Metro, Column, The T

Taking the Long Way

I fear that I may be one of the few people on this planet nerdy enough to draw parallels between a ride on the T and some larger lesson, but that does not mean I am not going to do it.

For those who do not know, to reach the MFA, one has to travel inbound on the Green Line to Arlington and then travel outbound on the E Line. It is a common mistake for people to switch over at the Copley stop, because the MBTA map would suggest that this makes the most sense-it looks shorter.

But as anyone who is not a first semester freshman knows, one actually has to go above ground at the Copley stop in order to switch from inbound to outbound, costing misinformed riders another $2.50 if they do not have a Charlie Card.

Moral of the story?

Sometimes it pays to go the long way, even if it looks like there is a shorter way.

I am not someone accustomed to the short way. When I was a little kid, doing school projects was an absolute nightmare. Not because I minded doing the work very much, but because I knew I was in for it. I am, after all, the son of a perfectionist. Making a poster for class was never just a creative venture, because my dad broke out a ruler to make sure the lines I drew were straight. A diorama was not an easy A, but it was a chance for my father to show me how much one really can do with such a small creative space. Handwriting had to be neat-not too small or too large. College essays were never done, but continually revised until the deadline.

You get the picture. No shortcuts, no excuses.

I wish that I could say that I always took my father’s perfectionism in stride, that his constructive criticism was always received with a smile and grateful obedience, that I never yelled or became angry, but this is simply not the case. Especially when I was very little, I met unwanted constructive criticism with such a wrath that you could hear my anger as loudly as you could hear those weird recorded cheers coming from Alumni Stadium during football season.

I wanted the shorter way. I was in no mood to wait for the Arlington stop, but wanted to hop off right at Copley. (Lord, this is cheesy. Readers, forgive me. Dad, no editing.)

Now, I look back on my father’s perfectionism with begrudging fondness-I can still feel the genuine anger I felt when I was young, but I also recognize the indelibly positive impact it had on my character.

My father’s determination to make me take the long way is made clear when I enter the MFA and take my time, pausing before various works of art. Even with my limited knowledge of the visual arts, I appreciate the brush strokes, the mastery of sculpting, and I read the captions. There’s no need to sprint through the museum all in one day. That way, one does not see anything at all. Better to take the long way, thoroughly enjoy a portion of the museum, and come back another day to finish the job right.

It is said that the best way to endorse the way one was raised is to bring one’s children up the same way. This I know: when my child pulls out a piece of poster paper for a school project, I’ll pull out a ruler to help him make his lines straight.

And if he ever follows in my footsteps to earn a degree at Boston College, he might call me up when he is on his way to the MFA for an art history class. I will tell him to switch over at the Arlington stop.

January 22, 2014