Ella, an Aussie girl, arrives in New York City and immediately hits it off with a fellow backpacker Raylan, from Miami. They hit the bars that night, stroll the streets, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, enjoying the night. After a few more bars, they pass an open kids’ playground.
Raylan says, ‘Let’s go in. I’ll push you on the swing.’
They barely step inside when five —count ’em, FIVE—cops jump out of the bushes and surround them.
‘You know why we stopped you?’ one demands.
‘No,’ replies a startled Ella, her eyes darting from cop to cop. They all return unblinking stares.
‘The park is closed, and you’re gonna get a ticket for a breach of the law.’
‘But we didn’t know!’ she exclaims. ‘The gate was open. We’re only tourists.’
‘Doesn’t matter,’ he said grimly. ‘You shoulda read the sign.’
‘In the dark?’
Raylan pats her shoulder. ‘It’s OK, Ella, just chill.’
The cop sticks out his hand. ‘ID, please.’
‘This is so unfair,’ Ella bursts out.
‘You can appeal, OK. Stop yapping.’ He scribbles down their details from their driver’s licences. He has trouble comprehending Ella’s Aussie licence for some time. ‘I’ve never seen one like this before.’
In the morning, Ella reads the $50 violation ticket. Her licence had confused the cop all right. Her name has been spelled wrong, and her country of residence is Canada. ‘For God’s sake,’ she fumes.
She finds the website to lodge an appeal, and six weeks later, appears in court in Brooklyn. Raylan has paid his ticket and fled home. She’s ushered into a small room to stand before the judge behind his office desk.
‘Raise your right hand and repeat after me,’ he says. ‘I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.’
‘Yes,’ Ella replies nervously.
The judge leans forward, puzzled. ‘Do you speak English? Do you need a court interpreter?’
‘No, I’m fine, I’m Australian.’
‘You’re to repeat the oath after me.’
‘Sorry, I forgot.’
The judge sighs. ‘Why do you wish to appeal?’
Ella takes a deep breath. ‘Because I was drunk, I was in a foreign country, I didn’t know the park was closed, the police wouldn’t let me leave, and they wrote down all my details wrong.’
The judge looks down at the ticket. ‘Is this your correct name?’
‘Do you live in Canada?’
He tosses the ticket aside. ‘If the details are wrong, the ticket is invalid. Don’t worry about it.’
Ella walks outside, takes a deep breath. I love New York, she says to herself. Just love it.
A year later, as Ella leaves to catch her flight home, she finds herself in the subway with no ticket and her train pulling in.
‘I can’t be late for the flight,’ she mutters and jumps the ticket barrier.
An arm restrains her; two other cops bar her way.
‘You know why we stopped you?’ one asks.
‘Um, jumping the gate?’
‘That’s a violation.’
‘I had to,’ she replies. ‘I don’t want to miss my flight.’
‘Whatever.’ The cop shrugs, takes her driver’s licence, and writes out a violation ticket.
Seated on the next train and seething, Ella reads the ticket. Her name is spelt wrong, again. She smiles; she crumples the ticket into a ball.
I love New York, she says to herself.