Just because I’m only passing through Cleveland in the course of a four-hour bus transfer is no reason for me not to dog on the city for being douchetastic.

Nay, let me start by dogging on Megabus for its freshly reaffirmed ball suckage. It wasn’t a particularly advisable thing for me to cobble together a 35-hour bus and train trip from Madison to the District of Columbia, but on the other hand, at a hair under a hundred dollars, the price was right, and as it happened, the trip went rather swimmingly for the first fourteen hours. Then I started getting awoken every half hour or so: a rest stop in Bumfuckville, IN (I think), toll plazas, a stop on the sorry-ass south side of Toledo, and round after round of crosswinds, which usually made it feel like the bus was about to tip over.

Megabus’ ball suckage as an intercity passenger motor carrier thus established, we can move on. (If you have a problem with Megabus’ Chicago boarding area, I do, too, but you’ll have to do any substantive complaining.) One thing Megabus does well in a number of cities other than Toledo is to place its stops in very convenient downtown locations. The Cleveland stop is located catty-corner from the Renaissance Hotel side of Terminal Tower. This is to say that notwithstanding the provable suckitude of the stop itself, it’s in a bloody well convenient location. Barring a downpour or a shitload of unsalted snow, a physically fit person has more than enough time to get himself and his shiznit across the street, under cover and, after another short walk, onto the Regional Transit Authority rail system. This is the heart of Cleveland, one of the jewels that the city strives to show to its tourists.

It makes for a disturbing first impression. Maybe the municipal powers-that-be figure that the visitors, not to mention local commuters, are too narcotized to notice that they’re passing through an overt police state.

The first real trouble sign I noticed was transit cops everywhere. I’m not against transit cops, but I am against six transit cops and a German Shepherd loitering at the entrance to a city’s main subway station. In a way, it’s worse than six hoodlums and a Pit Bull. It’s a lot more effective to call the cops on a group of hoodlums than on a group of cops. Large numbers of cops at loose ends are, with unfortunately rare exceptions, bad news. They’re pernicious in much the same fashion as standing armies. In fact, it’s reasonable to argue that the Founding Fathers would have considered modern American police forces standing armies.

In retrospect, I think I happened upon the cop mob just after roll call; a few minutes later, I returned from the restroom to find only two in front at the entrance to the station. Still, the police presence dissuaded me from taking the joyride that I had considered taking on the RTA, which, from everything I’ve heard, is a bitchin’ system. I’m tired, unshowered, somewhat unfamiliar with Cleveland, and carrying a shitload of luggage. I don’t want the cops getting up in my face and making me either brook an infringement of my Constitutional rights or initiate an internal affairs investigation or litigation from out of state. Basically, it’s a matter of street smarts.

The irony here is that RTA employees scared off a potential paying passenger, since I am not the kind of douchebag who purposely jumps fare. To say the least, this is shitty customer service. Then again, the RTA police are probably less interested in customer service than in justifying their own existence. Pretending that there’s a street crime or, better yet, terrorism threat on the rapid transit system is a great way to do that.

In the spirit of shit hitting the fan on the subway, let’s do a threat assessment. Street crime is a credible threat. For one thing, the system is currently infested by a cliquish armed gang of dubious intent with a possibly dangerous dog under their command. I refer, of course, to the cops. Having one’s passage through the subway system without cause by common hoodlums constitutes street crime, and so does having one’s passage unlawfully obstructed by sworn hoodlums. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the RTA Police looked worse to my fatigued eyes than they actually were. I like to err on the side of caution in these situations, so it’s a possibility. Maybe they’re like Amtrak conductors: a bunch of friendly, decent, lazy guys (and occasional girls) who like to ride around on trains. It could be; I’ve certainly met SEPTA cops who were, including an Officer Montgomery who chatted me up about how much he hated the summer heat in Philadelphia and was looking forward to retiring to the Maine coast. A bit of laziness isn’t a bad thing at all in a cop if his agency is overstaffed, and the RTA Police are damn straight overstaffed. If the RTA cops are actually chill, which is to say, adequately disciplined, familiar with the Constitution and respectful of it, the remaining criminal element on the RTA is probably an occasional ghetto hoodlum who fancies himself an extra in a Jim Croce underworld ballad. (He may not have heard of Jim Croce, but that isn’t necessarily relevant.) The upshot is that if crime is really an issue on the rapid transit system, the solution, Barney, is to get thee to the ghetto.

Now, for our next threat assessment, concerning terrorism. It’s a possibility. Also a possibility is Terminal Tower being swallowed up by a giant sinkhole at the moment that the New Madrid fault slips and a Category Five hurricane hits town.

Has anyone paid any fucking attention to actual, proven threats to our mass transit systems instead of lurid fantasies of Muslims blowing up more of our shit? Every few weeks or months, the FBI claims to have intercepted some terror cell whose plot, so called, was usually proposed entirely by an FBI asset or undercover agent. The story arc is one for a childish, paranoid people. “Hey, Mahmoud, wanna do jihad?” “Uh, yeah, I guess we could do some jihad. Or maybe we could go play pinball and then go see Batman.” “Mahmoud, my man, we should blow up Terminal Tower. You down?” “Uh, maybe. Dude, Ahmed, Pizza Hut is offering a ten-dollar special with dessert bread sticks this week, and they’re running a South Park marathon.” “Yo, Mahmoud, how about we use C4?” “C4? What’s that? Yeah, whatever. We can use some C4.” The NYPD, for its part, just makes up outlandish stories without even pressing charges.

Meanwhile, most of the carnage on our railroad system occurs at grade crossings. Grade crossing accidents with on-board fatalities are a routine occurrence. Six people were killed when a trucker slammed into the California Zephyr in rural Nevada, thirteen when a suicidal man parked his truck on the Metrolink tracks in Glendale, then got cold feet. On many heavy rail lines, every engineer has been at the controls during a suicide by train. The suicides should sadden us, and the other deaths should outrage us and make us demand infrastructure improvements. Apparently they don’t register.

The police state at Terminal Tower isn’t just the work of the police per se. It’s actually a public-private partnership, which I understand is quite the in thing in policy circles these days. The private part of the partnership comes from the Tower City mall management. As public spaces go, Tower City is an odd one, a privately managed shopping mall that is also a public access to the main transfer point of a county rail transit system. As a private entity, Tower City has more latitude to get away with infringements of its customers’ rights than the RTA has as a public entity. The public display and enforcement (I assume) of asshat lawhead regulations isn’t unusual for a mall, but the enforcement of these regulations by private police on a public right-of-way serving a public transit station is unusual, and dubious.
It is not the hallmark of a free people.

Some of the regulations make a bit of sense, e.g., the “no shirt, no shoes” rule. It isn’t customary to be allowed onto a train shoeless and shirtless, either, so fair enough.

The regulations governing minors are anything but fair. Minors under the age of 18 are barred from shopping at the mall after 2:30 pm unless they’re in the company of a parent or legal guardian of at least 21. Somewhat absurdly, the rationale for this rule is that management wants to create a “family-friendly atmosphere.” Let me rephrase that in English: teenagers, who are as a group partially grown up, and some of them very much so as individuals, are to be barred from the premises to make room for uncontrollable noisy children. I’m not kidding. Teenagers, especially older ones, can generally be reasoned with. They are simply not as feral as they’re made out to be. It’s a bit harder to control younger teens and preteens. Toddlers can hardly be controlled by their own parents; the only thing that reliably works is brute force.

I’m not arguing that young children should be barred from shopping centers. To the contrary, I consider that inequitable and bad policy. I consider it entirely appropriate for parents to socialize their young children by taking them out in public. That said, it’s specious to argue that sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds will inevitably ruin public manners in a venue full of little brats. That’s like saying that a mild-mannered British pubgoer nursing his pint of bitter in the corner was what caused a Lindsay Lohan party to go to hell.

Truly unruly individuals and groups of teens warrant some counseling by management, but reasonable people can deal with such people on a case-by-case basis. The kicker, of course, is that mall security is about the last cohort that can be expected to have a lick of common sense. They’re mouthbreathing bottomfeeders who enjoy dressing up like cops. They mightily deserve a righteous bitchslapping at the hands of the real constabulary. If any mall cops are reading this, fuck you, Paul Blart. This failed San Diego Police applicant doesn’t aggrandize himself by walking around dressed up like a Pennsylvania State Trooper and sanctimoniously giving teenagers the bum’s rush.

Honestly, the quibbles that mall management usually has with teenagers have little to do with fundamental standards of civilized behavior. The real issue is that a cohort of overly sensitive asses in the older, wealthier parts of the customer base is mildly uncomfortable around young people who choose to dress in styles that they find objectionable and behave slightly more boisterously than they consider appropriate, and that these older customers are not hesitant to express their righteous butthurt about kids these days. They probably feel more than a bit of resentment over their own lost youth, too. At the other extreme are helicopter parents who are concerned that exposure to teenagers will turn their precious snowflakes into teenagers. (Spoiler alert: it’ll happen no matter what you do.) Much of this handwringing is over nothing more serious than teens being a bit loud, dropping an occasional F-bomb in public, and sporting too much Hollister.

Good news: the last problem can be remedied by calling Chris Hansen. He might enjoy a tryst. Just try not to be too articulate for  a young lady of your age; that would, like, totally spoil the mood.

A sub-clause of the teenager abatement regulation at Tower City stated that mall management expects children to be in school or in transit to or from school during school hours. Oh, dear, Aunt Gertrude, have you got a grip on your pearls? Mercy me! Oh, what am I saying? I must be coming down with a case of hysteria. Of course it is the proper role of merchants to ensure that hapless youth are subjected to the pedagogy of the Cleveland School District! How else would they become literate, numerate and well-read? Yes, the Cleveland School District, bulwark of Western Civilization, defender of all that is worthy and edifying in Christendom. But of course!

Here’s a revolutionary proposal: might it be possible to deal with truancy on a case-by-case basis? Might it be possible to determine what the student finds objectionable about school and find a way to either remedy it or help him adapt? Might there be ways to improve the schools so that they aren’t administered by petty tyrannical asshats who leave instruction in the hands of the incompetent, the burnt out, and the condescending? Might there be ways to keep the basest of the students from dragging their promising peers down like crabs in a barrel? You know, actual adult supervision, as opposed to de facto guards and wardens who haven’t a lick of the street smarts and social skills that they would need to hack it in a real prison? Not to put too fine a point on it, there’s ample evidence that the Cleveland School District sucks balls, like most urban districts, but most of rural and suburban districts in the US are champions at ball suckage in their own right. These are not healthy places. Our young adults end up sane and well-adjusted in spite of them, not because of them.

If you’re a Cleveland public school student who wants to play hooky, say, by hanging out at Starbucks and reading literate and intelligent blogs (such as this one) instead of pretending to read along while some flustered, embarrassed illiterate classmate tries to sightread the insipid prose in your biology textbook, I ain’t exactly aginnit. Just try to get your truancy counselor to fast-track you into community college. You’ll probably do a lot better in the midst of adults who actually want to be in school than you’re doing in the midst of  unrepentant children who don’t.

If you’re a public school teacher who is concerned that I’m abetting truancy, let me say that there are worse things than being AWOL from unreformable shitholes. If you’re an administrator who is outraged that I’m abetting truancy, fuck you. Seriously, up your ass, motherfucker. If we ever exchange words in person, I’ll probably be able to leave you in tears using language that would pass muster in a court of law. School administrators are an ilk that greatly deserves to enjoy a round or two of non-consensual buttfuckery; I know whereof I speak. Dante would have designated a circle of hell for y’all had they existed back in the day; not all y’all, but enough. So, to conclude this writing assignment, fuck you.

Eh, that bit about being done with the post was bullshit. Kind of. There’s one more Tower City regulation that a free people won’t brook, namely, the one forbidding photography and videorecording without prior consent. Remember, Tower City is an access easement for a subway station that is patrolled by transit police. It appears that as public servants, the RTA Police are subject to Chapter 2921.45 of the Ohio Revised Code. I know, I totally just did a quickie Google search for this shiznit, but it looks reputable:

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2921

Which says:

2921.45 Interfering with civil rights.

(A) No public servant, under color of his office, employment, or authority, shall knowingly deprive, or conspire or attempt to deprive any person of a constitutional or statutory right.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of interfering with civil rights, a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Effective Date: 01-01-1974

Ka-BAM!

For any badgelicking cretins or total idiots reading this, I note that video or photographs taken within the privately owned part of Terminal Tower could well be of evidentiary value in establishing a 2921.45 violation on the part of the RTA Police. Consequently, the videography and photography policy is set up to unlawfully deprive citizens of recourse against criminal violations of their civil rights by police officers. In the event of a credible violation of civil rights, it constitutes prior restraint for the purpose of obstructing justice on behalf of police officers who are unfit for duty. Prosecutors in Ohio can be expected to weasel out of their duties and retaliate against victims in such a case by asserting two party consent, but that’s a very dodgy position constitutionally.

No, I’m not an attorney. If any attorneys want to challenge me on points of law, be my guest. If any attorneys want to challenge me on the basis that I’m an uppity layman, they can go to hell.

Probably the same circle of hell as school administrators.

Since I’ve been spilling ink everywhere about transit cops, I can’t close without mentioning a sign that I saw in a BART elevator a few months ago. The BART Police had put up a sign warning the homeless that they would be arrested or summonsed to court if they were caught urinating or defecating in the elevator. This was at the Embarcadero Station, where the homeless are legion but the public restrooms not so much. It’s also probably easier to clean up and less likely to result in chronic skin diseases if the homeless shit and piss in the elevator rather than their pants, and believe me, I know from experience at the LA Metro Center station that it doesn’t necessarily smell any worse, either.

This sign in the BART elevator was defaced with one of the most apt graffiti I’ve ever seen. Right above the warning that the BART Police would make arrests or issue citations, someone had scrawled, “And Then Pee on U!”

Amen, brother!

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