, as did my intolerance with people who don't speak english, forget why they're standing in line at 8:45 am, or lack adequate identification.

the customer service agent, a pleasant, older black man, informed me i could get a replacement card in the mail if i pay mta $81.27. they were also charging me $25.00 for the error. he said the card would be mailed in about three weeks, and i could use a temporary card until then.

he also suggested i "get out of the system and use a regular card like you used to." although he was looking at a computer screen and had access to my past, i felt violated. how do you, specifically you, know i once used a regular card? why do you want me to opt out of the system? i'm a customer, not a professional athlete.

my cynicism, distrust and resentment with authority began to resurface. clearly this would benefit the bureaucracy, one well documented with historical cash flow problems. he said i could pay $25.27 and simply put money on a temporary card whenever i needed to. and, they would mail me, in about three weeks, a replacement card with no money on it.

i just wanted them to take the $56 out of my savings account while i was at the office. can't they just push a button or something? i have $60.88 in the account, but i couldn't negotiate because i left my debit card at home. i didn't think i would need it. i thought they would give me a replacement card, like the agent said on friday. she said it would probably take about 15 minutes. she was wrong.

i don't like her right now.

i felt manipulated into doing what he wanted. the stress, worry and uncertainty began to overwhelm my sleepy brain. i became uber-conscious of the other people in line waiting to be served and didn't want this ordeal to go on much longer. I wanted to act like an adult, but felt like a child trying to make a grown up decision.

i thought if i only paid them $25.27 i'd have more cash to hold me over until my reparations check arrives. what's the big deal about the inconvenience of putting money on a card from time to time? besides, i need to address my laziness and procrastination issues anyway. i resigned myself to a couple of weeks of walking more and riding less. i told him to cancel the account.

as i went home to get a money order, i started to feel like i fell for the banana and the tail pipe. (note: if you haven't seen beverly hills cop, that joke will probably elude you. and that's okay). i reflected on the day's events and decided to follow my instinct and trust my spirit. even if his intentions were sincere, i was not going to let him influence my choices.

i returned in about 90 minutes with a money order for $81.27. i wanted to resolve this issue with the same agent. i did, yet he seemed disappointed i changed my mind about closing my account. he also admitted he kept my paperwork nearby just in case. he said he was confused about how to handle the situation but nonetheless offered to have the new card sent by fed ex no later than friday.


on my way out, i noticed a buddy sitting in the waiting area. he gave me a hug and probably sensed my distraught look. i told him the situation from start to finish. his compassionate ear, quiet reassurance and warm smile genuinely comforted me. but when he put a $10 bill in my hand, i was ready to cry. the kindness of god's angels continue to feed my spirit and restore my faith in humanity.      

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