Monday, August 6, 2007

Held Hostage on the T

After 12 years of commuting daily by commuter rail (surface train to the unitiated readers among us), you would think I would be used to this. But no. Just when I've settled into the complacency of departing and arriving on time, with minimal angst, hassle or fuss (and even with air conditioning so far this summer, knock wood), the T throws a curve-ball at us, and holds us hostage on our commute into work, providing us an extra 45 minutes to read, sleep, ponder the brilliance of wildlife in the Lynn marshes and marvel at just how wonderful it is to be alive and well and stuck somewhere between Lynn and Chelsea.

My commute this morning started out innocently enough. Like any other day, I left my house at 7:18 (a time scientifically adjusted based on summer vacation schedules, lack of school buses and benefits of lighter traffic volume on the .6 mile ride from my home to the sidestreet where I park) and expected to arrive at my desk at 8:22, all things being equal. Arriving at the depot, I noted that the scrolling marquis sign indicated that:

Due to drawbridge problems, buses have been implemented between Lynn and Chelsea.

[Again for the unitiated: this would be disastrous for the morning commute. Over 800 people on this particular train, which follows an even-more packed train only 6 minutes ahead. There's no way there are enough buses to "implement" to efficiently move this many people between Lynn and Chelsea by lunchtime.]

My heart momentarily skipped a beat but then I reminded myself that these newly installed signs are never accurate, usually scrolling false data or stale data left over from the weekend. Surely, I convinced myself, that must be it. I momentarily pondered my options for damage control, which were really either 1) run back to the car, drive to Wonderland and take the subway in, but I only had $2 on me and needed $4 to park or 2) go back home. As appetizing as option #2 was, I put the smart (ha!) money on the sign being wrong and persevered like the soldier with a work ethic that I am.

The train arrived on time, a good sign. But alas, I boarded and sensed the hostility amongst the passengers already on board. We proceeded, sloooowly, to Salem. After the Salem stop, I was apparently blessed by the commuting gods because the conductor hesitantly announced that "A train just went over the drawbridge successfully, keep your fingers crossed, we might not need the buses."

By this time, we were only about 8 minutes late, having staggered slowly to Salem. I might only end up about 15 minutes late. But again, that was wishful thinking. I may have dodged the bus bullet, but for some unknown reason, the delays started to pile up nonetheless.

Now, the T doesn't muck up often, but when it does, it is in such momentous proportions and for the most ludicrous reasons, that it baffles the brain. In this day and age, considering the stone-age quality of the excuses we are fed, it's amazing that the trains manage to move at all. Over the years, among the excuses we've heard are: signal delays due to ice, delays due to rain, delays due to wet leaves, railroad gates stuck, delays due to lack of manpower, and my favorite "traffic backup" (Credit to Paul for recognizing that these are straight tracks with no intersections with trains at no less than 6 minute intervals...where's the traffic coming from?). Are you getting the picture? Now mind you, it is virtually a straight shot from Beverly to Boston, with only one sharp curve coming into Somerville. So the wet leaves? Really, not an issue on a straight track. At least in my mind. But I digress...

So back to this morning's hostage situation. By Swampscott -- ordinarily 12 minutes into the trip -- I'd long finished my Globe and was immersed in my book. Fine enough, but the trip between Swampscott and Lynn lingered, and coming out of Lynn was mighty slow, yet we zipped over the drawbridge in question, only to begin to drag lethargically again approaching Chelsea after the drawbridge, coming out of Chelsea and into Somerville. Why the holdup if we'd passed the bridge successfully? Of course there'd been no public service announcement since we left Lynn, so we were all kept in the dark. I'd been reading so long that I'd lost interest in reading. People who had slept were waking up refreshed and ready for the long day and then began the flurry of phone calls to home and work to play the lame ass "Guess where I am?" game. I'll tell you where I am, I'm stuck on this damn train and it's cutting into my private time.

You see, I just have to work 7 hours, no more, no less. So ordinarily I'd get in at 8:22 and would be free to leave at 3:22 (no lunch) or 4:22 (with lunch) to arrive at work at 8:57 seriously cramps my style. I grabbed my venti iced coffee, ate my bagel and blogged for a while (hey, gotta get this gripe out of my system) and checked the MBTA homepage for any indication that this delay occurred. And apparently, it was all in my imagination because the only alert the T is touting on the Rockport/Newburyport line is the "Bike to the Beach" special they offer for the summer. This causes me to reconsider again my options for getting to work, none of which are at all appealing on a regular basis because, as I mentioned earlier, when the T is "on", it is "on" and runs like clockwork and with next to no stress. As with all the incidents that have happened before, I will take a cue from the T's website, claim temporary amnesia and forget that this happened at all, as any hardened commuter would.

1 comment:

Mark Freedman said...

Hehehe. Sounds so much like the NYC subway I took for years. "Traffic"...yeah, right! A typical reason used to be "passenger on the track", or the day-brightening, matter-of-factly, "pedestrian fatality". Now THAT'S NYC.