Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things We Learned on the Metro

I've been in Boston for a few days now, getting ready to start my graduate program in film production at Boston University.  Somehow, I hadn't expected everything to be different... somewhere in the back of my mind, I think I expected to find UNC's campus transplanted into the Boston infrastructure, and all I'd have to deal with was new people and their accents.  After the initial overwhelming feeling of being in a new place, knowing I'll be living here for at least two years, I've settled in pretty quickly so far.  This past summer I've been living just outside of DC, and I'd like to take a minute to discuss some of the differences between the cities based on observations I've made while riding the T. (Boston's subway system is called the T, instead of the Metro.)

Accents are almost directly correlated with class.  The more blue-collar, working class a person is (or seems), the thicker that Southie-sounding accent.  You know, the one from Good Will Hunting and The Town and The Departed.  It's honestly not different in that way than the South, where you tend to find the heavier twangs in more rural, less buit-up areas, or in people who have not (for whatever reason) risen to a position in the more affluent business world.

There are far fewer earbuds on the T than on the Metro.  People are more social.  In DC, you're not really supposed to look at anyone on the metro.  You keep your head down, read your newspaper, don't talk too loudly.  Here in Boston I've witnessed total strangers spark up a conversation - given, it's small talk usually - "Oh, is that so-and-so book?  I've heard it's good." "Yeah it is, you should check it out," and so on.  But still, they talk to each other.  They apologize when they're in your way - in DC, you are expected to apologize to someone who is in your way instead...especially if that person in your way is wearing a suit, meaning they are surely very important to national security.

A man reached over my dad's and my heads to grab a rail, and apologized for basically putting his armpit in our faces.  In DC, you would receive a glare for having dared to allow your face to be in the way of this stranger's musk.  (Fortunately, neither of these systems is like the Paris metro, where musk is commonplace and pungent, sometimes curry, sometimes with a smack of ham.)

But there are somethings which are annoying no matter what train system you are riding.  I am simply calling it how I see it.

- If you bring a stroller onto the subway, and you do not have a baby in that stroller, you make life harder for other people.  You are wasting space with your stupid contraption.

- If you bring a stroller onto the subway, and you keep your child in it, well, you're wasting less space, but you're still taking up a lot, so don't expect people to be very pleased about it.

- If you bring four giant stuffed Bed, Bath, and Beyond shopping bags onto the subway, you will be that person that everyone hates.  Just be aware - keep your head down, and have a look of contrition on your face, and perhaps we'll forgive you.

- If you are medically obese on the subway, whether or not you can help it, you will be in other people's way.  We'll forgive you out of sympathy, but you'll still be in our way.

- If you need to brace yourself, please, dear God, please do not do it by leaning back against a pole, allowing that pole to find its way between your buttocks, and then clenching.  It is as disturbing as it is, I suspect, unsanitary.  And rest assured, we will notice it and swap knowing glances with the other riders, asking with our eyes, "What is this guy doing?!"

So that sums up some of what I have witnessed in my first few days in Boston.  There's more, of course, and maybe I'll get to that later.  Maybe not.

Stay tuned, though, for my next piece on Jesus in film, where I'll be looking at a movie I did not like, 1953's The Robe.

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