“The T” is the name for Boston’s subway system. The Orange line T is known as the “ghetto” line, or as Frank would say when describing something that is sub-par, the Orange line is the “bobo” line. (I always laugh when he uses this adjective) He and I just so happen to live only a few blocks from the Mass Ave Orange line, which means we use it all the time. In fact, the rumble of the track is a common sound in Frank’s living room. It’s that close. We both ride it inbound to work, and I also ride it outbound to get to my observation site in Jamaica Plain.
I’ve had my fair share of interesting, and somewhat disturbing encounters on this lovely line. Of course there are the crowded, popular hours which should be avoided at all cost: the early morning commute full of sleep-deprived downtown businesspeople, and the 3:00 pm dismissal when public school kids fight their way home to the outskirts of Boston. But the real adventurous, noteworthy events take place during all the hours in between these high traffic times.
For example, last week an African American man sat a few seats away from me. I was oblivious at first because I was engrossed in my schoolbook “The Skillful Teacher.” When it finally occurred to me that his gaze was lingering one me, I simply looked him in the eye and smiled, breaking the awkward stare. That was that and the commute went on for another few stops. Then, as I was getting off at Mass Ave, I was stunned when this man intentionally stuck out his leg to trip me! I looked at him in horror and disbelief, gave him the evil eye and then was shocked again when he struck a few repeated kicks to my foot! This happened so fast that before I had a chance to say anything or look around to see if anyone else had registered what just happened, I had stepped off the train. What a maniac! And to think I flashed him a friendly smile just moments earlier!
Weird Orange line occurrence #2 happened only a few days later as I was coming home from work. Again I was reading for school and not paying attention to the other passengers. We were packed in like sardines when a young man squeezed on and stood directly in front of my seat, crotch in my face. I didn’t think much of this because stranger’s crotches in your face on the crowded train are a regular occurrence (lovely thought, huh?). The seat next to me became vacant and this young man took advantage of the upgrade to seat. Shortly after, I hear him say “excuse me, ma’am, would you want to be acquaintances”? Yep. Sure enough, he was talking to me. I’m sure I looked dumbfounded. I’ve never been asked to be someone’s “acquaintance” and especially never by a complete stranger. Think fast: how can I be kind and polite by rejecting this young man’s proposal, while still being direct and assertive? I simply responded by saying “uhm, I’m not exactly sure what you mean” to which he quickly explained “you know, like maybe we could hang out and be friends?” Bold! And strange…. I was nice and we bantered back and forth a bit during which time I learned that he is 21 years old and studying to become a medical assistant (or something like that). I made sure to sneak in that I had recently moved to Boston with my serious boyfriend. I was having an internal debate on how I would respond when he asked for my phone number: I lost my cell phone; I don’t give my number out to complete strangers I meet on the subway; My probation officer doesn’t allow me to use a cell phone, My boyfriend is a blood thirsty maniac, etc. But luckily for both of us, we arrived at my stop and I jumped off with a quick “nice to meet you! Goodbye and good luck!” before he had the chance to ask. That was a close one!
And just today I witnessed a family dynamic worth modeling after….A real “winning” family. I noticed in the station a family of 3 enormous people, two women and one kid boy. The boy got mad about something and stormed off. Before I knew it, they were all three in my train car. The boy screamed repeatedly at his unconcerned “MOMMY.” He somehow got his voice up to a pitch that I am certain would disturb the hardest of hearing, or alert dogs miles away. Shrill and painful, no doubt. One of the women, who turned out to be his sister, told him to shut up. Her “shut up” was barely audible due to her continuous swigs of soda and loud burping. The men on either side of her looked utterly disgusted. Then mommy walked over, messy corn rolls on her head and an ass the size of a freight train. Her nose buried in her dated handheld gaming device (most likely the root of the argument!), she told her dear son to “stop embarrassing” her or she’d “punch him in the f*cking face!” What a bitch. Needless to say, everyone was relieved when this loving family got off the train.
I know I’m not the only one experiencing or witnessing dramatic encounters on the Orange T. Frank’s told me about at least one close encounter with a crazy man. As weird or off-putting as they may be, these episodes contribute to that which makes Boston Boston. And although at times people surprise me with their actions (the man who kicked me), I’ve yet to feel unsafe. I can’t avoid the Orange line T, so I might as well get used to everyday occurrences, courtesy of Boston’s finest.
More to come: last weekend’s fabulous trip to Maine, my new apartment, etc.