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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

Origins of the Charlie Card

When I got here I created my own internal history of how I thought the Charlie Card came to be called such. To me it seemed obvious: Charlie sounds like trolley, especially if you're from Southie "Chahhhlie". So people probably said "trolley card" until eventually it morphed, or something like that.

It turns out there's quite a bit more lore about this than I realized. I spent Valentine's Day living that lore.

As it happens, just as in the song, I occasionally work up in Jamaica Plain, and when I'm not getting stuck in traffic in a carpool and cursing the day I was born, I usually take the train up. 

There's something about a person who's never owned car and never had a drivers' license that just makes them a little---hmm, let's say that I'm not the kind to avoid asking directions usually, but I do feel like the Green Acres yokel when I have to double check to make sure I'm on the right train. I like to catch the commuter rail back from Ruggles instead of South Station too--Why take the Orange Line all the way back when you can walk a bit and enjoy yourself?

I got on the train to Franklin by accident, and had to wait in Franklin center to catch the next train back in. Who doesn't do that? I got to talk to a nice older guy who said he does that by accident about once a year. And the conductors were fairly nice, and didn't make me pay extra.

But I got back to South Station, and I'm looking at the chart with the departure times, and I see "Kingston 7:30". Now I'm thinking, "Damn, did they start the Kingston train stop up, and I don't even know?" I'm kicking myself. What kind of a transit advocate am I? I just know that I've made some stupid off-hand comment somewhere about how they should get that station going, and here they've done it!! I must look idiotic.

Now, one of the reasons I feel kind of stupid asking last minute if I'm on the right train is that in 30th Street Station, the R3 or R7 or what-have-you is always going to be more or less on the same track, and be announced hours ahead of time, so that you can get to the station, orient yourself, go out and sit on the platform, and wait (I don't think you'd want to sit on the platform in Boston--Whew! Diesel trains! This is one place where electrification would be a good idea!). In South Station, everything is TBD until the last minute, and then people make a rush for whatever track is being announced. So I see Kingston go up on the board, Track 12, and I just follow on the heels of all the people who are rushing out, because this time I'm not going to fuck up. I get on the train, I get my dead battery to revive itself for just long enough to text Rachel that I'm on my way home and no further mistakes, the phone dies, and as they're pushing off, of course they're announcing all the stops, "Kingston, Mass train! Next stop Braintree!"

(I have another song, because I know some people from Old Braintree)

Luckily, when I'm not playing accidental Charlie Card Adventure Games, I actually sometimes do this wandering on purpose. Rachel had a conference one day that was way to expensive for me to join, so I bought a Chahhhlie Cahhhd and took it all over. And so in addition to Sacco and Vanzetti, I thankfully knew that the Red Line was there. 

As I'm getting off the Kingston train, the conductor comes around, asks for tickets, and I see that it's the same conductor who already heard my story from Franklin. He just gives me sad eyes, does a double take, tries to figure out twitchy-eyed internally whether I'm really who he thinks I am, and says, "Okay."

Who's sitting in the area near the door but three people talking about their experiences. I thought, "Oh, how warm, people don't always talk on the train. These must be new people." The one guy is talking to another woman, and a third woman is sitting silently next to him. 

Man: What's your favorite thing about living in the big city?

(Oh yeah, they're new.)

Woman: Ugh, I don't like the city. 

Man: Yeah, me neither. I really think they should knock down some buildings and put in some grass. And you can never find  parking spot!

(Oh god, kill me now)

Woman: Yeah, I know! What do you do?

Man: Well, I just go my O-U-I [I think he meant DUI] so I'm taking the train. It wasn't really my fault! 

Woman 2: [Now breaking silence with the sharpest South Shahh accent I've ever heard] Yeah! Wasn't my fault neithahhh! I lost my license fahh driving on a suspended! But it wasn't my fault! I had a tail-light out, and the cop pulls me ovahh fahh speeding and not signaling propahhly! And I says to him that I can't pay the ticket! But he gives it to me anyway! [By the way, everything really does have an exclamation point on the end for this woman] So I didn't pay it, and they suspended my license! I didn't even know until they pulled me ovahh for speeding again! And then [and here, strangely, for the first time, the exclamation point goes away for just a minute, WHICH IS CRAZY because this is where it belongs]. So, I was out driving the next day [!!!!!] and I get pulled ovahh by some statie who says I've got a suspended license and several payments. so now I owe $300 dollars to Quinzzy and $300 to Plymouth, and $300 to Boston propahh, and [exclamation point back!] I gotta' pay $500 and go to a cahhrse on drivin' if I want my license back!"

Man and Woman 1 Combined: Oh, the world ain't fair.

Me: [trying to keep the irony out of my voice] No shit.

It took me over four hours to get home. I have to say, that if I was caught in traffic in a carpool for even a fraction of that time, I'd have been a nutcase by the time I got home, but this was strangely adventurous and fun. And I think I even spotted Chahhlie taking his trolley somewhere.


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