Once a Consultant, Always One

Or how paying a bus fine made me happy, stirred compelling 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 remember it only on the bus.

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 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,” I said, pouting in discomfort while thinking that a taxi would’ve cost me four times less, “just give me that paper and I’ll go pay it … where do you pay for these things?

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

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

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

Me: “150?”. I immediately calculated the books I can buy with the money, especially as Carturesti has a 20% discount during 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 was 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, and 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 when 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 follow rules, I understand the purpose of taxes and fees and I don’t think anything should come for free so I have no problem paying the fine if I break the rules. I wish more people paid, and I 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 in which the system could be improved. The Oyster system comes to mind; it works perfectly fine in London. Automation, intelligent gadgets, and online payments 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 eliminate 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 proof). Finally, we wished each other a good day, and I left.

How did I realise I was a consultant? At first, I was a little upset about paying 40 times the cost of a bus ticket, 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 optimisation ideas that were obvious and clear to me.  I treated the controllers like I would my clients, in the end, they were doing their jobs, and I appreciated it.

I ended up having an excellent discussion, with friendly people, even though I ended up paying a 50 RON fine :). Maybe I should do that more often. You can build a connection with people who give you a fine, and this shows that if you treat people politely, you get the same treatment back.

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


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