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…


Crazy Day

Yesterday was a crazy, crazy day. First, my friend J was trying to set me up with a friend of his, who’s 10 years my junior, lives in NYC and, as far as I can tell, is gay. Pretty good match, I’d say. Then, I had to take the T. This in itself is not anything special, but it turned out quite crazy. Now, I don’t take the T too often. I used to take the T for 3 years to get to work, commuting from Brookline to South Boston, which meant taking the green line to the red line and then a bus. Oh, I have so many funny and weird stories from those days. But I digress.

So, I took the red line from Davis to Park. It was a little after 430pm and the car was not busy. After we left Davis, this guy came and sit across the aisle from me. He put his legs up on the seats, basically occupying three seats. He had dyed orange hair, wore rolled up jeans, white sneakers and no socks. After making himself comfortable, he turned his head and started staring at me. I started feeling uncomfortable, ’cause he kinda looked weird. Then, he took a cigarette out of his pocket, then a lighter out of his pocket, lit up his cigarette and… started… smoking! Seriously. Yes, we were on the train. WTF, I thought. I could see the thought clouds over other people: “WTF!?”.  He took two drags, and then put the cigarette out. With his fingers. I kid you not.

By that time I am feeling REALLY uncomfortable. And then came the most feared moment: He talked to me. “Miz, do you have a dollar to buy a coffee?” “No, sorry”, I replied. “You know, my buddy bought me a $10 membership to a restaurant and I need to pay him back”, he shot back. What?! A membership to a restaurant? WTF. I said nothing back, just smiled and nodded, and by that time, thank God, we arrived at Porter, I got out of the train, and then hopped on to the next car.

Wow, what a crazy man… I sit down, looked up, and found myself looking at two of the ugliest people ever. They were twin brothers and they looked like this bird (honestly), plus they were wearing glasses. I felt like I was in a theatre of the absurd play…


Nothing else to report from Porter to Park. I got off at Park, got out of the station, got on my cell and had a 5-minute conversation with J, while 80% of the guys that walked in front of me, looked at me and smiled. I’m thinking, why’s everyone so nice, this can’t be Boston. By the end of my phone call, and while I’m standing next to a snow bank, there comes this normal looking guy, who’s smoking (I know, all of a sudden everybody’s smoking), says “excuse me”, climbs the snowbank, puts out the cigarette on the snow and then throws the stub in the trash can, which is conveniently surrounded by a 3-foot high snow wall.  Then climbs back out of the snow onto the cleared area. “That’s pretty remarkable, climbing snow mountains to get to a trash can for a cigarette stub”, I tell him. “I always do that”, he replies. Well, his mother would be proud of him. And yeah, this can’t be Boston.

On another note, the Downtown Crossing stores were empty. Deserted. Sad looking. I bought nothing. I stimulated the economy enough in December. And what do I get in return? A 401(k) statement with half the $$ I had in last year. Oh, well…

Later I took the T to Harvard to see the Best of Open Screen 2007/2008 at the Brattle. I had some time to kill so I decided to get myself a hot chocolate from Peet’s (yeah, that was wrong, I should have gone to Burdick’s instead). I put my order in, the place was not busy at all, and stood by the “pick up” spot and waited for my beverage to be prepared. The guy who took my order was the same guy who prepared my cocoa, and when it was ready, he came to where I was standing, looked at me and said with an unnecessarily loud voice “Hot cocoa for P!!!” I was like, dude, I’m right here, the only person standing here, why are you shouting? Jeez…

The night was mild and I went for a walk down Brattle street. Harvard Square was deserted. It was a little before 7pm and there was no one around. Where were all the students? Not in the square, as far as I can tell. The bars, the restaurants looked empty. It was rather sad.

The Best of Open Screen Boston 2007/2008 at the Brattle was fun. The Open Screen is basically an open mic for short fims. The shorts are shown at the Coolidge, anything anyone brings that is not longer than 10 minutes. And what they showed last night was the best. A couple of shorts were quite pretentious, the majority were funny, one was really bad, and some were really good. “Restoration Project” by Jesse Kreitzer, was a short about his effort to restore a damaged reel of film that his grandfather has shot in the late 40s, and then the restored short film itself was shown, black and white images of Jesse’s father as an infant and his mother (Jesse’s grandmother) taking care of the infant. Very sweet. I also liked “Travelogue” by Kevin McCarthy, with cool images and sounds of Japan. “Kuboa” by Dave B. was interestingly beautiful, in an ethereal way.

Then I took the T from Harvard to Davis. I settled in my seat, my brain still full of images from the shorts, and then came this voice “Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention please! Watch the black guy dance!” And, yes, there they were, the dancer and his boom box. He turned on his boom box (I love the 80s), playing a Michael Jackson tune (It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white), and started dancing. Like, advanced stuff. Doing hand stands, somersaults up and down the aisle, and somersaults while suspending himself from the poles. Yep, that’s entertainment. I have seen a dancer on the T before, but that was a very fitting conclusion to my strange T-riding day.

When I got to Davis, I walked the bikepath back home, it was such a beautiful, balmy night. I passed this woman walking her dog and then I heard her telling the dog “Gimme five, gimme five, gimme five”. I didn’t know dogs can do that.

When I finally made it home, I tell you one thing, home never felt saner…