Friday evening found me standing at Downtown Crossing for over 20 minutes, on a crowded platform full of a crowded crowd, waiting for one single solitary train to Alewife. It was hot and muggy (those poor fans don't work so well when the entire place is packed) and we were all getting very very grumbly. Four, five, six Braintree and Ashmont trains ran by on the other side of the platform. We were getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
Then, a miracle occurred, and we finally had a train pull into the station. And it was only four cars long. Now the T usually runs trains of six cars in length on the Red Line, because that is how long the platforms have been since 1982 or 1983 or whatever. However, recently, sometime after 7 PM, the T has started thinking it'd be a great idea to save a few bucks and only run four car trains, because it's obvious that nobody in Boston does anything after 7 PM, and certainly nobody who needs to take the train will be doing anything. It's bad enough that nothing in this goddamn town runs 24 hours; having the subway cut back on service at SEVEN FREAKIN PEE EMM does not help in the least. But that's another rant for another entry for another heart attack.
And it was packed. Each car was filled to the gills with hot sweaty stanky cranky people. And those of us who were waiting near the end of the platform (where the last two cars SHOULD be but AREN'T) knew we weren't gonna make this train. But neither were the people waiting up where the train actually was.
"Please stay back behind the yellow line!" the conductor said over the PA. "We have to go now! There's another train right behind us!"
Nobody believed him. We're all jaded that way. So he pleaded his case again, this time with fervent enthusiasm.
"Please stand back behind the yellow line, we can't take any more passengers! I have to close the doors! There's another train right behind us! An emmmmmpty train! With six cars! And it's right behind us so please stand behind the yellow line!"
Ding-ding went the doors, and off the train went. The platform looked as full as it looked when the train had arrived. It was hard to believe the conductor had just told such a brazen lie, but truly, who wanted to cram themselves into that stinkin morass? Maybe he was doing us a favor. But I still didn't believe his words, so I got out my handy Stopwatchphone to time the next train.
And what do you know -- less than 90 seconds after the first train left the platform, we watched, open-mouthed as our gleaming silver-and-red salvation steamed majestically into the station. I watched the front cars pass by -- nobody inside. Empty. I counted ahead -- six cars in all. Holy crap. The dude wasn't lying. The T wasn't lying! The T actually promised us something and made good on it!
Eagerly awaiting my turn to board this pristine, air-conditioned train and ride in comfort to my destination, I watched as the last car in the train made it to where I was on the platform
THE TRAIN NEVER STOPPED.
Oh, sure. There was an empty six-car train "right behind us." It just wasn't going to stop for us. So technically, Herr Conduktor wasn't lying one bit. But oh, man, they got me. They got me good. Just when I thought there'd be hope, eh?
(The likely explanation is that the first train, upon reaching busy Park Street, probably then went Express all the way to Harvard. The empty train behind was to pick up the people displaced at Park and run local. But where's the fun in explaining that?)
Nearly nine minutes later, a third train dared show itself at our stop. We all crowded on and went home.
Here is a picture that sums up my feelings on the whole thing. It is of a little girl in Shirley Temple getup tapdancing while a fellow in a tuxedo plays the piano from an iron lung.
No, it's not the Gong Show. It's Fernwood 2-Night!