July 19, 2010, 5 p.m.
MBTA Green Line, B branch, Boston College to Government Center
I saw them crossing Commonwealth Avenue, walking inexorably toward the train stop. The signs were as unmistakable as they were terrifying: sensible cargo shorts, white Capri pants, pastel-hued polos, summery floral prints, and dollar bills clenched tight in fists. These were parents who were heading back to their hotels after Boston College orientation, and not only were they undoubtedly heading all the way to Copley Square, but they were Green Line rookies.
While Boston is technically in a temperate climate zone, there are only ever around 20 days a year that aren’t unbearably hot or bitterly cold. Consequently, when you get to the platform at the Boston College stop, it’s imperative that you get out in front of anyone that’s paying with cash. You see, at the above-ground stops on the B line (and there are 18 of them), you have to enter in the front door of the trolley car and pay there. If you’re a savvy urban mover and an earnest participant in the social contract, you have a Charlie Ticket or a Charlie Card, and you’re in the train in a jiff. If you’re a parent in town for a few days to accompany your kid while she goes through college orientation, you’ve only got two dollar bills, which you will fumble for, put into the machine backwards, and generally hold up the long line of people trying to get into the train behind you. Consequently, it’s imperative that you get in front of these folks and get on the train first.
My parents and I went through BC’s orientation. They tell you a lot of things. One of the nifty things they don’t tell you is that if you can stand a pleasant, 12-minute walk to Cleveland Circle, you can reach two other subway lines that will get you downtown much quicker than the plodding B line. (And make no mistake, these folks are going downtown, at least to the hotels at Copley Square. I can tell.) The walk is much more pleasant if you’re wearing sensible cargo shorts or Capri pants, but much less pleasant if you’re stuck in khaki pants and a long sleeved shirt.
Going inbound, the B line lets passengers off after the intersection of Commonwealth and Chestnut Hill Avenues, but there’s a traffic light that the train often stops at first. I’m a compassionate guy, but I’m not above laughing when half a dozen rooks stand up and hurry toward the door when the trolley stops at the light, only to sheepishly sit back down. Especially when said rooks have crowded in the front of the train, instead of spreading out toward the back. Of course, the fact that half the orientation contingent kiboshes my assumption that they weren’t savvy enough to pick up the C or D lines at Cleveland Circle. Then again, none of them were savvy enough to have Charlie Cards. Good riddance!