Did I mention all the snow we’ve been getting? Because it’s a lot of freaking snow. And our ancient subway system just can’t handle it. I think I spent 5+ hours on the Orange Line today.
And did I mention today’s excitement? Because, lordy lordy, there was excitement.
Allow me to set the scene: It was freezing today. Like, the “all of my extremities hurt” kind of freezing. And the trains were all running extra slooooow. I normally get on the Orange Line at Malden Center, which is the second station on the line. With only two stations worth of commuters, there should have been no problem getting on the train.
(Spoiler alert! There were problems.)
A train comes into the station, and it’s full . There’s barely any room on it for new passengers. Maybe 10-20% of the people at my stop can get on. I am not one of them. The train pulls out and there is most definitely not a train “right behind it.” (They always say there is a train right behind, and they are always lying through their teeth) We’re all just getting colder and colder. At some point, I look over at the girl that’s standing next to me and admire her funky outfit (this is going to be important later). We’re all grumbling, but this is at least somewhat manageable. The next train shows up and most of us are able to get on it.
The train is packed . And it’s hot . My left arm is hanging onto the poll for dear life, and my right arm is pinned to my side. I left my earbuds at home, so I have nothing better to do than let my eyes wander aimlessly around the train. At some point, I notice the girl with the funky outfit…
… And she’s not looking so good.
There’s a dude who is still wearing his backpack (I asked him very politely if he could take it off and give us all some more room, but he literally gave me the cold shoulder) and it’s just whacking her repeatedly and she’s not reacting. She’s swaying randomly, and kindof pale. At some point, she starts hugging the backpack that’s been hitting her, and that just doesn’t seem right.
(Remember, I noticed her outfit earlier. She was definitely not with this guy. And now she was hugging his backpack like it was her favorite pillow.)
“Excuse me,” I ask her, “are you ok?” She mumbles something semi-coherent, and now I know that something is wrong. “Back up everybody!” I start yelling, “this girl needs some air!” I grab her shoulder (which I realized later was probably the wrong thing to do if she was having a claustrophobia problem) and I start reassuring her that everything is going to be ok.
To everybody’s credit, they all moved back. People started yelling at the folks with seats to get up and give her a spot. The dude in the seat closest to her was pretty oblivious. By the time he realized what was going on and got up, we were pulling into the next station. At which point the poor girl decided that a seat looked very nice indeed, and started indicating that maybe she would just sit down and not get off the train.
I guess all my experience with a slightly tyrannical two-year-old has paid off, because I let her know (in no uncertain terms) that she needed to get off the train. And she was amenable to it. The crowd parted to let her out, and a couple of guys and I helped her make her way to a bench on the platform. She started looking a little better with some fresh air and space.
An MBTA employee came right over to check on her. He waved the train along, and then called the stationmaster (I think that’s who it was) down. The stationmaster took over at that point. Which is about when I realized that my iPhone was dead. And I was never going to get on a train. If the trains were over-full at the second stop on the line, how did I have any chance of getting a spot three stations later?
(Spoiler alert! No chance. I had no chance.)
Ever the optimist, I decided to give one train a try. It was getting pretty late in the morning at this point, so I thought maybe the crowds had died down a bit. Ahahahahahaha. No . There were people getting onto outbound trains, just so they could try their luck at earlier stations. It was freaking chaos. And did I mention that it was cold? Because my extremities were starting to hurt again. Also, did I mention that my phone was dead? Because I had no way of letting my boss where in the hell I was. Also, the only thing I’d eaten all morning was a banana, and I’d had zero coffee.
“Fuck it,” I said, “I’m going to Starbucks.”
On my way out of the station, I passed the girl who I had helped out earlier. She was sipping juice with the stationmaster, and she looked about a bazillion times better. She thanked me for helping her out, and I told her I was glad to see her so vastly improved. The stationmaster gave her some good-natured ribbing about not eating breakfast.
(No judging from this corner on that one! My stomach was caving in on itself at that point.)
(In the movie that I just wrote in my head, this chance encounter was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the two of them. She’s played by Felicia Day and he’s played by a surprisingly serious Dave Chappelle, in what many critics hail as a real comeback role. The movie is described as quirky, even if the setup is a little contrived. I’m played by Sandra Bullock, but only because that’s the only way they can get me to sign the paperwork giving them the rights to my section of the story.)
I made my way over to Starbucks (I knew there was one at Assembly Row, I forgot just how far it was from the train station). After a coffee, a croissant, and a top-up charge from my laptop, my iPhone and I were feeling much better. “Hey boss,” I started an IM with, “funny story…”
File this one under things I am grateful for: Having a boss who understands that sometimes you just have to escort an ailing girl off of the train and then sit with her until someone else can take over.
File this one under things that I am also grateful for: Having a boss who suggests that you take an Uber to the office and expense it.
Long story short, I was only about two-and-a-half hours late to work. And then I got to do the whole thing all over again tonight! I waited and waited and waited for a train, but they were all too full. So, I walked across half of Boston, to get on at a later station. But those were all too full. So, I walked to an express bus, paid an extra $3.65, and finally got on a public transit vehicle that didn’t cause me to get to second base with myself.
(I got home after 7pm, even though I left work 20 minutes early to try and give myself a fighting chance of getting home on time.)
(Between Friday and today, we had to pay daycare over $30 in late fees from me not being able to get there to pick up LJ and Kristian having to rush to get her when he wasn’t planning on it.)
I am working from home tomorrow, even though the Pats’ parade goes right by my freaking office and I’ve never seen one of the parades. Because the Orange Line and I are having some problems right now, and I just need a little space.
So, yeah… I’m really glad that I was able to help that girl. And I’m really glad that she was ok in the end. But the MBTA needs to get its act together. Because, at this point, it’s fucking ridiculous. I know our infrastructure is old and shitty and in need of repair. And I know the snow makes everything more difficult. But I had to stop taking the bus to Sullivan, because train after train would show up too full for me to get on, and that was well before any snow fell . If we want to be a world-class city, then our public transit can’t be held together with chewing gum and bailing wire. It just can’t .
When you stand in an Orange Line station, waiting for trains that seem like they’re never going to come, watching them pull into the station, too full to let you on, and listening to the announcements chiming over and over to let you know that they are experiencing “severe delays” (like there is a single person in all of Boston who doesn’t realize that the MBTA is experiencing severe delays)…. Well, let’s just say that it starts to feel like maybe I could walk to work faster than the T can get me there.
(I did the math. Today I could have walked the 7 miles to work a hell of a lot faster than the T + Uber got me there.)
Fix your shit, MBTA. Fix. It.