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Turco     on the  T

by John Turco

 

Ah the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. Such a lovely ride. I do recommend taking the family. Especially if you live on the South Shore, it’s a very convenient and fast way into the city. Just a quick 45 minute car ride to Braintree in traffic followed by a 30 minute search for a parking spot in the garage which usually ends in failure, and then a swift, noisy jarring 55 minute ride to Park Street Station. So come. Please join me in my trek to the city lights.

I had to pick up the train in Braintree. So the journey began with a lovely ride up Route 3 to the station. Of course, I couldn’t find a parking spot, so I end up parking at the Hilltop Steakhouse and running down to the train. Then it was into the station to visit with the pleasant man in the glass case to get my token. I approached him from a direct frontal view. They don’t really have much peripheral vision in those little cases and I didn’t want to startle him. “One token please,” I said. He got mad and tried to give me advice on getting more than one token. You know, for the round trip. These guys are always thinking. Or, at least I think that’s what he said. I really couldn’t understand him. I think I could have identified more syllables from a clam. Let me tell you, this guy had people skills. Apparently he was turned down at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. So to quite the barking clam in the little glass case, I bought two tokens and left him to his own devices. Then I found the one turn-style without tape, gum or God knows what over the token slot. I put in the token and proceeded to walk through the turn-style, making sure all the while that I was using proper male turn-style posture, so as not to risk serious scrotal injury. And it’s a good thing too, because the turn-style was jammed and wouldn’t turn. That’s right, the turn-style had effectively become simply a style. And there’s certainly no use for a style in a subway station! It became obvious to me that I had no choice but to jump the style. Just like a non-paying customer. I felt cheap. I felt like a common thief, robbing the subway of 80 cents. But it was me, in fact, who had been robbed. Yes, robbed of the privilege to simply walk through that turn-style. I not only paid my 80 cents, but apparently I also provided some entertainment for the evil barking clam as he watched me attempt to hurdle the style and try to look cool at the same time. Can’t be done.

So, I brushed myself off, gave the clam the finger and ran up the escalator that, of course, didn’t work. Okay, finally up on the platform. Jeez, it seemed to be about 70 degrees and sunny outside a minute ago. But somehow, this wind tunnel platform has managed to block out anything desirable, such as fresh air, sunlight and warmth, while harboring all that is evil, smelly and cold. But at least I was in. That’s right, I could now go anywhere I wanted. And as a little added bonus, I now had access to some of the greatest entertainment in the western world. Just off to my left was a woman who was either covering Janice Joplin’s greatest hits, or wailing in pain. I wasn’t quite sure, but either way, I figured she could use a quarter. So I dinged one off her forehead and into her change cup. Not even a simple thank you. A little further down, I noticed a man playing Jimmy Hendrix with a string and two pistachio peanut shells. Hmmm, that must have been the acoustic version. Well, I thought he was quite resourceful, so I threw a few coins at him as well.

Now as I moved further down the wind tunnel I saw a guy that I just didn’t understand. He had an Electric guitar, an amplifier, a mixer and two speakers. I don’t know what it was about this guy, but he didn’t strike me as downtrodden. What is that? He had about $2,000 worth of music equipment. How many nickels is he going to have to collect to just break even? Maybe there’s an underground music circuit in the subway, which I didn’t know about. So I gave him a quarter. He said, “Thank you, I’ll be here all week. You can catch me next week at Andrew Station.”

Oh no! Where’s my other token? I must have thrown it into one of the change cups! Now, even though a token is really only worth 80 cents, for some reason we treat them like gold. So I start rummaging through everyone’s change cups, trying to explain what happened. Meanwhile all the other patrons were giving me a most disapproving look, as they couldn’t believe a fine upstanding person as myself was robbing a homeless person. Then I heard them whispering, “Hey isn’t that the same jerk who tried to jump the turnstile and fell on his face?”. I was looking pretty cool at this point.

My train finally showed up. I never found my token, but I figured I had worn out my welcome, so I got on. Now, aside from the smell, the ride was not that bad. I think I’ve figured out the smell though. It seems to be a fine mixture of body odor, a dash of urine and just a pinch of vomit. Ahhh yes, just like a summer breeze.

Now your typical “T” travelers are quite a different breed. Nobody will sit next to you if they can help it. They’d rather stand have to brush up against you. And they definitely won’t look at you, especially me, since I was now public enemy number one, after the little robbing incident. They seem to know if you’re not a regular “T” traveler. You’ve got your daily commuters, who are just plain miserable. Then you’ve got college students, easily identifiable, because of their backpacks and sandals. They’re usually a happy bunch. Why wouldn’t they be? They’re not commuters yet. Then you have what I like to call the “Sleepers”. These are the people who ride the “T” so much that they can sleep through all the noise, smells, bumping and rattling, yet miraculously wake up the second the train arrives at their stop. How do they do that? I’m afraid to go to sleep for fear I’ll wake up naked and penniless, with nothing but two pistachio nutshells and a string. I’d have to take to the underground music scene and learn how to belt out Janice Joplin tunes for change.

Hey, just a short 55 minutes later, along came my stop. Park Street station, or am I at the center of the earth? Can anyone tell me why it has to be 900 degrees down there? They always brag that the Green Line is the oldest subway line in the country. Really? I would have never figured that one out on my own. I mean it’s so state of the art. No wonder the MBTA charges you to get off at certain stops. Because they know they can get it. They know you’ll pay to get out of there. That’s always fun.

Arriving back in Braintree and having to pay to get off. Well this is exactly what happened. Somehow, I got on the wrong train and ended up back in Braintree 35 minutes later. I figured I’d just count my blessings and leave before I started smelling like an onion bagel, with motor oil for spread. Now I have to pay to leave. At this point I would have paid anything to get out of there. But I couldn’t because my token was most likely in Janice Joplin’s tip cup. So now instead of displaying my massive uncoordination with another failed jump over the turn style, I figured I’d try to outsmart the evil clam in the little glass box. I noticed I had few pennies left in my pocket. My plan was to go to the turnstile right next to the clam and drop the pennies in. It’s not a token slot. It’s a change box. I figured, how could they know I’m only dropping in a few pennies? By the time the machine counts the change I’d be on my way, rushing out the door and back up to the Hilltop to retrieve my car, which had no doubt been towed by that point. But somehow they do know. The evil clam was on to me. Before I could even clear the turnstile, the clam started bouncing around in his little glass case. I make a run for it. But it was no use. Like cock roaches swarming a helpless insect, the “T” Men were all over me. No, not the old New England soccer team, the Transit Police. They dropped from the ceiling and came from underneath the escalators.

They wrestled me to the ground. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Janice Joplin drop a token in the turn style and leave. I scream, “Janice! Janice come back. Janice Joplin has my token!”

They didn’t arrest me though. They just threw me back onto a train. So currently I’m in the process of making myself enough spare change to get out of this place. I’ve started juggling dead rats for change. You can catch my act at South Station.

 

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