The university I work for pays me to ride the bus–that is, as long as I’m going to or from work I can swipe my employee ID and ride for free. If I’m riding the bus on my own time, just for fun or going somewhere, of course I pay my own way, because making the university pay for it would be dishonest and unethical and most importantly I don’t know if they check for that sort of thing. And it’s a good program. As a top-level administrator recently put it, “A university is a collection of academic schools all united by a common parking problem,” but that’s another story. Mostly too getting my card out of my wallet when the bus comes trundling along isn’t a problem, although there was one time when I was putting my card back in my wallet and the bus lurched forward. I fell and broke my card into pieces and was prepared to pay the $20 replacement fee but the people at the card office told me the replacement fee was only for lost cards and they gave me a new one for free. So if I ever do lose my card I know I just need to steal someone else’s, smash it, and pretend it’s mine and hope they don’t ask me to prove I’m a 79-year old Sri Lankan professor of entomology.
And I admire an Australian man named Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, and before you ask I admire him in spite of that being his legal name which sounds like something Godzilla threw up after swallowing a Japanese pop festival. Mr. Meow-Meow–I’m going to assume that’s how he signs formal correspondence–had his local transit card implanted in his hand so he wouldn’t have to pull it out of his pocket or wallet or sock or from wherever he might normally keep his card. All he had to do was wave his hand near the kiosk, which could still read the card under his hand, and he could ride. This wasn’t a problem until he was asked by security to show his card which he couldn’t do without ripping it out of his arm.
Now his decision may seem to be well on the distaff side of the line between genius and madness but I’m not kidding when I say there is something admirable about it. I like to think he really thought it through and was willing to accept that in the future the card system may change, requiring removal and possibly a new implant, but he’s willing to accept some possible future inconvenience to have a little more convenience now. And the case does raise ethical questions about implantable technology, the rights of the individual, and the definition of private property. He was fined for failing to produce his card–fair enough, since he couldn’t, but I think the law and the transit system went too far when they cancelled the card, effectively taking his payment even though he didn’t violate the terms of service because he didn‘t “misuse, deface, alter, tamper with or deliberately damage or destroy” the card.
Even though Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow pled guilty in court he’s considering further legal action and he’s running for local office, and I wish him luck. Also I kind of wish when he was stopped by security he’d just ripped the card right out of his flesh because that would have shown a real fare for the dramatic.