Friday, July 31, 2009
Just like Charlie, I love Boston's subway
I bumped my magnetic CharlieCard to the sensor to pay my $1.70 fare. It was raining so hard that a waterfall was created over the sides of the train, making it impossible to enter the car without getting wet. As the car began to fill up with rush hour passengers, I noticed two women, about my age, likely even younger, each holding a stroller that held a toddler. One of the toddlers kept saying, "Hewwo!" and "Hiiii!" to the people nearby her, who besides myself dressed like professionals. One of the men paid the girl attention, i.e. he made eye contact with her, but the others paid her no heed. I smiled with little Lizamarie (I asked her mom her name), and then I started to feel bad that some of the people were more interested in reading the newspapers five inches from their faces than interacting with an adorable little girl. I understand that some people just don't know what's appropriate "subway etiquette," but come on, she had such a sweet grin, and was certainly eager for some human-to-human interaction. Maybe I'm looking too deep into the situation, but I wonder if situations like this perpetuate our anxiety of strangers.
I had to get off the traincar to switch to another line. With my Gabriel García Marquéz novel, I sat down on a wooden bench next to an older man who was conversing with his woman companion about the mangos that he was handling. They were at the subway stop near one of Boston's most exciting outdoor fruit and veggie markets. I asked how the market was, and he looked at me confusedly, so I repeated my question in Spanish: "Como fue el mercado?" He said that is was cheap! Turns out he was from Colombia (just like the author of my book), so I proudly displayed my wrist that bore a bracelet with his red, yellow, and blue flag. Like most Colombians, he was talkative (I won't repeat the whole interplay). As the train pulled in to the station he said, "Mucho gusto," which means, "Nice to meet you." I smiled, and then walked onto the train, anxious to savor the last three pages of one of the best novels I have ever read.
When little Bostonians first go to school, they learn a song about a man named Charlie who gets lost on the subway (which we just call the T). The chorus goes: "Did he ever return? No, he never returned, and his fate is still unknown. He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston, he's the man who never returned." While it must have been hard for poor Charlie to go missing from his family (he could not pay his fare, so the story goes that he was not allowed off the train), it is reassuring to know that Charlie never had a shortage of interesting people to meet, and new ideas to consider.
F.Y.I.: Opened in 1897, Boston's subway is U.S.A.'s first. Ridership on the whole Mass Transit system has increased in the past decade. In July of 2008, system-wide ridership was nearly 34.7 million.