Recently I was trying to negotiate a flight of stairs at the Harvard T stop with my son and his stroller, and a man in a business suit offered to carry the stroller to the top for me. I must have hesitated a bit before I thanked him and accepted, because he followed up his offer with, “Don’t worry, I won’t steal it.” (It should be noted that my son was not in the stroller at the time, but my bag was.) I had to laugh because honestly, that is exactly what I was thinking. To be specific, I was wondering, should I remove my bag before I allow this stranger to take my stroller? How stupid will I sound to the police if I have to report that I gave some dude my stroller and was surprised when he ran away with my wallet?

I’m sure this immediate suspicion says more about me than my fellow T passengers. But that moment, coupled with this Keanu Reeves story I read on Jezebel recently (I know he can’t act but I have a soft spot for him, okay? Don’t judge!), got me thinking about the public transportation around here. As a freelancer, I do most of my work from home and don’t have to take the bus or T every day, but for various reasons, I’ve used it a lot in the past couple of weeks. And although I sometimes hate the convoluted routes, the incorrect bus schedules, and the packed trains, overall I’m going to stick up for the MBTA and my fellow passengers. Here’s why.

  1. They are mostly silent. I am not a person who likes small talk with strangers. Even if I don’t have my face hidden behind a book or my headphones on, I’m usually attempting to look somewhat mean so no one will talk to me. The reason for this is that when I haven’t looked standoffish, the people who come up to me are weirdos, like the dude who questioned me for about ten minutes on the state of my relationship when he saw that I was wearing a wedding band. When my monosyllabic answers finally drove him away, the guy sitting next to me on the bench asked, “You knew him, right?” When I said no, both he and the woman standing next to him started laughing in disbelief. This brings me to my next point.
  2. Despite their silence, for the most part, my fellow passengers seem like nice people. They could actually be terrible people of course, but from what I’ve seen, they tend to help each other out. Almost every time I’ve been struggling with my stroller, someone gives me a hand without me having to ask. Today it was a woman old enough to be my grandmother, but it’s been men and women of all races, old and young.
  3. When they aren’t silently sitting and ignoring one another, they are often incredibly entertaining. Within my first couple of weeks in Boston, I saw an older man drop his bridge out of his mouth onto the floor of a Red Line train, look around to see if anyone was watching, and then pick it up and put it back. IN HIS MOUTH. Ew does not even begin to cover that one. A few months ago on the bus, I saw a young guy apologizing to the driver because he got into a verbal smackdown with a drunk man; apparently the driver knew the man, who had mental health issues, and he was standing up for him. And yesterday I watched a young Asian guy stop playing his ukulele long enough to strike up a conversation in Spanish with the older Mexican man sitting next to him. I don’t know enough Spanish to know what they discussed, but I hope it was his reason for playing the ukulele.

So although it’s not be perfect, my general feeling toward the T is one of appreciation. For a minimal cost, it gets me out of my house and into the city while I catching up on my reading or bop along to Le Tigre, usually without embarrassing myself by humming along. Although maybe that should be my plan B for keeping the weirdos away.

Photo credit: J. DePasquale