Since moving to Boston, I have experienced the positive and negative of what an urban environment has to offer. A few days after arriving, I went for a walk and was assaulted by an old man with a cane (he literally hit me in the knee with it). In contrast, days later, I went for a run, and lost my driver’s license ( it fell out of my pocket while I was running). The next day I opened my mailbox and found that a good Samaritan had actually mailed it back to me! All in all the good and the bad have stayed in balance (with perhaps tipping towards the side of good)….
Last week, I went out with a friend, Stephanie, who I knew from my exchange program in India at the Indian School of Business (she was my roommate). Stephanie and I always seem to have hilarious misadventures. Like the first time we met in India and we went to a “farm party” on New Year’s Eve that turned out to be a luxury gala at someone’s country mansion (needless to say we were under-dressed). An Indian friend of mine drove us back (tipsy), and on our way back he went too fast around a freeway on-ramp and ended up running into a wall (oops)! I still remember, despite the fact that it could have been a semi-serious accident, that Stephanie and I caught each others’ gaze and burst into laughter. For some reason, we were OK with chaos.
Misadventures usually begin with good intentions. And that’s what happened with Steph and me on that fateful Thursday night in Boston. The plan was to meet my Aunt at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) on the other side of town, near South Station. So, thinking that we were so smart, we decided to take the commuter rail (Stephanie informed me that they never checked tickets going the one stop from Back Bay Station to South Station). And that’s what we did–or so we thought.
Apparently we had accidentally gotten on the train going out of the city, and by the time we realized it, we were already out of the realm of hope of getting back to where we started since the next train taking us back in came past 10PM. When the conductor asked for out tickets, we explained that we would be getting off on the next stop because we made a mistake….he believed us (probably because we looked a bit clueless and panic-stricken), and let us gracefully step off the train. But where the heck were we when we got off? Hyde Park, in Dorchester. It’s not the type of neighborhood you want to be in after dark. Plus, there was no obvious public transportation from the station back in to the city.
We decided to call a taxi. An hour later, it hadn’t come. We called 3 taxi companies in our quest and all either said they couldn’t dispatch a taxi to us because we were too far away (no shit!), or that one was coming for us and to wait. It was like waiting for Godot, because the taxi never came. We killed time by chit-chatting and catching up (we hadn’t seen each other for a year at least), so it wasn’t a total waste. We saw a train approaching the station and in a anticipatory hope made a mad sprint to it, bit it didn’t stop. However I was impressed with Stephanie’s useful ability to run in heels.
Finally, it was after dark and we decided we had better move to plan B–leave the station area and try to find a major road to hail a cab. We adventured out into the night. Lo an behold, we saw a cab! And we ran to catch it. Epic fail 🙁 It sped off without acknowledging us at all. Then we saw a bus–same story. But the idea clicked–“Oh…we can take a BUS!” How obvious, yet somehow it took us hours to realize this. You can tell we’re not the type of people who usually take buses….
Of course it sounded easier than it turned out to be, because first we had to FIND the bus stop. We went in one direction, only to find a pack of scary thugs coming towards us in total darkness. We promptly turned around. In the other direction we saw a bus go by and again ran and shouted (it kept going). But, it did lead us to the bus stop. The bus driver was taking a break so we asked him where we were and which bus to take, and it turned out that his bus would take us right up Washington Street to the Forest Hills T stop in Jamaica Plain, which was our entree back into the city’s public transport. All we had to do was wait until he was off his break.
Feeling quite proud of ourselves, we waiting, talking with the bus driver to encourage him to move faster. Out of the blue, and angry woman approached the bus driver, yelling and cursing him out about how he drove right by her without stopping. He said that he didn’t mean to leave her behind, and hadn’t seen her, but she wouldn’t have it. She just dug in and yelled and screamed and cursed louder than before. Stephanie and I caught each other’s gaze awkwardly, wondering when she would play the race card (she was black and he was white). It only took about 5 minutes. At first he was calm and apologized for missing her, wanting to diffuse the situation. But once it started getting personal, he started yelling and cursing back. We weren’t sure what was going to happen.
Then the crazy lady started walking up to random people at some of the nearby stores, asking them if they had seen her waiting for the bus, and whether or not the bus drove by her without stopping. They all agreed that it did (but none of them were actually in a position to have seen the incident). More likely they just wanted to pacify her. It was one of those surreal experiences where you want to laugh but you can’t because you might get dragged in to it. Stephanie and I were on the outside looking in, and really wished we were filming it (it would have made a hysterical YouTube video).
After canvassing the neighborhood, she returned in full-force dropping every white racial slur she could think of at the bus driver. And he wasn’t rolling over, which was of course just leading to further provocation. She went to the front of the bus and took pictures of the plates, took pictures of the bus and the bus driver, and threatened to call his supervisor and report him. He replied, “I dare you.” Then she noticed us and accused the bus driver of trying to impress us. “Uh-oh, now we’re part of this,” we thought. All the while we were trying not to crack a smile.
This went on for a good 30 minutes. The best part, of course being that she was already at her destination (since she walked from where the bus stop was when she was passed by to where she needed to get off), so she should could have, should have, just gone home. Instead she had a while hair up her ass to pick a fight with a total stranger for no real reason, leading her to accomplish nothing more than arriving home even later. A few more people showed up to the bus stop, and we all agreed, through eye contact alone, that this was one psychotic lady.
Ultimately the bus driver went into his bus and locked the door. He used his radio to call his supervisor and report the crazy woman and the threats she was making. We thought he was going to drive off without letting us on…but this time, we got lucky. He calmed down and let us on the bus and sped away, leaving the angry, mad, crazy woman at the stop, still yelling and cursing at the top of her lungs.
We reached the Forest Hills stop around 930PM and decided it was better to just find a restaurant in JP than go back into the city. The night turned out to be a lesson on “what not to do on public transportation in Boston,” but actually was a total success. We got to catch up, which was the whole point of our evening, while seeing lovely parts of the city which we will probably (and hopefully) never see again.
The moral of the story? Ineptitude in public transport can lead to absurd situations (a further blog to come on this, revolving around the same theme in India). Also, having great company that can stay cool and calm in a fucked up situation turns a mess into a pleasure. Thanks Steph for a great night!