Red Line Personal Advice

Monday morning I was on the red line, going back home after running some errands in downtown Boston. An older woman was sitting next to me, and the younger woman she was with was standing next to her. I noticed the young woman was dressed in that Boston-random style, with non-matching fabrics, textures, colors. I thought if I were to look around I would be soon laying eyes on the male equivalent of the Boston-random style, the wrinkled pleated tan khakis, the baby blue button-down shirt, white socks and scruffy chunky black shoes; and there he was, to my right. Some things never change.

The two women soon started chatting. The young woman started telling a story how she got involved in some sort of a dispute. Her story involved a painting, a dead man, a hospital, a widow, the dead man’s children who were estranged from the widow, and an attorney who helped the young woman get out of the middle of the dispute and do the right thing. It was an interesting story. Yes, I was unwillingly eavesdropping, not easy to ignore the closeness of her talking mouth to my good left ear.

It became apparent that they were mother and daughter. The mother was visiting the daughter, the daughter was pointing where she works (“very close to that Citgo sign”) and various city landmarks. The young woman looked like she was in her late thirties to early forties. At some point she started talking about sailing and how she and Andrew like sailing. Andrew’s birthday was coming up soon. I looked up to see if she was wearing a wedding band or engagement ring, she wasn’t. Andrew must be the boyfriend then. She said that Andrew was very insistent on not getting a present for his birthday. “He texted me, what time is your meeting done, and added ‘no gifts’ at the end,” she said. “No gifts, no gifts, no gifts,” she added with a moving-arms-horizontally gesture that implied insistence and finality. Which was too bad, because the woman had this cool idea of a gift, a short sailing trip (since they both liked sailing), where they could be either crew or just passengers, it was only $60 per person. But Andrew had rejected her idea, cause he just didn’t want any gifts for his birthday. “No gifts” remember?

That Andrew guy started sounding like a jerk. I started sympathizing with the younger woman. “So when are you guys going to his mother’s place?” the mother asked. “Well, Andrew is going on Friday, I was not invited,” the daughter replied. “Oh, I see,” the mother said. Then the daughter started saying how whenever his mother visits she is not invited to meet her. “So you haven’t met his mother yet?” the mother asked. “Nope, no,” the daughter said, her voice full of disappointment. “When his mother visits, Andrew disappears, no calls, no texts, I don’t hear from him.” Fuck you, Andrew.

“And then he plans the whole thing and he expects me to take half the day off from work without even asking if I can do that,” the daughter went on. “You don’t have to be the yes-man always,” the mother said trying gently to give advice. “I know but I thought I could do my best so that we can spend more time together,” the daughter said.

At that point I just wanted to say dump him. Andrew sounds like a jerk and you do not sound happy. He will never be there for you. He’s the guy who expects you to do everything he wants you to do in his very specific way. He has strict rules you cannot break. You are not allowed to do something simple that will give you some joy, like buy him a present (really, Andrew, really?) or meet his mother. You haven’t met his mother after many visits, he still hasn’t accepted you as part of his life. And by the way, is she really the “mother” we’re talking about? He’s the kind of guy who says “I” when he should say “we”. There will never be a “we”. How long will you have to wait before he “accepts” you for what you are? You don’t seem happy, lady, just do yourself a favor and go. You sound like a sensitive, considerate woman, you deserve better, you can do better. Dump him. Now.

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MBTA Once Again

I’m kinda surprised that MBTA is still functioning. Judging from the countless  big and little inadequacies of the system, one can only wonder how they manage to stay afloat. Subsidies you might say, but as we all know this is not enough.

The purpose of public transportation is to serve the public, right? And that means making it easier for the public by way of clear signage, and easy and smooth flow of passengers in and out of trains and buses. I’ve ranted before about signage, but every time I get to use the MBTA the issue comes up again.

Yesterday my car got a flat tire, so I took the bus from Davis Sq to Medford Sq. I got to Davis T station and checked the bus stop area for signs with the number of buses that stop there, as I wanted to make sure that the buses to Medford Sq stop there indeed. But NO, no such sings outside the station AT the bus stop. So I got inside  and looked around for signs about bus numbers, NO again. Then there was a board on the wall and as I got closer I saw it had the time schedules of the buses that (I would guess) stop at Davis. Why can’t they just put a big sign above the board “BUS SCHEDULES”? Why do I have to walk around the walls and see if any of the announcements are about buses? Who the hell decides what sings or announcements should be, and how they should be displayed at the stops and stations? Has this person(s) ever taken public transportation? (And the chorus goes “Oh, silly, you“)

So let me propose this: to check the efficiency and effectiveness of your system you should send somebody unfamiliar with the system to do random routes. So when the person goes to the station or the stop and spends 10minutes going “uhhhh, where’s this and where’s that”, and cannot go from A to B easily and hassle free, then you have a problem. Then you have to change or add stuff. Really, has anybody ever tried out the routes? WTF MBTA, WTF???

I’m pretty sure more people would use public transportation if the system was more user friendly. And all the big cheeses at the MBTA should from time to time leave their cars home and take the MBTA and see how it sucks and come up with ways to fix it. I’m just saying…

Have a T Question? Just Don’t Ask T Personnel

Some things might seem basic and essential to some of us, but it feels like common sense gets lost on some people. I remember when I first got to Boston 8.5 years ago, I was absolutely stunned by the lack of signage in places where signs and directions are essential, like the airport and bus stops. Logan was a site seriously under construction and the signs were sparse and mostly handwritten; finding the word “exit” on a sign, was like hitting the lottery. Now Logan is WAY better, with very good signs helping people navigate the place and go to where they need to go: exits (yay!), taxis, buses, the T.

 Oh, yes, the T… I remember back in those days, when I tried to take a bus to South Boston. I was around Downtown Crossing and was trying to see from where I could take bus No7. I saw a bus stop and went over to see if it stopped there. The bus stop sign had only a T on it, no list of buses that stopped there. I thought there was something wrong with that sign, so I walked further down the street to another bus stop: same sign, just a T, no list of buses. I thought, “wow, this place is really great, every bus stops at every bus stop, so they don’t have to list the buses on the bus stop signs, brilliant”, or more like brilliantly stupid. Shouldn’t a bus stop sign with a list of all the buses that stop there be something essential??? What good is it if it just says “bus stop”? What amazed me the most is that somebody really thought that a bus stop with no information on it was good enough. And so many other people at the MBTA thought that was good enough too. And that’s Boston we’re talking about, not Smallville, USA.

 I tried to find a map that showed the bus routes, and of course such thing didn’t exist back then (and it was 2001 I remind you, not the late 1800s). Then I started asking T personnel around South Station, most didn’t’ know, somebody finally said the No7 stopped somewhere on Summer Street. Progress, I know… Got to Summer Street, there were several bus stops, impossible to know where No7 actually stopped. I started asking people, other T bus drivers, nobody had any idea. I was waiting for the phantom bus, in vain. A bus driver pointed at a stop where No7 supposedly stopped. I waited there, only to have No7 come by and stop at another stop further down Summer Street. I ran after it, and caught it, but the whole experience was absolutely frustrating. There’s something so blatantly wrong with this picture, and nobody does anything about it.

 Some years later the T started a ground breaking project: adding the bus routes numbers to the bus stop signs!!! Oh, my GOD, how novel!!!!

 The other point I want to make is that of the person who gives out wrong information. If you don’t know something for sure, just say “I don’t know”, or something like “I’m not sure, I think it is like this”. Just don’t give me false information. Especially when you work for the MBTA and I’m asking a T related question. My out of town friend who’s visiting, was trying to get yesterday from Park Street to Watertown. He asked many T employees, including those who work at the Information booth for directions, four of them didn’t know. Which is fine not to know, but they didn’t even know to give him a direction where to seek this information from, like suggesting looking up a bus route map, for example. And then, the fifth person he asked told him to go to South Station because “lots of buses leave from there”. Wow, I’m amazed. Now think about it, Watertown is to the west of Boston, and he sends him to South Station where buses going south leave from. And why? Because “lots of buses leave from there”. Are you serious??? If you don’t know, just shut the F* up. Anyway, my friend gets to South Station starts asking again about the bus to Watertown, every T employee he asks, has NO idea, and then a random person who overhears the question suggests that he goes to Harvard Sq where buses to Watertown leave from. Amen.

 Is it so difficult to have an information booth at every subway station where T employees can answer mass transit related questions, such as bus routes questions??? Or where T riders can look up the info themselves? Their website is quite good, why can’t they have terminals for people to access the info from? Just wait 10 more years, we’ll get there, I’m sure…