Tuesday, February 24, 2009

U.S.Air Makes Soda Free Again


They have redeemed themselves.

(Thanks Katie!)

My Life on the……Plane?

That’s right folks. I have spent these past two weeks traveling to Savannah and San Diego for work, and I have some reflections/ramblings to share with you regarding my main mode of transportation these past two weeks.

First off, U.S. Air now charges $2 for a can of soda. Not knowing this beforehand, I did not buy a beverage to take with me on the plane, thinking that I would wait for my complimentary can of ginger ale. I don’t know about you, but I am unwilling to pay $2 for a can of soda that should be included in my VERY expensive plane ticket. On my trip to San Diego I was flying American and assumed that there would be a cost for beverages, so I came prepared. To my delight, American did serve complimentary beverages and I happily drank my ginger ale with ice with renewed faith in the air travel industry.

Now I know that the window seat on the plane is the most coveted (great view, something to lean against while sleeping), but for me, the aisle seat is far superior. First off, you have a better vantage point for people watching on the airplane. You’re able to see not only the people in the row across from you, but the people in front and behind you. If the people in your immediate row are dull, you may find yourself being entertained by the passengers sitting around you. Secondly, you can lop over into the aisle, which I find creates a few more feet of leg room (just make sure you watch out for that beverage cart). And lastly, the aisle seat enables you to be the first one in your row to retrieve your overhead luggage from the bins, thus giving you a slight advantage in the scramble to exit the plane after landing.

I have never experienced more anxiety than when I am waiting to see who I have to sit next to on the plane. Best-case scenario: An attractive, single male who engages me in meaningful and entertaining conversation throughout the duration of the flight, laughs at all of my side-splitting jokes, and declares the plane ride to be the best one he has ever had. Worst-case scenario: A dirty looking old man who smells like feet, breathes too loudly, and pulls out an egg salad sandwich, which he then chews loudly right next to my ear. On both of my trips, my row mates fell somewhere in between my best and worst case scenarios. On my flight from Boston to Texas, I sat next to Bob and Mary. Bob and Mary are the stereotypical overfriendly couple who offer you food, and proceed to tell you a plethora of details about their life that you’d probably be better off not knowing. From Texas to San Diego, I sat next to a woman who brought her cat as her carry-on item. Now I did not think I had any allergies to animals, but sitting 2 feet away from a cat for 3 hours proved otherwise. Sitting next to Cat Lady was a Hispanic artist, who quickly became infatuated with Cat Lady. They spent the entire flight talking and laughing and drinking (she bought him wine!). At the end they exchanged e-mail addresses and Cat Lady walked away smitten as a kitten (no pun intended). I guess that was her best-case scenario.

Happy Flying!

Monday, February 16, 2009

T Entertainment

If you ever ride the Red Line going outbound to Alewife between 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM, you may have had the privilege of being entertained by a group called “Black Guys Dancing”(yes, that is their actual name). This is a group of young guys who perform break-dancing and hip-hop dance routines on moving trains. They usually will perform for one or two stops then get off and go perform in the next car. I have seen them perform many times, and I have to say that it is truly amazing that they can do flips within the narrow confines of the T. They ask for donations at the end, and I am always happy to give them some spare change, or even a dollar if I have it. After every performance of BGD that I encounter, I always wonder why I don’t see more performers on the T. Sure, there are a lot of musicians who perform at the actual T stations (the guy who plays the guitar at Arlington Street is my favorite), but I have only really seen BGD perform on an actual train. It would be a great way to capture people’s attention, since they pretty much have to look/listen to you while they are stuck in the same car.

Here is a video I found on YouTube of the Black Guys Dancing. Now whoever created this video calls them “Dancing Black Guys,” which is wrong. Their name is in fact “Black Guys Dancing.” Enjoy!


On a completely unrelated note: Can you have a doppelganger of the opposite sex? If so, I saw mine on the T. I was riding the T home from my first bowling game of the season (BILFS!), and I came face to face with a guy who looked exactly like me. We both were wearing brown North Face fleeces, jeans, and brown Puma sneakers. It was kind of awkward.

Happy Riding!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Office Space Moment

During my morning commute the other day I experienced what I like to refer to as an “Office Space Moment.” You know the part in the movie “Office Space,” where Peter is stuck in traffic, and every time he switches lanes, the lane he was just in moves ahead while he gets stuck? Well that same thing can happen while riding the T.

The Green Line has four separate routes you can take out of Boston (B, C, D and E). All of these routes go to Arlington Street (my stop), so I have the luxury of jumping on whatever line arrives first. The other morning, upon climbing the stairs to the Green Line platform, I saw a B line waiting with its doors open. I ran to catch it, thinking how lucky I was that I did not have to wait for a train. A few seconds later the feeling of dread spread over me when I realized that the train I ran to catch was not in fact leaving, but standing by. At that very moment and to my delight, a C line train was approaching. It was like Christmas! I eagerly jumped off the stalled B line and ran to the C line (for some reason the C line is my favorite…I swear the cars are cleaner!). The very moment I boarded the pristine C line, I saw the B line, from where I just came, take off. Disappointed, but not defeated, I braced myself for the familiar pull of the T rolling away from the platform. A few seconds later, still bracing, I heard the words that were becoming all too familiar to me that morning: “we are standing by.” This is the point where I started to get really annoyed. Just then, an E line train appeared across the platform. My immediate reaction was to get off the C line and try my luck with the E—but my past experiences that morning taught me better. Do I evacuate the train I am on and board the new one in hopes that the new train will leave the station first? It was a gamble, but I decided to take it. Hesitantly, I abandoned the C line, and to my utter dismay, I heard the creak of the doors close behind me. The C line left the station. With a head hung low, I moved toward the E line praying that this nightmare would end. I boarded the train and a few seconds later, the doors closed and we took off. And that is what I like to call an “Office Space Moment.”

Completely unrelated to that incident—I would like to give my good friend Adam Freedman a shout out for successfully climbing the 176 steps at the Porter Square T station yesterday. Having used that T station for a year, I know that this is not an easy task.

Happy Riding!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

T Rider Personalities: The Official List

The passengers of the T are a peculiar bunch. They come from all walks of life representing the various demographics/cultures that make up the city of Boston. Whether it be a businesswoman commuting to the Financial District, or a stay at home father taking his kids on a trip to the Museum of Science, one thing is for certain: they are all a little bit off their rockers.

This is why I have decided to dedicate this blog entry to the different T-rider personalities that I have come across in my travels.

1. “The Panicky Exit-er” This is the person who thinks that they will not have enough time to exit the T, and therefore must move close to the door many stops in advance (most likely to occur on the Green Line). This is annoying because I am usually forced to move out of the way by said exit-er, which causes me to have to release the pole/seat I was holding on to and risk falling.

2. “The Crowd-er” This is the person who wedges himself/herself on the already too crowded T at the last minute before the doors close. This is one of the most annoying offenses of T riding, and usually occurs on the Green Line. You can also recognize this person by the odd odor radiating from their body.

3. “The Wannabe at the Club-er” This is the person who is listening to his music so incredibly loud that you can hear it through the headphones. It is never a song that you actually like, but rather a terribly annoying racket with the same techno beat on repeat. I can only surmise that this person mistook the T for a dance club. You can also recognize this person by the shiny shirt he will be wearing.

4. “The Crazy” This is pretty self explanatory. I don’t know where this person comes from or where they are going, but you can clearly tell that they are crazy. And they always sit in the empty seat next to me.

5. “The Annoying Tweens” This is the group of annoying pre-teens that I always seem to be stuck with riding in the same car. They talk at a decibel that is unnaturally loud and they cannot for the life of them balance on the T. Also, at least one tween in the group will be eating a Wendy’s Frosty.

6. “The Wobbler” This is the person who cannot balance on the T, even while holding onto a pole or handle. Yes, the T does stop short causing everyone to lurch forward every so often, however, this person might as well be standing on stilts. They almost always end up stepping on my toes.

7. “The Talker” This one is pretty self-explanatory. I have had the good fortune of not being talked to on the T by random strangers that often, however, I am including this one in my list because a lot of people have said they have been randomly chatted up by a fellow T passenger.

8. “The Tourist” This one also speaks for itself. My biggest grievance toward “The Tourist” is a phrase that I have coined the “pole hug.” The “pole hug” is when you put your entire arm around the pole so that your whole body touches it making it impossible for anyone else to grab on. Usually I remedy this situation by making a huge deal of squeezing my hand onto the one visible inch of pole that is not being smothered by “The Tourists’” body. He or she is usually taken aback by my aggressive behavior, but soon after detaches him or herself from the length of the pole. “The Tourist” can also be disguised as the “The Panicky Exit-er” (see #1).

9. “The Stroller Mom” This is the person (usually a female), who gets on the T with a huge contraption resembling a stroller of sorts. She usually parks her stroller right in front of the door making it impossible to enter or exit the T without stubbing your toe or coming dangerously close to stepping on their child.

10. “The Cute Guy Who Never Sits Next To You” This person is the extremely attractive male who occasionally gets on the same T as you. He eyes the seat next to you, but bypasses it for one further in the train. Immediately after “The Crazy” (see #4) enters the T and sits in the empty seat next to you.

11. “The Over the Shoulder Reader” This is the person who thinks it is socially acceptable to read over your shoulder. While this does not physically affect me, I find it extremely annoying.

12. “The PDA Couple” This is the couple who you are forced to stand smushed up against, who completely ignore the fact that they are in the middle of the most un-romantic place on earth.

13. “The Sigh-er” This is the person whose answer to any sort of disturbance during their T ride is a loud, annoyed sigh (usually accompanied by an eye roll). I will be the first to admit my annoyance when the T is not running on schedule, however, when I am near “The Sigh-er” I often find myself wishing for another disabled train delay to see how irritated this person can get.

That’s my final list for now, but stay tuned because I will be on the lookout for more T-rider personalities.

Happy Riding!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Big Red...Not Just a Gum

Today's morning commute started like any other Monday morning commute. I sluggishly descended upon the Davis Square T station with my fellow commuters in a post-Super Bowl haze. I stood at my usual spot, hoping that a T would come relatively quickly since I was not in any rush to wake up this morning causing me to be a few minutes behind schedule.

After about 5 minutes or so of waiting I hear the familiar rumble of the oncoming train. As the train slowed into place, I noticed something different. This was not your normal Braintree train, it was a Big Red.

The MBTA has recently added seat-less Red Line trains called Big Reds. Big Reds are high-capacity cars on Red Line trains, which run during the morning and evening rush hour times. According to Dan Grabauskas, the general manager of the MBTA, the Big Red cars are supposed to allow for 27 additional riders than the regular Red Line cars. This would increase capacity by 10%.

While I applaud the MBTA for recognizing the space issue during rush hour, and coming up with a cost-effective way to lessen it--I cannot help but point out a few flaws. First, there is the problem with the absence of essential poles. There is an open space right near the doors of the train where there are no seats or poles. I always find myself stuck in that exact spot during a busy commute. While it is always fun to try to balance or pretend you are surfing, it is not fun when you awkwardly have to grab on to your neighbor in order not to fall. The Big Red cars force more people to stand in that open pole-less area, therefore, increasing T-riders chances of inappropriate contact with fellow riders.

Secondly, the Big Red has no seats. As much as I pretend to be noble and generous by wanting to give up my seat to others, it generally doesn't happen. One of the perks of getting on the T at the beginning of the line is getting a seat, and that is something that I count on in my everyday commute. Nothing is more annoying than trying to read the Metro, drink my coffee, and listen to my iPod whilst standing.

Lastly, I do not believe that people utilize the empty space effectively. With a normal car, the seats are uncomfortably close together. While I don't enjoy being sandwiched between two strangers, the Red Line does manage to fit a lot of seats in one car. With the seats removed, people can now choose how close they want to stand to another person. No one will stand as close to someone as they would be sitting in a normal car--at least I would hope not.

Despite my grievances with the new Big Red cars, I do not foresee them being a big problem as long as they are only used sparingly during rush hour.

Happy Riding!

Welcome to My Life on the T

Hello Readers!

Welcome to my brand new blog documenting my life as a T rider. I find myself spending a lot of time on the T between my commute to work, and the absence of a car in my life. I have found in my almost 3 years living in Boston that riding the T is unpredictable and sometimes downright absurd. Because of this, I think it would be an excellent subject to blog about.

My commute to work is as follows: I take the Red Line from Davis Square to Park Street, and pick up the Green Line two stops to Arlington Street. While it is not the longest/most painful commute out there, it does force me to spend enough time on the T for me to become somewhat insightful and opinionated on the subject.

Happy Reading!