Or how paying a fine made me happy, brought me nice conversations and revealed things about myself that I wasn’t aware of...

I forgot to charge my bus card, as I rarely use it. As my office is in the middle of nowhere, there’s basically nowhere to buy any card so I risked it today, I jumped on the bus in a hurry to get to the gym and forgot all about my card. I did remember about it in the bus.

It all went well – I felt a bit guilty for trying to cheat on the system but No Bullshit Social Media kept me busy. Until the controllers came. There were three of them, I was the lucky winner of  a lady. I explained to her that I usually charge my card, today I hadn’t done it and just said I can get away with it. She said I should pay a fine, but I had no cash with me so she told me I could pay it later.

Me: “Fine, says I, pouting in discomfort while thinking that a taxi would’ve costed me four times less, just make that paper and I’ll go pay it … where do you pay these things?”

Lady controller: “At the public administration institution located …” (I forgot immediately)

Me: “All right, how much does it cost anyway?”

LC: “Well 50 RON if you pay it now or 150 if you pay it later”.

Me: “150?”. I immediately calculated the books I can buy with the money, especially as Carturesti has 20% discount in this period. “Well then, I want to pay it now, can I use my card?”.

Controller no. 2 & 3 just arrived next to us curious to find out what’s going on.

Controller 2: “No, we don’t have this card system in place yet unfortunately”.

Me: “Why not? It would be super easy. I just pay with the card, you make no paper, you can have some tiny gadgets to register the fine. Can I actually load my bus card online?”

Controller 3: “Yes, but you get some errors. The system works sometimes, but there are times where you put money on your card and it just doesn’t show up on when you use it”

Me: “Well if the online system would work, you could have a history of my payments and find out I was in good faith. Plus, as the card has my social number, the machines can be improved so that I pay with the card even if there is no money on it. If I don’t add the money in … let’s say 48 hours, then I should pay the fine. Wouldn’t it be easier?”

The nice controllers actually answered and we had a long discussion about how the system could be improved. They were very nice to me, I was very nice to them. I love rules, I like taxes and fees and I don’t think anything should come for free so I have no problems to pay when breaking the rules. I wish more people paid, but I just want it to be easy to do. I don’t want to go through hustle (paying in a public institution usually means going during working hours, waiting in interminable lines and signing lots of papers).

On the other hand I could see many ways how the system could be improved. The Oyster system comes to mind, it works perfectly fine in London. Automation, smart gadgets, online payments, they all come to mind. I understand there would be some investment in the infrastructure but in the long-term the company will cover losses and get rid of the travellers who have the habit of travelling for free.

I made friends with the controllers, got down at the next station, took out cash and paid my fine on the spot. They even gave me a card to remind me of it (or as a proof). We wished each others nice things and I left.

How did I realize I was a consultant? I was a little upset for paying 40 times the cost of a bus ticket at first but I completely forgot about it when talking to the controllers and spotting the errors in the processes and systems they used. I immediately came up with optimization ideas, which were very obvious and clear to me.  I treated the controllers like I would my clients, in the end they were doing their jobs and I actually appreciate this. We had a nice discussion, with nice people, even though I paid 50 RON in the end. Maybe I should do that more often. I am actually surprised of my reaction and of the connection I could build with people that were punishing me for not following the rules. But it does show that if you treat people nicely, you get the same treatment back. Eat your heart out, Stanford Prison Experiment 🙂

Here’s the proof, I am super proud of my first ever fine:

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