Circumstances today called for me to curtail my working hours short for the day and so I found myself on the South Station platform around 2:00 pm. Making my way to the end of the northbound platform, as I am wont to do, I heard a woman's voice reading off last night's lottery numbers. It sounded pretty loud and professional DJ-like, and I assumed someone had left a radio on in one of the work rooms next to the platform.
"This is so-and-so for T Radio," the woman said in an annoying yet chirpy voice. "See you on the train! Cha-ching! Cha-ching!"
Wait. What? It's coming from the platform speakers?
Next thing I heard is a polished DJ voice -- the kind of disembodied voice you hear in the movie theaters telling you what insipid and forgettable R&B/pop song you just heard over the auditorium PA system before the previews begin. He also introduced himself from T Radio, and proceeded to read the same "Safety is our Number One concern at the T" announcement that the recorded voice of Dan Graubaskas has been reading for months now. Immediately afterwards, the voice launched into an ad for the Mass. Lottery, urging us all to make sure to try the new scratch-off game or whatever. At this point the volume of the announcement kept changing, from "sounds like it's behind that door" audible to REALLY FREAKING LOUD. Then it went silent altogether, making me wonder if I'd hallucinated the entire thing.
T Radio? Surely the T isn't thinking of running a constant stream of chatter and music on the platforms. Surely this is just a test and they'll recognize their folly and drop it. Surely nobody has Written To The Top complaining about the silence and lack of wallpaper media while waiting for their trains. And surely nobody asked us whether or not we wanted to hear Buster Poindexter's "Hot Hot Hot", which eventually started playing over the speakers.
No, I'm not feeling hot hot hot. I'm still not feeling hot hot hot. I won't be feeling hot hot hot. Stop saying hot hot hot!
The proceedings weren't even interrupted by the automated voice announcing the train arrivals. They're on separate channels, apparently, so the two voices merged and we could HOT HOT HOT! barely hear the fact that HOT HOT HOT! the next train to HOT HOT Alewife HOT! was now arriving HOT HOT HOT!
The volume went up and down again a few times, then turned off completely just as the train was entering the station. They're testing this today, apparently. I'd be curious to know if it's going on during afternoon rush, too.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the wake of shoddy customer service, no information on delays, mishaps or otherwise, stranding passengers in trains so that they are forced to make their own evacuations and incredibly stupid decisions involving chained emergency exit gates ("No problem, we'll just remove the emergency exit signs"), the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has decided the best way to spend its money is on a system-wide radio network, forcing a captive --and paying-- audience to listen to loud, annoying music and ads for the Lottery. Billboards are one thing; they're visual, you can turn away and not look. Overhead music? Plug your ears, bucko, you ain't escaping this one.
This isn't the first time the T's experimented with mass media; back in the early 90s there were the television sets hung from the ceilings in Park Street and Downtown Crossing, among others. Remember them? They silently displayed the weather, ads, sports scores, that kind of thing, and each one had a little camera mounted on the bottom to monitor exactly how many people were watching it. Not enough were, apparently, and the TVs were removed after a few years. It's kind of hard to judge how many people are actively listening to your T Radio unless you want to count the number of people holding their ears during rush hour.
But what really really really pisses me off about this is the fact that we already have music in some of the T stations. They're called buskers. You seriously cannot tell me the T wishes to put the buskers out of business by blasting this stuff over all platforms and then telling us to buy scratch tickets. You can't do that. I don't believe it. I simply won't believe it.
This morning a guitarist in Davis was playing a reasonably nice guitar version of Your Song. He was picking the piano bits on the guitar, and doing a good job of it. Sure, Elton John isn't always my cup of tea, but the guitarist made the music his and that personal touch made it sound nice. I don't mind listening to that on the platform, and hey, a dollar or two in his guitar case helps him make his livelihood doing what he loves to do.
I am not, however, about to spend money on a monthly pass just to be a captive audience for Lottery commercials and Buster F'n Poindexter telling me all about how it's HOT HOT HOT.
I am seriously hoping this is just a test program, a pilot program, some kind of "hey let's see the reaction." If that's the case, then let the reaction be swift and let it be vituperative and angry. Trust me, you don't want this crap to listen to while you wait in frustration for a train that never comes.
Drop the T Radio, you goons, drop the loud ads and the "cha-ching! cha-ching!" lottery announcements and the music I avoid by not listening to Magic 106.7, and let the buskers do their thing.