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September 17th, 2005


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10:20 am - monoglots unite, there are no service
To start with something wholly unrelated to the entry: CORY DOCTOROW STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT "PRIMITIVE" PHOTO REPOSITORY BACKENDS BECAUSE THEY CAN'T BE ALL LIKE YOUR PRECIOUS GODDAMN FLICKR, SO SORRY YOU CAN'T PODCAST THESE PICTURE RSS XML FEEDS DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT XENI JARDIN BLAH BLAH WOOF WOOF JESUS H CHRIST WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER TO READ YOU ANY MORE

Seriously, these color photographs of America from 1939 to 1945 are freakin' awesome, and just because they're not presented in a flashy glitzy slideshow format doesn't lessen their impact any less. In fact, getting rid of the distracting frontend and the technical whatever backend puts more emphasis on the beautiful images themselves. So there. Shove that in your iPod and smoke it.


Now to the meat of the matter. Honestly, I'd love to write more things than just snarky bits on the T's incompetence, but it really won't let me stop. Every day in every way they're just getting doofier and doofier.

Thanks to the T, for instance, it's getting so that one must leave 15-20 minutes early so that one can arrive to work one minute late. Today's brilliant display of fun happened on the Red Line, where (if you bothered to read the flyers they dumped on the train floors or listen to the canned announcement) there are no Ashmont trains today owing to construction. Shuttle bus service is running from JFK to all Ashmont stops.

Now that's all fine and dandy. Red Line re-routing has happened before and I daresay it'll happen again, what with the Charles station construction and all. However, the train I rode from Davis to South Station today took an extra, what, 15 minutes to run, and not because of the construction. We were delayed at every stop because the driver on the mic repeating, over and over again, at every stop, in some strange plural mangling I hadn't heard before:
"There are no Ashmont service today, folks, there are no Ashmont service today, if you want to go to Ashmont you will have to board this train and take it to JFK, there will be shuttle buses waiting to take you to all Ashmont stops, there are no Ashmont service today."
He repeated this maybe two, three times for most stops until we got to Charles. Then for Charles, he said it six times. In a row. The doors stayed open. By the fifth iteration there was a bit of desperation in his voice, and I realized he was obviously calling to patrons on the platform, trying to get them to board the train. He was trying to get them to understand that the train said BRAINTREE but there would be no ASHMONT trains today, and to go to JFK, and and and... only he didn't paraphrase. He stuck to his script, repeating what he'd said before, only louder. Because as we all know, LOUDER means MORE UNDERSTANDABLE. Eventually the doors closed and we trudged off to Park Street, and honestly by this time everybody riding with me was getting mighty sick of the whole thing.

Park Street was no better. Here the driver began to depart from the script, just free-riffing at the platform people. It was almost as if he'd started a one-man crusade to get those people on his train, making sure they knew this train was going where they wanted to go, however indirectly. He grew frenetic as he tried to catch 'em in the rye. "There are NO ASHMONT SERVICE TODAY!" he said. "Folks, NO ASHMONT! You have to GET ON THE TRAIN! GET ON THE TRAIN! TO JFK! NO ASHMONT TODAY!"

Finally at Downtown Crossing things became much clearer. This is where I realized just how badly the MBTA failed at this little constructionary exercise today, and how they just don't understand their ridership demographics. Those just boarding the train heard the driver's impassioned plea to GET ON THE TRAIN, saw the people still milling about on the platform (quite a crowd; Downtown Crossing does that) and then leaned out themselves to holler instructions to the stragglers. In Spanish. In Korean. In Haitian Creole. And what do you know, nearly each and every person heard, and understood, and got on the train.

I'm not saying the T needs to put interpreters on every train. You can't anticipate every language that may be spoken and understood on any given run. But when you've got important schedule-changing announcements to make, it may be prudent to realize that not every passenger speaks English. And just hollering at them louder, while it may be traditional historically, just ain't the way to do it.

Excuse me.

THERE ARE NO WAY TO DO IT.

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:eeka13
Date:September 17th, 2005 03:48 pm (UTC)
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They should put up signs in 290837498237498 languages, like NYC does.

But that would never happen, because Boston doesn't like to acknowledge the rights of anyone who isn't status quo. Unless they're bragging about how diverse we are.
[User Picture]
From:mmcirvin
Date:September 17th, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC)
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I remember how in Western Germany, all the trains had signs on them in German, French, Italian and English. And in Eastern Germany, they all had signs in German, French, Italian and Russian.

And they didn't have to worry about announcing schedule changes because THERE ARE NO SCHEDULE CHANGES IN GERMANY.
[User Picture]
From:joenotcharles
Date:September 17th, 2005 07:33 pm (UTC)
(Link)
A benefit of Montreal I hadn't considered - they're so stubborn about not
making things easy for the anglos that EVERYBODY knows you have to speak French
to understand the metro announcements, no matter what your mother tongue is.
From:yuda
Date:September 17th, 2005 07:55 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Here's the thing -- those are great photographs. But having to click through like 4 or 5 levels of text just to get to one -- and with no slideshow-like navigation once you get there as far as I can tell -- the LOC is going to lose a lot of potential audience. An organization of that size with their funding should really not half-ass this kind of stuff on the web.

It doesn't have to be "flashy glitzy" format, but it should be a format that's easier to use. Something more like Doug Bowman's photo galleries or even my wedding photos would be a huge improvement.
[User Picture]
From:mcduff
Date:September 18th, 2005 02:26 am (UTC)
(Link)
Yeah, I agree. I personally don't like flickr, or any backend that takes too long to get information from request to download (HELLO LIVEJOURNAL!), but there are better ways to present those photos.
[User Picture]
From:scholargipsy
Date:September 18th, 2005 12:09 am (UTC)
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Lots of things about Japan can get on a foreigner's nerves, but train service here is world-class, second to none. I plan my day to the minute by train arrival and departure times, which commuters can access using their mobile phones to plan multiple routes on the fly. Seriously, you can literally set your watch by the trains. Sure, typhoons and earthquakes will delay service...but that's a safety thing. And if your train is late for any reason, the stationmaster on arrival will give you a formal printed apology to show to your boss.

One of my biggest reservations about returning to Boston is that Japan has spoiled me on a lot of shit I used to put up with uncomplainingly in Mass. I wonder how I'll feel about the T when we visit in December....




[User Picture]
From:crankyliberal
Date:September 18th, 2005 01:32 am (UTC)
(Link)
Hell, in DC, they still haven't figured out we have Spanish speakers. I've gotten skipped in line at DMV for interpetation, and yesterday had to endure a judge screaming. "YOU ARE NO PAPERED. YOU GO NOW." to a Hispanic guy because she was too impatient to wait for the interpeter.

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