I was just reading Joseph Birdsong's (of 5AwesomeGays) latest blog post in which he recounts some of his crazy encounters while riding the "El" (elevated subway) in Philadelphia. Reading over his traumatic (and clearly true) tales inspired me to recount some of my own harrowing woeful stories of public transportation. However, this past year I haven't had many encounters on the "El" here in Philly, so therefore I'm going to recount some of my most memorable experiences while riding the T in Boston to get me pumped up for my return this weekend.
"The Hot Cars"
All too often I find myself in hot, steaming cars with the heat on in the dead of summer. And no, it's not that these cars just have no A/C - there have been times where the heat is actually blasting through the car from the floorboard below.
"Let Us Out"
Most of my troubles occur on Blue Line trains (although I find the Red line to be the slowest and most frequently delayed). Once in the summer I was heading over to my grandmother's house in East Boston from work and was hoping to get off at Airport. Granted there were also quite a few people in my crowded car who also wanted to get off as well. When we pulled into the station, however, the doors didn't open. At first most of us thought it was just a delay and they'd open eventually, but then people from the other cars quickly poured out and before we could do anything, the train was moving to Wood Island. And of course, it was I who moved to the emergency speaker and explained that the doors never opened.
One day on the Blue line between Orient Height and Wood Island I found myself nearly being swept out of the train. It was a nearly empty car aside from myself and one lone rider at the other end. I was sitting at the end of the car right beside the inter-car door. All of a sudden the train bounced a bit and the door FLEW open, blowing huge gusts of wind into the car and nearly knocking me off my seat. I got up but with the shaking of the car and the wind in my face I could barely stand. I tried to push it shut again but it had slid and locked into place. Once again I had to use the emergency intercom and inform the driver.
My last harrowing tale concerns a full-out evacuation I was a part of. One day, of course after a long day of work in Quincy Market, I was on the Blue line traveling home. The train stopped right after Maverick, but still in the tunnel. We sat there ... for a century. Finally the conductor informed us of a "downed wire" ahead and that we couldn't go any further, meaning that we were going to have to evacuate. Of course, luck would have it, that I was in the third car (of the old four car trains) and we were evacuating from the front door of the conductor's room. Making our way to the front took a long time and moods tempers were flaring. Once we got to the front, we were guided along the side of the track and we walked from the tunnel to the nearby Airport Station. We were instructed to walk slowly and carefully as the third rail on the opposite side of the track was still active. I felt like a refugee after some terrible apocalyptic event, emerging from the underground tunnel among a group of strangers from all walks of life.
And my one public transportation claim to fame: while living in Beijing, I often took the #13 line around the northern area of the city. The stop closest to my apartment, Xizhimen, was the terminus station and while waiting for the train, lines would form on the spots where the train doors were known to stop. And when I mean lines, I mean long and winding lines full of perhaps 50 people per line. So this one day I got there and I found myself at the very back of one of the lines. Clearly obtaining a seat was going to be non-existent, especially with the fury that Chinese bum-rushed subway seats. However, when the train pulled up and the doors opened, the pushing began and along with a few other denizens of the city, I found myself quickly getting to the front, squeezing through, and getting a seat. As long as I live, this will remain one of my defining moments.