Train Wreck

When I moved to Boston in 2005 I was introduced to the public transit system also known as the T. When I first moved out there I lived about 25 minutes driving distance from the city, about an 1 hr and 15 min train ride. I never imagined what a grueling task getting into the city would be, until the first time I stepped foot on the platform.
The air was cold that September evening and I had a trek to the bus stop. This small town just outside of the city had a feel of home to me. Not the town I grew up in so much as the town I went to high school in. Randolph boasted all the livelihood of a suburban town. Picket fences lined the yards of enormous two and three story homes, winding roads provided a nostalgic sense of country life and memories of back home lead me to believe I would fall in love with this place. A bit distracted by my romantically wild imagination I hadn’t noticed the band of hooded high schoolers just a few feet up the street. As I slowly approached I got nervous. Cummington was all of about 900 people growing up and no one ran into anyone let alone a posse, and at a dark bus stop at that. They pushed each other playfully; they shared headphones and exchanged verses. A few of them were laughing at something on their phones, just the general hubbub of a gang of teenagers. As the bus screeched to a halt they pushed each other out of one another’s way to get in the door and head to the back. More room to exert their rowdiness I guess. Anyway, I step up into the bus and look around as I slowly drop my coins in the meter, scoping out anywhere to sit. The bus is mostly quiet and is set up so that the front is host to the elderly or disabled, the middle is usually the crowd in transition waiting to hop off at their destination, and the back is now occupied for the most part. I find my way to an empty seat in the back and take my book out to separate myself from the perpetually guessing audience. Their eyes skimmed me over trying to figure out my nationality, I could tell. I’m not paranoid. In a predominantly Cape Verdean community I wasn’t out of place but I definitely wasn’t their breed. This I would have to get used to as I moved into other “diverse” neighborhood’s once inside the city. I look up every so often to scan the bus and make eye contact with a wink or a head nod. Too awkward to react with finesse, I snap my head back down in the direction of my book. Yet another thing I would find myself getting used to. Never did I experience this hunter/hunted phenomenon until I moved out here. It’s like once people leave the comfort of their homes it is a never ending fight for your personal rights. Don’t look me up and down like that! And what makes you think for 5 seconds that I was enamored at the sound of “hey baby you sexy, lemme get that number.”? My inner Stephanie Tanner says “HOW RUDE!”
The bus in this case, is fair game. The last stop before the train is the hospital. Now if you know me at all, this should be entertaining. I have to do everything in my power to stomp irrational thoughts as patients hobble on with bandages over head wounds, arms and eyes. Coughing, sneezing, wiping and generally freaking the shit out of me, my mind alludes to the slew of diseases I was aquiring. When I think I can’t possibly handle any more the bus arrives at the terminal and I now can breathe again. For a split second. I remember to take a breath of fresh air and soon the stench of trash and urine sting my nose again. I pull my money out of my pocket and throw it in the slot before cupping my sleeve over my nose. What the fuck is that smell!? I make my way on to the platform to meet the doors of the screaming train wizzing by as it kicks up a cloud of who knows what. I feel the burn in my lungs as I pray they don’t experience this unwanted visit. I can’t help but think about the dust coating my tastebuds allowing me to get a real taste for city life. An insatiable hunger I have had since I was a little girl although this was not my idea of appetizing.
Much like the bus, the train has its certain “types” of people who I find equal amounts of entertaining and annoying. The drunk guy saunters up the aisle ranting about gays and George Bush. He stops every now and then for dramatic effect, grab the nearest pole and keeps it moving. I still have to be sure to avoid eye contact like everyone else on the train or he will think I have money for him. You have to be careful of these things. Even a bum gets mad if you lie like a rug. He stood outside and watched you get change from your train pass, duh. Just don’t look up!
I usually see the single mother juggling a shopping bag of McDonald’s, a carriage, 2 children hanging off her arm. Why they are not in the stroller is beyond me. She mumbles some grumpy comment under her breath as the crowd is ignorant to her struggle. I get up out of my seat right away and offer it to her. Even if she’s across the car, I will motion to her to take the damn seat. My patience runs out quickly at this crossroads. Reluctant to accept pity induced help, I get up to insist she take it or someone else will. Just TAKE IT.
Then there are the commuters, the business professionals that are usually young and fresh out of college. This demographic, especially in the elite college town that Boston is, usually walks around as if they own the cart. They probably do. This isn’t limited to the subway, they are entitled everywhere they go. But here they are somewhat restricted with in the confines of the train, earbuds jammed in their ears they are reluctant to mingle with the commoners. Sitting or standing, rich or poor, fat or skinny, I am not biased; I am not okay with being mashed up against the sweaty epidermis of these train fairing sardines.
A tissue-less sneeze catches my attention near by. A quick sniffle of congealed snot rings through my ears. Make it stop! Why does everyone and their grandma have the god damn flu today? Whether its allergies, pink eye, runny nose any action of wiping your face repulses me. Its its not bad enough that you took the hand that held the pole, you wiped every facial orifice and proceeded to return that hand to the pole and fed my vicious obsession avoiding communal property.
My head spins as the train finally reaches the terminal where I hop out and notice a young boy chase a wayward gumdrop. His mother too busy deciphering the 4-mile wide map of Boston to notice he snatched the drop and hurls it into his mouth with ho hesitation. He giggles and runs back to his pondering tour guide.
Once out in the steamy street, I am relieved to be above ground, I suck the vapors in from the manholes and pray there is no after taste. I have to get to a convenience store immediately and wash away this imaginary pollutant coating my mouth. And that means opening the door to the 711 by Fenway Park. Damn it.

Train Wreck

angelica harrison

Allston, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

a funny little rant about public transportation.

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