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March 29th, 2006

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12:05 pm - THE COMMUTE
I arrive in the station to see a northbound train pulling out for Alewife. Every day. Every time. It matters not when I get into the station, because there's always a northbound train leaving for Alewife. It's like Elwood's apartment in The Blues Brothers. Every time you see a window in his apartment, an El train is passing by.

No southbound trains have been by for a while. This is all-too-usual as well. The platform is always full of folks waiting. And waiting. And waiting. While we wait, three northbound trains go by. Three. I begin to wonder where they're keeping them all up in Alewife, since there's only two platforms. And besides, if three go by, one southbound has got to come at some point, right?

Oh, it does. Eventually. It's going very slowly. See, it's Billy's day to drive the train.

Billy is very excited to drive the train and promises to take good care of it and make sure all the passengers go safely to where they want to go, and also to not let the train get derailed or anything. Billy's boss Danny is very proud of Billy, and is glad the prison work-release program is working so well. Danny trusts Billy, and makes sure to tell Billy that even if he doesn't do a 100% good job, even if he takes his hand off the Deadman's Switch (known here as the "Make The Train Go Lever") or doesn't answer the dispatch phone right away when someone important calls, all that matters is that he tries hard and does his best.

Billy has so much fun in the tunnel that he stops the train halfway between Davis and Porter so he can call Danny on the train phone and talk about how cool the train sounds.

I am sitting in a middle seat and I hate sitting in the middle seat because every time I sit in a middle seat, I get shoved around. I always feel great about it because, as we all know, the prevailing attitude on the T is that the stranger sitting next to you has no right to sit next to you and they especially have no right whatsoever to occupy one seat. Today some dude sits to my left and jostles me halfway across the next seat. I hate sitting halfway across the next seat because you know where the seat divider ends up. Also, the air has stopped circulating in the train so it is incredibly stale and stuffy.

Billy, meanwhile, has stopped the train between Porter and Harvard because he thinks he saw a ghost in the tunnel. He starts the train only after the dispatcher and Danny convince him that it was just a light fixture.

Billy pulls into the Harvard Square station and immediately jumps out of the train because the lady who works at Dunkin Donuts always gives him free coffee. Someone sits down on my right and now I am sandwiched in between two large people with eight elbows apiece. Apparently I wasn't supposed to sit on only half a seat, and now I get maybe a third of one seat all to myself. I'd get up and move, only the train's fully crowded and somebody's crotch is in my face. It is not a crotch I'd wish in front of my face, or in front of the face of my worst enemy (who right now happens to be Daniel Grabauskas, General Manager of the MBTA.)

Dear God, it smells like potting soil in here.

Today is also apparently iPod Appreciation Day on the T, and all riders who bring iPods on the train with them get to ride free provided they promise to play the goddamn things as loud as possible. Both people on either side of me are listening to an iPod and they've got the volumes cranked up to 11, obstensibly to drown each other out. Antonio Vivaldi is locked in a vicious, brutal cage match with Eminem, and my head is the goddamn cage. Billy stops the train before we get into Kendall so that everybody can rock on out to the rockin tunes.

(And you know, if I was the one to speak up and complain, or if I'd tried to stretch out and rightfully claim the full seat that my $1.25 fare allows me, I'd be the schmuck getting blogged about later on. Don't rock the boat, baby!)

Billy stops the train halfway across the bridge because there's a bag on the tracks ahead, and he doesn't want to run over it because there may be kitties in there. Apparently Billy has seen Ray Romano's stand-up work before. I try to pass the time by looking dolefully out the window, but another Red Line train passes by and blocks my view. I begin to imagine how nice it would be if everybody on this train joined hands in peace and harmony, and I think how much better life would be if then the two ends of that human chain grabbed on to a live electrical wire. I smile to myself and close my eyes, and that's when the guy on the right elbows me in the gut as he turns his iPod up even louder.

It's a moment of introspection for Billy, who takes advantage of the slightly longer station stop to ponder his role in the universe. If we're just one speck of dirt floating all alone in an ever-expanding cosmos, what do we accomplish with any of our achievements? Why have we been granted the gift of existence? Where are we ultimately headed? What's it all about, Alfie? Meanwhile, I swear one of the guys next to me has been eating cabbage this morning.

Almost everybody gets off the train! Hooray! I feel like an air mattress that's just been taken out of storage and unrolled for the first time in 11 months.

I get off the train! Hooray! Look at the line of people trying to get thru the new Charlie Card machines. And look at the guy who decides the best place to have a cellphone conversation is at the top of an up escalator! People are awesome!

Walking across the Fort Point Channel bridge, a bus passes by and I laugh at those poor souls trapped within. Ha! Ha! Riding the bus is for losers. They should ride the train in luxury like the rest of us lucky dogs!

The timeclock changes from ON TIME to ONE MINUTE LATE just as I arrive. The computer'll ding me and I'll get Yelled At. Sure glad I ran down Melcher Street for this, eh? Commuting is fun!

(15 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 29th, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
The fun part is that Billy makes more than you do.
Date:March 29th, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC)


I feel a little bit better about my 45 minute drive to work and back every day at rush hour.
[User Picture]
Date:March 29th, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC)

I just have to say that this is truly heartwarming. :)

(Hi. You don't know me- I got here through someone else's friendsfriends.)

[User Picture]
Date:March 29th, 2006 08:38 pm (UTC)
You're right that at Davis 3 trains go to Alewife for every train that comes in from Alewife.

But then you go and make me laugh at work and get odd looks from my coworkers. It's all your fault. ;)
[User Picture]
Date:March 29th, 2006 10:38 pm (UTC)
i think you're going to inspire me to do my commute.

48 BUS
30 BUS

well, i guess that was about it.
[User Picture]
Date:March 30th, 2006 12:27 am (UTC)
You don't know me, either, exactly, although we did kind of go to high school together (ARHS class of '92 here) but you're on my brother's (malconstant's) friends list. And you're cat people, so you're my people, whether you know it or not.

But you... and the person above me even more so... have inspired me to describe my own 8-station commute.

24TH ST MISSION--If I get the 7:48 Richmond train, it's mysteriously packed, particularly if it's raining, when all trains appear to run at half speed. (Apparently, BART represents the world's only major mass transit system that can't function if the tracks get wet.) But the 7:55 Pittsburg Bay Point train is almost sepulchral in its quiet emptiness. The 8:03 Richmond train is full, but the 8:05 train is empty again. I can get the latest of all these trains and still be at my desk by 8:35. Really makes me wonder why I've EVER tried to get up early.
(And into sometimes blinding sunlight, or grim windblown rain, along with a powerfully depressing neighborhood and industrial East Bay sprawl.)

...and I'm at work. I guess the only funny thing about this is that the commute takes only 20 minutes on a good day, or half as long as it did when I lived a short bus ride from CIVIC CENTER. Cheers.
[User Picture]
Date:March 30th, 2006 12:34 am (UTC)
the beginning of this comment confused the hell out of me (didn't go to ARHS, didn't graduate in '92, don't know malconstant, not cat people) till i figured out you were referring to spatch! :)

but you get a reverse commute. pretty cool! TWENTY minutes? i go from the middle sunset to china basin in 60-90.
[User Picture]
Date:March 30th, 2006 02:37 am (UTC)
can you arrange to grab a ride with someone else? or is that also distasteful? i know a few people who might be willing to sit with you in the same car! omg
[User Picture]
Date:March 30th, 2006 03:16 am (UTC)
*pees pants!!!*
[User Picture]
Date:March 30th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC)
Y'know, change the station names, and this sounds an awful lot like my daily commute, except each ride is a whopping $2.00. Hooray, MTA!
[User Picture]
Date:March 30th, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC)
As I read this, I started to giggle. Then the two other people in the office both started to giggle too. Neither of them was looking at what I was looking at, and one of them doesn't speak English, but they still giggled. The human brain is weird.
Date:March 30th, 2006 01:59 pm (UTC)
I, too, must echo the chorus of voices asking, "What the hell?" about the 3:1 ratio of trains going outbound to Alewife at Davis vs. inbound to everywhere else. My ex lived up there and getting home from her place was always an exercise in watching trains blow by in the wrong direction. What, is there some kind of supermagnet up there at Alewife? Some kind of black hole that only affects Red Line trains?

I still have to say, though: at least you are not on the Green Line. Seats? Ha! I scoff at your indulgence at having 1/3 of a seat to yourself! I count myself lucky to stand on one foot on 6 square inches of the train steps with every body surface plastered onto the body surfaces of ten strangers, because that means I have managed to shoehorn myself onto the train! What is this nonsense of having seats in which to sit?
Date:March 30th, 2006 06:57 pm (UTC)
Saw this via Phonemonkey's LJ and I'm so glad she posted the link - it made me laugh like a maniac. Thanks for the laugh:)
Date:April 6th, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC)
Whoever designed the green line trains was clearly about six feet tall and believed everyone else was, too. I'm 5'2". I ride the green line for about 1hr 15 min each day, round trip. I cannot hold on to the bars near the ceiling without standing on my tiptoes. Standing on my tiptoes, swaying back and forth for an hour and 15 minutes while the T driver barrels down the street then slams on the brakes, is not good for my arms, my knees, or my sanity. And don't even get my started about them tapping the pedal while waiting for red lights to turn. Someday I'm going to totally lose it and scream at the driver when s/he does that.
Date:March 30th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC)
I'm also from Phonemonkey's LJ. Good stuff!

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