Only on the Blue Line?

So things are terrible here in Boston, and, after yesterday’s MBTA shutdown, I wasn’t expecting a swift commute home. The Red Line took forever – it wasn’t even worth trying to swim through the sea of passengers at Downtown Crossing to make my connection to the Orange. Walking the something-odd blocks to State Street, I wondered if now would be a good time to Uber. I’d calculated the fare from Harvard Square before leaving work at $21-$25, but now it was 30 minutes later and traffic would be worse.

I kept walking.

This was a mistake.

Lured into comfort by the relative emptiness at the Forest Hills-bound entrance, I was unprepared for the low-ceilinged hell that awaited me at the Blue Line. The crowd bound for Wonderland at the State Street station was like nothing I’d ever seen in real life, aside from those Phish mega-festivals back in the early aughts. After a few polite minutes spent pushing through to the opposite side of the platform, I gave up and just stood. There was nowhere to go. By the time the next train arrived, the human surge was enough to bear me to the very lips of the doors… but no room in the car.

It was approximately 4:30. I decided, still, to wait.

This was another mistake.

After an interminable span spent clicking through my Longform feed (have you READ the latest New Yorker article on psychedelic medical research? FASCINATING.), another train finally arrived. By some swift stroke of doom I found myself square between the cars, and the vector physics of MBTA-boarding ensures that, when squared between cars, there is no possible hope that you will make it through. You will remain, stymied, on the platform, again, wondering how you could possibly be so close and yet so very far away.

Waiting. The crowd was large, but jocular, and this Chinese woman behind me started chattering, at nobody in particular, about the high-speed train Guangzhou to Beijing, suggesting that if our trains in Boston were faster, and arrived with greater frequency, perhaps we might not all be waiting here in a frothing mass of subterranean torment while that homeless blind guy belts out “New York, New York” for the fifth refrain. Of course, she didn’t really SAY it like that, but she was totally right on. “America, you know, think they number one… but maybe…”

The train arrived, and this time I all but RAN through the open doors, thrown inward by the throng behind me. I turned around and saw some brown-skinned men helping the Asian lady up off the floor. “How multicultural,” I thought. “See? Things aren’t so bad, even on the Blue Line.”

A trio of white construction workers banged their coolers together as the train pulled slowly from the station.

“I totally tripped that lady, bro. Talkin’ shit about America.”

And that was the first time I ever felt unsafe on the T.

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