Monday, October 18, 2010

Romancing Public Transportation, or There's No T in Romance

The "T" in Boston is part rail car, part subway and wholly an experience for someone who has not relied on public transportation since I was knee-deep in snow at the high school bus stop thinking, "Oh, no, you did-ent" as my dad drove by trying everything he could to embarrass me. The T is like that, without the love. Or the deodorant.

Mother Nature ordered up a tepid bowl of crazy-downpour my Boston day. I swiped at the condensation gathering on the windows of the rail car and drew vague stares. I suppose if I'd spelled out "tourist" in the fog, it would have been no less obvious, but I did want to see Boston. On the college line, the other passengers were soldiers of rain (whatevah) and how-will-I-ever-repay-my-loan seriousness. I traveled ten stops before I realized I was a stowaway. On the Dart bus in Dallas if you don't pay, you might be spot-checked and asked to leave. On the T if you don't pay, the driver crushes you with bi-fold doors. Good thing Samuel Adams is there to numb the pain and embarrassment.

Free Boston Lager samples at 10 am and the ZZ-Top-ish guy from the commercials? Yes, there is love in Boston, though not for poor Sam Adams. You see, Mr. Adams was just not enough of a hottie for the beer company's logo, so they tapped into Paul Revere's likeness. He was to early twentieth century beer as Fabio was to the non-butter industry.

After a drenching day of Freedom Trails, dark pubs and creepy strolls, I was starting to feel the romance. I was no longer a stowaway to Boston life, but a ticket-carrying commuter who'd mastered the art of seriousness. I no longer met other's eyes or held doors for strangers or smiled at someone for no reason. I was certifiably Bostonian on my last commute out of the city's heart. I had internalized the city, felt its weight and movement on my bosom. I had surmized that the T's "request stop" button was not in fact in the crotch of every male in Boston as I had once believed, but perhaps merely an indication of cotton-blend shrinkage. But Boston had one more lesson for me.

On the green line, near Boston University, the vessel as packed as a telephone booth in a 1950's diner contest, I came to understand the true meaning of "beantown."

And I wept.

The romance was gone.
Tomorrow: Romancing New England's Roads, Or There's No G, P, or S in Romance