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!