10/31/2005

JFK to Arlington via Park/Downtown Xing to JFK

12:03 - arrived at JFK moments after two inbound trains depart
12:20 - whistle blew signaling platform
12:23 - departed JFK, delayed on tracks
12:26 - resumed travel
12:37 - arrived at Park St
12:40 - departed Park St
12:42 - arrived at Arlington

Total commute: 39 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 18 minutes har har har
discrepancy: +21 minutes

Total time in transit: 13 minutes
Total wait: 26 minutes(Frequency of red line trains at midday, according to MBTA: 12 minutes. Frequency of green line trains at midday: 6-10 minutes)

This was a slightly frustrating commute. It is difficult to watch the train leave the station just as you're arriving. It feels like somebody's got it out for you sometimes, doesn't it?

Whenever I'm stuck on a train platform or at a bus stop and the wait seems on the verge of unbearable, I ask Mary and the saints to intercede on my behalf. I do. Mary was working out for me for awhile, but I think she got sick of dropping everything all the time to hurry up the buses and trains for little old me. I can see her in The Halls of Justice with the other Superfriends, the buzzer goes off, and she's like, "oh, it's him again." I would pray to Saint Christopher but the truth is there's been so much confusion about his whereabouts and even his actual existence! The way I see it is, if they're going to decide all the sudden that he doesn't exist then they need to put somebody else in the post, not just leave it empty, for the love of Pete. I mean, don't leave us high and dry here.

There are various and variously qualified candidates. There's Anthony of Padua, for instance, patron of asses, elderly people, and lower animals, all of whom ride the T daily. The poor, the oppressed, and travellers, too. But you always see him fondling and kissing that little kid (like in the picture on the left there). I'm just not sure I want to throw my lot in with a saint like that.

I sort of like the idea of Gertrude of Nivelles. She would be an interesting pick (and I'm not just picking her because she's a woman). Aside from being one of the many patron saints of travellers, she's the patron of the mentally ill and recently dead, and even though that should be plenty enough to qualify her for the post, that's not why I like her, either. This is: she's the patron saint of those suffering Zemmiphobia and suriphobia: fear of rats and mice! According to some scholars, in Cathoplic iconography mice represent souls in purgatory. Gives deeper meaning to waiting for the train in the old rat race every morning, doesn't it?

This midday journey gave me pause to consider "T-time" in more depth, too. It seems that while the ratio of T-time to real time on the platform is about two-to-one, all things considered, it can be as much as five-to-one when you are stuck on a stalled train. What this means is, roughly, every minute that passes feels like five.

I had an exceedingly smooth ride home from Downtown Crossing to JFK right at rush hour, though.

17:04 - arrived at Downtown Xing
17:07 - departed Downtown Xing
17:15 - arrived at JFK

Total commute: 11 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 8 minutes
discrepancy: +3 minutes

Total time in transit: 8 minutes
Total wait: 3 minutes

This was my best time yet. I like to avoid rush hour commutes whenever possible, to tell the truth. Today was unavoidable. I only worked a couple of hours this afternoon, and was feeling fresh as a daisy. And the weather was not to be believed. But heading into the bowels of Downtown Crossing there was this strange admixture of sheer panic and abject defeat you don't see any other time of day. I mean this crowd was whipped. I don't know what these people do for a living, but it looked like they had spent the day having all their marrow sucked out through their eyeballs, along with their vital organs, blood, and essence. Whatever wads they had, they'd shot. All that was left was the husk.

It being Halloween, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised I saw only one (but possibly three) commuters in costume. The one I was certain of was a chubby, sullen-looking witch.

10/30/2005

JFK to Kendall Sq/Central Sq to Ruggles/"T-time"

08:25 - arrived at JFK
08:37 - departed JFK
08:51 - arrived Kendall/MIT

Total commute: 26 minutes
Total time in transit: 14 minutes
Total wait: 12 minutes

Again, can't complain. Made good time, especially for a Sunday morning. All that was notable about the trip was that there was vomit, quite a lot of it actually, presumably from late last night or earlier this morning, on the stairs to the platform at JFK/UMass. I took a picture but will refrain from posting it, unless I get requests.

09:21 - arrived Central Square
09:23 - departed Central Square
09:31 - arrived Downtown Xing
09:36 - departed Downtown Xing
09:43 - arrived Ruggles

Total commute: 22 minutes
Total time in transit: 15 minutes
Total wait: 7 minutes

Pretty average. We're seeing about a 1:1 ratio of waiting around to moving, which, I guess, is bearable. I don't know. Is it? Is this how it should be? There is a symmetry to it that's pleasing here, from the comfort of home and the distance of time, but (speaking of time) as Einstein's famous theory tells us, time is not constant.

Therefore, What I propose is that time waiting on the T (herafter "T-time") be waited double non-T-time (which, for the sake of convenience we'll call "real time" from here on out).

Now, admittedly, there has yet to be a serious discussion of T-time, and so no consensus on an actual, viable formula for it. Mine is crude, I'll admit. there are many, many factors at play here, from the day of the week, to the time of day, to the weather. Not to mention individuals' vastly different and varying perceptions of time. It may be that t = r X 2 is not really adequate. If anyone has a better suggestion, I'm all ears.

For me, the above formula seems close enough for weekends, but, I haven't really thought about weekdays yet, when there are time pressures which often extend perceived wait time well beyond two-to-one...

10/29/2005

JFK to Back Bay/Hynes to JFK/the girl in my glasses

11:01 - arrived at JFK/UMass
11:02 - whistle sounded, indicating a train approaching from Braintree
11:05 - departed JFK/UMass
11:13 - arrived at Downtown Xing
11:15 - arrived at outbound (Forest Hills) Orange Line platform
11:22 - departed Downtown Xing
11:27 - arrived at Back Bay

Total commute: 26 minutes
Total time in transit: 13 minutes
Total wait: 13 minutes

14:10 - arrived at Hynes
14:12 - first inbound train arrives, but is entirely too crowded
14:14 - next inbound train arrives
14:21 - arrived at Park Street
14:25 - distracted by Latin hottie on Track 6
14:31 - departed Park Street
14:41 - arrived at JFK/UMass

Total commute: 31 minutes
Total time in transit: 17 minutes
Total wait: 14 minutes

Can't complain about today's trip, although I can tell you I wanted to be able to, it being the first I've logged here for posterity. The only slightly noteworthy event of the whole uneventful journey was a brainy-looking young woman dressed all in black with a suitcase who came right up in my face when there were plenty of other commuters about, and asked, rather too intensely for my taste, if she could catch the silver line to the airport at South Station. Sad to say I really didn't know. I've always taken the blue line in the past myself. Or had someone give me a lift. Didn't she have any friends? I'm not sure why she asked me. I guess I look like the kind of person who would know. Or maybe she felt some kinship with me, because we were wearing pretty much the same eyeglasses. They're kind of Clark Kent-like, and, I don't know, but they seemed too severe on her. But when I think on it, wire-rims would have looked grannyish. She should probably go for that Lasic surgery. I'm thinking about it myself. I could not honestly say whether she could catch the bus to the airport there or not, so I looked around for assistance, and after an interminable pause, another young woman next to me said she thought you could. People were looking at me like, well, she asked you! Like just because some stranger asks you something you're the one who's got to answer. Maybe she had ulterior motives, and they didn't want to butt in. Maybe they were thinking, she's really just hitting on him, and wouldn't they look cute together with their matching eyeglasses? But we wouldn't. It would be too much, frankly. Clark Kent does not need a Clarkette. He needs a Lois Lane, or a Jimmy Olsen. She lurched back to her seat, sort of across from me, but we didn't look at each other again. I mean, I looked at her shoes, and the shoes of the woman next to me. The woman going to the airport wasn't wearing any socks. Imagine. In this weather. Not very sensible.

Turns out you can catch the silver line to the airport at South Station, by the way.

10/28/2005

Mind the Gap

I have twice tripped stepping out of red line trains. I haven't noticed other people doing it, but it's not like I trip around everywhere I go, either. Maybe I'm in the early stages of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease or, heaven forbid, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (I hope not, because then I'd have to use the T's elevators--also known as VUTS [Vertical Urinal Transport Systems]--and I don't think I could cope. Speaking of diseases, the T is the perfect place to catch 'em. Bird flu, anyone?--but more on that in a future post!)

Tripping's embarrassing, of course, but the trick is, just don't look back. Of course if you fall flat on your face people feel obligated to draw attention to it. They pretend to be concerned. Even if you'd broken your arm, or something, you'd be like, "no, heh heh, everything's fine! Don't mind me!" And here your arm's all twisted backwards. "No, it was like that before! I was born this way! Really!"

For the record, I didn't fall on my face. I just sort of stumbled out of the starting gate, and then proceeded on as if nothing had happened. But looking back briefly I saw that the trains are a good couple of inches below the platforms (I swear--I'll get photographic proof, too).

I'll acclimate. People do. Still, I think they should have a "mind the gap" announcement, like they do in the London Underground. Maybe Governor Mittney could do it. He likes to point out that danger is lurking everywhere. This a perfect PSA for him! The announcement could go something like: "mind the gap, defend traditional marriage from sodomites and fornicators, report suspicious Arabs, and start stockpiling canned goods and bottled water for the apocalypse!"

10/26/2005

rage against the T


I just moved from Jamaica Plain to Dorchester, and thus have switched to the Red from the Orange Line as my sort of subway line of choice. Not that I have one. And they know that.

Before the switch, I used to have this notion that the Red Line was swankier than the Orange Line. I mean, it does go up to Cambridge and all, and it seemed like whenever I rode it back in the day it was at least climate controlled. And then there was the slightly updated look of the subway cars. The black and red. It was bold. It was now. Particularly compared to the Orange line, where everything inside was brown. Very blah. The Red Line crowd also seemed somehow more urbane. Hipper. Crisper. The Orange Line crowd seemed sort of crumpled in comparison.

Now I don't know what to think, quite honestly. The Red Line is more crowded, that's for sure. There are more hotties on it, too, in my humble opinion. At first the MBTA staff even seemed more polite. They actually made little announcements, to make up for that automated voice that tells you which stop's coming up. There's no automated voice on the Orange Line, and the only time they make an announcement aside from mumbling the name of the stop, is to tell you to "get out the effin' door, ya effin' animals!" The Red Line conductors do seem to wait for people a little, whereas Orange Line conductors are merciless and often actively malicious.

But while I liked it, sort of, at first--I mean, the chatty Red Line conductors--after a very short time the chit-chat got old, especially when I realized they were lying to us half the time anyway. All these "schedule readjustments." Or the old "there's another train directly behind this one." Mm-hmm. How many times do you think I'm gonna fall for that one?

Recently I got a whiff of malice on the Red Line. I board at JFK/UMass, which is where the outbound rail splits off into two tracks. What that means if you're inbound, which I usually am, is that you have double the choices, as for trains, right? There are two platforms, so the only inconvenience is that you have to wait upstairs in the station for a little buzzer to sound and a light to light up pointing you to the platform where the next train's arriving. It's very pavlovian. You should see it. It gives new meaning to "rat race". The buzzer sounds, the light lights up, and the hordes immediately scurry like lab rats to the indicated platform. Well, this morning the left light lit up, and everyone scuttled down the stairs to the platform. But after three or four minutes, the train arrived on the OTHER platform, har har har. All we could do was stare at it in disbelief. See, you can't get over there except by running up the stairs, over the tracks and back down. And running after trains, trams and trolleys is not only desperate and degrading, it's futile. Because you'll never get there in time, especially if they see you coming. And then if you do, your moment of triumph is dampened by the looks of loathing on the faces of the commuters you've forced to squeeze that much closer together to accommodate you. The way I look at it is, it's fate. If I was meant to be on that train I'd have been standing on the right platform when it came.

Anyway, two disabled trains came after that, so it was the fourth train, twenty minutes later, that finally whisked me off to the city center. Very efficient-like.

So here's the deal. I'm here for you. I feel your pain. Send me your rage, my babies. In painstaking detail. I will post it all. We will compile a massive list of meticulously recounted individual grievances, about anything having to do with the MBTA, from that obnoxious puddle of stagnant piss-water at the top of the escalator in Arlington Station to rats the size of alligators--or was that an actual alligator?--at Downtown Crossing. Tell me your tales of woe. About the crazy dude who got on at Chinatown and terrorized everyone acting out an entire episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" right there in front of you. About the fat lady with the fried chicken dinner who sat down on top of you at Roxbury Crossing, and chowed down, and didn't even offer to let you gnaw on her bones. Send them. I will post them.

Then we will have proof.