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ASK THE ANSWERING GUY - EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD!

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January 28th, 2008


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10:01 am - ASK THE ANSWERING GUY
Q. DEAR ANSWERING GUY, I live in Boston and I take the T to work from Davis Square every day. Every day for the past week or so the trains have been late due to one reason or another, and every day we stand on the platform waiting like fools for one southbound train while two or three northbound trains go merrily on by. The thing is, there's only one stop after us on the north end of the line, and that's Alewife. Today was the actual worst, though, as we waited for one single southbound train from Alewife while no less than five, count 'em, five trains went by northbound to Alewife. What the hell is going on, and where did all those northbound trains go?
Signed,
Someone Who Is Not The Author
The Answering Guy has been answering questions since before you knew what a question mark was.
A. DEAR SOMEONE WHO IS NOT THE AUTHOR, the Answering Guy is very pleased you asked him this question instead of trying the MBTA, for they will not tell you the truth even if you pumped them full of sodium pentathol, gave them a twenty, and then asked nicely. Now the Answering Guy is certain that you know there are two platforms in the Alewife station and both of them send trains back southbound to your Davis stop. You may have already come up with some theories as to how all those trains could have fit, possibly imagining extra track behind the platforms which the trains use when they're backed up, or even theorizing that the trains back up before they even reach Alewife. But none of these answers is correct.

The real explanation is that there is a freak rift in the time-space continuum in the train tunnel and it is centered directly underneath the northbound tracks. Trains travelling northbound don't actually reach Alewife, you see, for they fall through the rift and end up in the lair of an ancient Eldritch horror so arcane and powerful that the mere sight of its full name will cause any mere mortal being's head to explode. In fact, Answering Guy cannot even attempt to spell its name lest too many of its dangerous alphabetical symbols combine to cause even a small explosion, so we shall refer to this being as (') since the apostrophe represents a guttural stop and we're safe enough with that.

At any rate, the northbound trains travel through the rift and find themselves facing ('), who apparently looks like a thousand eyeballs clustered together and each eyeball has a mouth full of sharp sharp fangs and there are also tentacles and possibly demon wings, the Answering Guy is not too sure. As terrifying as it may be, (') actually really likes choo-choos. In fact, it likes the choo-choos so much that it envelops each one as it arrives, absorbing all its choo-chooness as well as all the people inside, ripping apart each soul and dooming it to float in ancient torment until the Eighth Melting of Shu'Maru. (This event, is has been said, will only happen if both Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley ever find themselves in Antarctica at the same time and that's not going to happen any time soon because the Answering Man is pretty sure Liberty Medical won't deliver diabeetus testing supplies there and honestly, they'll have more important things to test for while in the frozen wastes.)

Do you feel slightly better about your crappy commute yet? I mean sure, you're late today, but at least your soul hasn't been devoured by an eyemouthed creature which has lain in wait since before the separation of Good and Evil.

It doesn't stop there, however, because you'd think the MBTA would notice a few missing trains and, after a while, they do. Up in the Master Control Center, which is this super-cool Quonset hut just off the Pike near the Weston tolls, a big red light starts blinking. The red light has "TRAIN MISSING" written on it and you can't miss it if you're looking in that direction. Eventually Phil, one of the three men in charge of train operations, looks in that direction, but only because he just lost a game of "Made You Look".

"Hey, there's no unicorn over there!" Phil says indignantly to Barry, the winner of Made You Look, who is now doubled over with laughter. "But there is a red blinking light. It says TRAIN MISSING. What do you think that might mean?"

"Hmm," says Pat, who was a third-party witness to the game of Made You Look. "It probably means there's a train missing somewhere. Press the button and see." Phil presses the button and a big friendly map pops up with an arrow and blinking lights and stuff.

"The arrow's pointing to northbound tracks near Alewife," Phil says. "Oh, I bet it's (') again." However, Phil only gets the first two syllables of the True Name of (') out before he vaporizes in a puff of foul-smelling incense so he doesn't get to the word "again", much less the guttural stop. But Pat and Barry know what it means.

"Get the Wee Train-Making Elves on the horn," Pat says to Barry. "We need a replacement train southbound out of Alewife ay ess ay pee. And you may also want to call in for a replacement Phil while you're at it."

So the Wee Train-Making Elves are called into action and begin to build a brand-new train right at the Alewife platform in front of commuters who'd be astonished if they hadn't been atrophied to dull complancency due to the inordinate late times. And before you know it, they have cobbled together what looks for all intents and purposes to be a Red Line train, only you pedal it down the tracks and there's no working heater in any of the cars. The Alewife commuters all smush in and away the train goes southbound towards Davis, where you'll be sardined in next. Satisfied with a job well done, the Wee Train-Making Elves decide to call it a day right then and there and instead of maybe making more trains to help, run off and spend the next three weeks getting completely crunk off of morning dew and making passes at passing pixies. And that's why you're late today. Sorry there's no official record of this on MBTA.com, by the way, but your boss wouldn't have believed you anyway.

Q. This sounds like a load of hogwarsh to me. What's the deal?
A. Well, do you hear the T giving you any better explanation?
Signed,
The Answering Guy
The Answering Guy can be reached if you are within arm's length.

(14 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:jadasc
Date:January 28th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Hey, SWINTA: Why not simply catch one of those Northbound trains to Alewife and then wait for the elves to finish their cobbling? At the very least, it'd ease your jangled nerves?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:January 28th, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
What, and run into (')?

(The way I see it, a wait is a wait is a wait, no matter which platform you're on. While one stands a better chance of actually grabbing a seat at Alewife, one risks the chance of the southbound train leaving before you arrive at Alewife, or indeed getting backed up in the northbound tunnel while southbound trains hurtle on by.

I do pull the Alewife trick, however, and stay on a northbound train if it stops at Harvard and then goes express to Alewife. It's much nicer sitting in an emptier train and backtracking one stop than it is to step off with the rest of the disgruntlers and piling in to the next train that comes.)

Edited at 2008-01-28 03:31 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:kpht
Date:January 28th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
(Link)
el oh el.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:January 28th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Important questions for answering guy's clone replacement

(Link)
Dear metahacker,

You probably don't want to know how many times it's happened.
[User Picture]
From:saint_buddha
Date:January 28th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Dear Answering Guy,

You looks significantly like Mr. Belvedere which is making me laugh everytime I see your picture. Are you Christopher Hewett risen from the dead?

Love and Kisses,
Someone Not at Arms Length
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:January 28th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Dear Someone Not at Arms Length,

The Answering Guy is reluctant to reveal the full details surrounding his conception and eventual springing, full-grown, into the world, but a reference to a "clone" up above may at least provide some kind of clue.
[User Picture]
From:madbard
Date:January 28th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I always wondered about that.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:January 28th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Barry, apparently.
[User Picture]
From:nathanw
Date:January 28th, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Having had a Davis-to-Alewife commute for six months, I can confirm everything Answering Guy says. (') likes tofu. It helped that soullessness was a prerequisite for that job.
[User Picture]
From:k_sui
Date:January 28th, 2008 06:23 pm (UTC)
(Link)
if both Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley ever find themselves in Antarctica at the same time

I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS F**KING COUCH!
[User Picture]
From:jimmystagger
Date:January 28th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Dear Answering Guy,

Why is it that at Park Street station 24 B Line. 11 D, and 5 C trains go by before a single E train comes, no matter what the hour and no matter what the day? I would think that seeing as fully half the B line trains I see run empty because they come so often and every E line train I get on is packed like salmon being shipped from Seattle the Powers That Aren't Me at the T would do something. Many innocent commuter lives rest upon your answer, because I know people and can call in favors. Thanks.
[User Picture]
From:cursethedark
Date:January 28th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
(Link)
If I lived in Boston, and was ever late to work, I would totally hand this in as a reason.

Thank you, Answering Guy.
[User Picture]
From:alphacygni
Date:January 29th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)
(Link)
Just to be nerdy answering nerd - the for real and for true explanation is that there is a sizable underground loop with sidings behind Alewife, where several (I cannot recall the numeric value of "several" without reference material which is not with me) trains can skulk in the darkness. In fact, several generally do skulk there overnight. So the situation of "Alewife is filling up! Fetch the dogs!" would be extremely rare.

But sometime do let me tell you about the evil that _is_ rumored to lurk back there, that strikes fear into the hearts of poor red line operators and maintenance crew.

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