Apr 6, 2009

Riding the Train

I love the MBTA. There is something about public transportation that I find fascinating. Despite the fact that standard operating procedure for a train ride is to rudely ignore everyone and everything around until you reach your stop, I still enjoy riding because there is so much to see. As the 5th largest mass transit system it averages 1.1 million riders daily. I see that as 1.1 million potential stories. Like this one:

I was riding the T this past Friday, on my way to the Banner. I got on the train at Park Street. At Downtown Crossing, two women squeezed into the train car next to me. One of the women was white with straight brown hair that fell to her shoulders. She looked to be in her mid to late 30s or early 40s, with a stud on her upper left lip, the same place as Cindy Crawford's mole.

She struck me as a working mother. The type of women that did no more than a year or two at a community college, married her high school sweetheart and lives in Quincey or South Boston. A blue collar woman, working as a secretary or receptionist, married to a construction worker, with two kids no older than 13.

Not wealthy by any standard, but making a living nonetheless, the lip stud a relic from a wild youth spent drinking and partying.

The other woman was black, slightly heavyset, with a shaved head. She had a tattoo of an ankh on the left side of her head. The black women, head tattoo notwithstanding, struck me immediately as gay, the white woman not so much.

The white women spoke about work, and the black woman spoke about getting off the train at South Station to catch the commuter rail to a south shore, working class neighborhood, perhaps Abington.

The two women chuckled to each other, seemingly enjoying each other's company. As the train pulled into South Station, I heard the unique noise made when people kiss quickly on the lips, my visions of a blue collar wife and mother vanished in that sound.

As the black woman exited the train, the white woman spoke up. "Tell them I say what up nigga! Say it just like that. What up nigga!"

The expletive hit me like a person bumping me on a crowded bus. The black woman turned her head and nodded, the tattoo shinning in the fluorescent lighting of the train car.

The white woman's use of the n-word was jarring but I guess when you date a black person you get a pass on using that word. Still, it struck me as odd that she would use the term in public. I can only imagine that in the privacy of their home the word is bandied about with regularity but in public? A little inappropriate.

The point of this story, besides the fact that it is a story, an incident that I happened to witness, is that the MBTA is a place where millions of people from a thousand different walks of life converge.

The beauty of the MBTA is that it is a microcosm of life in Boston, from suburban travelers on the commuter rail, to city dwellers using the red and orange lines. I love the "T" because you can see all types of people and experience all types of situations.

At the time, I felt like there should have been more of a reaction from other black people on the train with me. But, like any good mass transit rider, we ignore those around us and focus on our music or book until we arrive at our destination.

No comments:

Post a Comment