Boston traffic is enough to make the sanest individual in the world go stark raving mad. One moment you have a road with four open lanes and the next moment, the Central Artery is backed up and roads in every direction come to a complete stop for miles. Rush hour traffic in Boston is the worst so I knew I was faced with a monumental predicament when I had to attend an early morning meeting in Boston; drive or take public transportation?
I decided to take the T because traffic would be backed up for hours in the morning and by the time I made it to my appointment; the meeting would be halfway over. I also decided to be obsessively early because I figured the extra time would allow me to grab a cup of coffee and a bagel once I got into Boston. Early engagements require a lot of caffeine and as an added bonus, if I arrived before everyone else, I would be able to get a nice comfortable seat at the table.
I didn’t want to sit in two hours of bumper to bumper traffic so I chose to ride the T. The biggest problem about using public transportation was when I got on the train; everyone was crammed into the car like sardines in a tin can. As I jostled and elbowed my way into a standing position in the compartment, the train pulled out of the station.
After traveling for two minutes, the train stopped. As I stood there on the crowded train wondering why we had stopped, the engineer came over the intercom and said, “Sorry for the delay folks, we are conducting a routine maintenance stop of our systems. We should be on our way shortly.”
I wasn’t a daily user of the public transportation system but I thought that conducting a “routine maintenance stop” during the morning rush hour commute didn’t sound like a logical idea to me. The people around me acted like nothing had happened, almost as if it was commonplace to stop trains in the middle of rush hour and conduct a routine maintenance inspection. I, on the other hand, thought this had to be a really bad joke but since I was an intermittent passenger, I thought that this wouldn’t delay my arrival too much.
My patience was starting to wear a little thin when it took ten minutes to get the train moving again. The delay had cost me some valuable time but with a clear ride into Boston, I would still be able to grab my coffee and make my meeting before it started. I was not alarmed until I noticed we were crawling along the tracks at an obsessively slow rate of velocity.
As I looked out the window I came face to face with the harsh reality of my day. The traffic on I-93 Northbound into Boston was moving faster than the train I was currently riding. There wasn’t a traffic jam on the highway, cars were moving quickly along the thruway and yet, I was standing on a train that was moving slower than your average mail delivery truck. I was getting irritated.
And then, we stopped again! They had fooled me with their first announcement but this time I was convinced; this had to be more than a routine maintenance stop. The train must have been broken and I was sure that a replacement train was coming to our aid. I took solace in the fact that as soon as the new train arrived, we would be on our way to Boston. But, once again, our train started moving.
I looked at my watch and it dawned on me that I was going to be much later than I had originally anticipated. But if the train were to run smoothly from here on out, I would still be able to make my meeting on time. The train pulled slowly into the next station and I thought that the conductor was going to have everyone exit the train because a replacement train was waiting right behind us to take us to our destinations. They were going to get everyone safely to the next platform and switch trains so that nobody would get hurt. I was impressed with their forethought as I waited for the conductor or the engineer to make the announcement for us to switch trains.
Yet, the announcement never came. We were never told to disembark and get on a new train. Instead, our train pulled out of the station and flew down the track towards at regular speed. All was not lost. I still had time on my side. If I passed up on the coffee and the bagel, I could still make it on time. I could only hope that there would be coffee in the conference room once I arrived.
Then the train stopped again! I was not exactly sure where we had stopped because we were in the tunnel and it was dark outside the train. All I knew was that the routine maintenance stops were starting to get a little ridiculous. This was our third unscheduled stop and because of it, I was going to be very late for an important meeting.
The train just sat there in the darkened tunnel. There wasn’t an announcement from the engineer and there wasn’t a word from the conductor. We all just sat or stood there in complete silence letting our minds run amok with the problems these stops had just caused. I was reluctantly about to accept my fate like the faceless masses in our compartment had done and just deal with the delays when I smelt it for the first time.
Someone on the train had just farted! I was incensed. I was beyond the point of rational understanding and compassion for our situation. How could someone just float a barking air biscuit on a stranded and crowded train? Oh, My God, the smell! The smell was horrible, absolutely horrible! What had that person eaten?!
They had to have eaten a breakfast burrito or something like that because there was no way on God’s green earth that Cheerios smelt like stale sulfur. In my mind, I begged and pleaded and prayed for an end to this misery. It had to stop. It just had too; something just had to go right. For the love of God, why wasn’t the train moving?!
It was official, this was turning into “one of those days!” I was going to be late for my meeting, I was not going to have any coffee, and someone around here had enough natural gas stored up to drive down prices drastically at the pump. And it kept getting worse; it was coming in waves, one after the other! Whoever this person was decided to strafe the entire train with more unpleasant aromas than I could have ever imagined possible and the smell just got more and more intense by the minute. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I was gasping for fresh air and praying for a can of Lysol when the train started to move again.
I quickly exited the T at Downtown Crossing. I was gulping down fresh air as quickly as I could. I realized I was late for my meeting. I was going to have to run from the station to my appointment. So I ran as fast as I could in my suit and dress shoes on the icy and wintry streets of Boston. The irony of my obsessive attempt to be exceptionally early for this meeting was not lost on me as I slipped once or twice trying to take the corners a little too fast. I arrived at my meeting about twenty-five minutes late, covered in sweat and emanating some interesting odors of my own.
It was depressing and to make matters worse, there was only one tiny, cramped seat left in the middle of the table. I made my apologies for being late and sat down in the open seat as the people on either side of me tried to scoot as far away from me as possible. The droplets of sweat were rolling down the side of my face and I looked horrible. If I could have, I would have skipped this meeting when I got to the lobby but unfortunately I couldn’t miss it.
I was becoming a distraction at the meeting as people tried to cover their noses and move their seats. So I grabbed a pen, took out the notepad that came with the materials that had been passed out before I arrived and I scribbled a note so that everyone around me could see it; “I am very, very sorry! I will never take public transportation again!”