I was coming back home, with two of my fellows, from sales training. As we entered the subway car and stood in front of the door, an inspector, who checks validity of passenger tickets, stepped in after us.
We recognized the inspector by his black uniform and a bag, which almost all inspectors wear underneath their beer bellies.
The doors were still open. Typically, inspectors won’t check pessangers until the doors are not slammed shut and subway starts moving. It took roughly 5-6 seconds for everybody to enter the car and for the doors to close.
Here is what happened during those 5-6 seconds.
All three of us stopped talking as soon as we noticed the inspector walk in. He stood a meter away from us, by the metro entrance door waiting for the doors to close. I was totally relaxed, since I had no problems with my public transport ticket. Nor did our Kazakh friend. But the Uzbek fellow forgot to buy one for this month.
Free riding is charged with at least 800 Czech korunas (more than $30). It’s a significant amount of money for a student. It might be spent to fill our refrigerator with food that is good enough to survive half a month.
The guy from Kazakhstan is a genius. He did something that I could never do. He immediately noticed how my Uzbek friend’s face changed from a “regular face” to a “worrying face” when the Uzbek saw the inspector. The Kazakh fished HIS OWN ticket out of his wallet and handed it to the Uzbek in such an inconspicuous way that even I didn’t spot it, although I stood just next to them. Then Yernar (the Kazakh) turned around and slowly walked a few steps away into the crowd. He knew that inspectors usually check only a few people around them. They are just not able to control everybody.
Here is what happens afterwards.
When the doors close and metro starts to move, the inspector shows a metallic yellow-and-red badge (confirming that he is really an inspector) and says something in Czech. I understood from his body language that he asks for my ticket. I hand him my ticket. He checks it with special equipment, gives the ticket back to me saying “Děkuji [Thanks]“.
Then he asks for Doniyor’s ticket, who is standing just next to me. The serious inspector checks it. Hands it back saying “Děkuji”.
The inspector controlled a few other passengers in that subway car. When we arrived at the next station, he got off. He never checked the Kazakh.
Yernar walked out of the crowd towards us with a smile on his face. The Uzbek gave Yernar’s ticket back and said: “Спасибо, брат! Как я мог забыть купить билет за этот месяц?! [Thanks, bro! How could I forget to buy a ticket for this month?!]”
I admire Yernar’s loyalty. If my UFC coach would know him in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, I bet my coach would say with his gangster voice: “Give me two more of such guys, and I will take the whole town under my control.”