I am often traveling on what we here in Boston affectionately call the "E" car. This is also known as the "E" line; or "Arborway," but that is a really old designation. I find that I can approximate when people arrived in Boston by the way they refer to certain places and things. New arrivals call this system "The Subway," arriviste students refer to "the trolley." Actually, they are trolleys in the B.U. and B.C. areas, but those of us who have been around since the Kingston Trio days called it the "T." This is the short version of MTA, on which rode the former "Charlie," who we were promised would never return, but apparently he has, with much humor and convenience. he brought an extra initial with him: it's now the MBTA, but still "The T" to it's users.
If you meet someone who is going to "Columbia" on the red line, or doesn't think there is anything beyond Harvard, or knows not to expect to be in the middle of the MIT campus when he comes to the surface at Kendall/MIT; who is not the least confused that the "C" car runs down Beacon Street while the "B" car runs down Commonwealth, and will direct you to "Auditorium" when you're trying to find Hynes Prudential Center- or knows not to direct you there if your looking the ICA, then you have met a very long time resident. If he drives (which he may not) he would know that the traffic merging into the left lane of Commonwealth Avenue, merging from the tunnel under Mass Ave, the tunnel which is completely invisible to the uninitiated, has in fact the "right of way" over Commonwealth Avenue traffic. During my driving years there was no sign there. One just knew. These people call a certain portion of Route 95 "128" causing out of state drivers no end of confusion.
I often say that in Boston the rules of the road are only guidelines. I had a friend who moved here from California. A day or two after settling in Cambridge he decided to drive to Boston to do some errands. He proceeded about a mile, returned home totally shattered and refused ever to drive in Boston again. We took a gymnastics class together and I volunteered to drive him, hence the friendship and the explanation. He was able to figure out the "T," and even became fluent in "Inbound, Outbound," which is great fun to explain to someone at Symphony who is now trying to get back into town.
I have always ridden the "T." The city has severe traffic and parking difficulties-although the "Big Dig" seems to have helped the former and the present state of the economy may help the latter, but the "T," for all people complain about it, is a very efficient system. A few years ago I stopped driving, and became an exclusive "T" rider. Certain friends are horrified, they offer cab fare when I talk of grabbing the green line at Beaconsfield. I know they turn on the television after I leave, but they don't know that I am the one being entertained. Those who enjoy "People watching" have no idea of how enjoyable that pastime can be on the "T."
I was riding the "E" car on afternoon, watching folks as usual. This line takes you the Symphony and NorthEastern, and the Museum of Fine Arts, so it has a fair number of tourist riding along with this sometimes smug, rather self conscious, one time "A List" urban gay man. Well, the bloom may be off the lilly, I'll admit that much, but I do still have a certain amount of sartorial pride. There was a group of "Older Women" from "The mid west" no doubt, sitting across the aisle. I have to be very careful, this happens all the time now, I see these older women, or older men and as I observe, or perhaps eavesdrop- only for scientific purposes- I come to realize that the term "older," if taken in reference to myself, ceased to be true some time ago. Older than my twenty year old self perhaps, but that leaves a 40 year gap, and I realized these "older" folks were probably 15 years younger than moi!
Je suis choqué
But wait, it gets worse. I am wearing a very pedestrian (excuse the pun) pair of basic Reeboks in very dirty white, while this little old mid western lady, soon to acquire her blue hair no doubt, is standing there in the coolest pair of sneakers I've ever seen. Very smart, with nicely trimmed flaps that fold very neatly over what I sure must be an elastic and velcro closure- I was totally out classed! Me! I would have asked their origin but pride again, I just couldn't. It was really embarrassing!