Posts Tagged ‘commute’

trolley morning dorchester ma mbta

I’ve been a Boston commuter for seven years now. Every weekday, I travel north from Dorchester (until last summer, it was Quincy) to Harvard Square. I used to disembark on the Boston Common when I worked at Emerson College, but for nearly five years, I’ve been riding across the river to my Cambridge neighborhood. Most of my commute is spent on (or waiting for, or shaking my fist at) the subway’s Red Line.

Since we moved to Dorchester, though, I’ve added some trolley time to my days.

The Mattapan trolley runs off the Ashmont end of the Red Line through several neighborhoods south of Boston, including mine. The trolley cars – which look like a cross between Boston’s Green Line subway cars and a vintage VW van – are themselves vintage; they date from the 1940s, which occasionally causes serious repair headaches. I live just around the corner from my trolley stop, which also happens to be the access point to my beloved river trail.

Like any public transit (especially in Boston), the trolley can be a complicated beast: in six months I’ve seen it struggle with weather, mechanical issues and other delays. But when it works, it adds a little charm and convenience to my weekdays.

I walk down the hill to the end of our street, juggling my two work bags, a purple travel mug of strong tea, and usually my breakfast. I often see dog walkers, cyclists, runners or all three, especially if the weather’s fine.

After six months I’ve learned the sounds of the different engines that pass by here: cars circling the parking lot, planes flying overhead to land at Logan, the rattle of the trolley itself on the tracks.

The morning operators, though sometimes harried, are kind, and it’s a short ride to Ashmont, where I board the train. And if I’m lucky, I get a glimpse of this view across the marshes.

marsh reeds sunrise blue sky

I’m curious to hear about your commute, if you have one – our jobs, and the travel to and from them, often make up such a huge part of our days. I’m always toting a bag of books to enliven my T rides – any tricks for making the commute more bearable or even fun?

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1. If the train has already pulled in as I reach the bus-stop sidewalk (from which you can see the platform), I’m probably not going to catch it – even if I run.
2. It’s nearly impossible to juggle a travel mug and a book, and find a way to hold on. (Solution: trying to get up early enough to finish my tea at home.)
3. No matter how chilly it is, I’ll probably have to take off my hat after a few minutes of being crammed into a car with dozens of other people.
4. My mom (whose main quibble with Europe was its crowded public transport systems) would hate this commute.
5. Fingerless gloves make it easier to turn pages on the train, but then my fingers get cold walking to the station.
6. Even if I’m running late, it’s better to get off at Park Street and walk down the Common than to crowd onto a Green Line train to Boylston. For one thing, they’re often delayed; for another, sometimes I can’t squeeze through the crowd to get off.
7. The smells of the food court downstairs from my office are quite tempting, even if I’ve already had breakfast.
8. As long as it’s chilly enough to require a hat in the mornings, I will never arrive at work with perfect hair. (I probably never will anyway.)
9. I still can’t believe I get to stroll down Boston Common on my way to and from work every single day.
10. I have a much shorter commute than many of my co-workers, and I do not have to deal with parking meters or garages; for all of this, I am grateful.

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Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m an audiobook snob. I’m really just a book snob, as any regular readers will already know. I love the feel of books, the smell of them, their weight in my hand, the crisp look of black type on a creamy page. I love cover art and crinkled spines and author’s notes and prologues and epilogues. I memorize lines from books and they appear in my brain in the fonts I read them in. I have shelves crammed with books, always carry one in my bag, stack them by my bed and on the coffee table and anywhere else they’ll fit. I do not own an e-reader. And until last week, I refused – quietly but firmly – to listen to audiobooks.

However. The drive from Quincy to Waltham either takes you straight through Boston on the Mass Pike (tollway) or loops around the entire southern stretch of I-93 and I-95. It’s almost an hour each way in traffic – longer when it’s raining. Ugh. And so, in preparation for last week’s temp job, I checked out The Secret History of the Pink Carnation on audio, read by actress/narrator Kate Reading. And I have to say – both the story and the audiobook experience are such fun.

I thought I’d sort of tune out an audiobook the way you do the news, or that it would irritate me listening to someone else blather on as I drove along. But in truth, I began to look forward to Kate’s crisp tones revealing the next plot twist or tense moment. (It helps, of course, that the story is intriguing, fun and just a touch dramatic.) And after long, silent days in my cubicle, it was nice to have a bit of company on the drive home.

Since I don’t have an iPod and don’t always drive a lot, I don’t know if I’ll listen to audiobooks regularly – but I humbly acknowledge their value now, and thank this particular book and narrator for turning my commute from drudgery to delight.

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