Metro, Featured Column, Column, Boston

Patience, Circus Elephants, Ebola, And Waiting For The Green Line

You just want to get back to campus.

You know, of course, why it might be taking the B Line such a long time to get here on a late afternoon—some people got out of work a little early, probably. Makes sense. That’s why the T is taking so long to reach BU and bring you back home. You’re the idiot who decided to travel back this close to rush hour. You hate that rush hour is never really an hour—it’s at least two. False advertising.

At least you’re waiting outside, instead of underground at Copley or something. It’s a nice October afternoon. It’s not bad to wait. There’s even a nice view of the buildings downtown from St. Paul Street. The wait’s fine, you decide. You’re just impatient. That’s what Uncle Jim always said, anyway.

“Better not become a doctor, kid! You know why?”


“You’ve got no patience.”

You get it. Like patients. Right.

As if you even needed to be patient. Right now, in your hands, you have an iPod with thousands of songs to choose from, and an iPhone, which includes endless babble on Twitter, links to BuzzFeed articles on Facebook, an app to read anything on The New York Times, Instagram photos of cityscapes from your faux-artsy friends and heavily edited selfies from your stupid ones—but wait, there’s more! Your phone also provides you with nonstop internet access, with which you can search and read and look at and watch whatever you damn well please. You could be listening to Beethoven’s work, reading an essay by George Saunders, watching videos of circus elephants jumping rope with sausage links—you could be doing anything, anything to spare you from having to feel impatient for even a moment. Yet here you are, deeply, inexorably bored.

You crane your neck to look down the tracks, as if you’re waiting on a platform for a distant relative in an old Western or something, and you wonder if the other people waiting see you do it. You look around for eye contact with one of them. You want to give those eyes that say, “This again. Always the wait. At least we’re in this together. We’re, you know, city people. It’s amazing how in-tune we are to this scenario. Good work. You’re awesome. No, you’re right. I’m awesome.”

But no one looks at you.

It can’t just be rush two-hours that’s making the T take so long, you decide. There must have been eight separate elderly couples at various stops post-Park Street who needed help climbing on board. That’s one option. Or there was a class on a field trip trying to get out of Boston, and the T just had to sit there while 25 screaming kids tried to figure out how to pay for public transit for the first time while their teacher waddled at the back of the line and apologized profusely to the train’s driver. (Driver? Operator? No idea.)

Or maybe there was an Ebola outbreak! All of public transit has been shut down and you’re just here being impatient when you should be running to purchase the nearest surgical mask! (You think you’re really funny for coming up with this very absurd scenario in your head. You’re not.)

You look down the tracks again. Nothing. You feel like you did when you were a kid, waiting for a train to pass by on the tracks near the shore house. When you heard one passing through, you would always demand that your father pick you up and sprint with you to watch, like it was a military operation. Always a big rush. You would count the cars together as they passed.

You remember the one time that your mother and father gave you what you wanted—a chance to ride on a real live train! Your poor parents had to lug your sister’s stroller onto the train just to make it happen, but they did it anyway. You sat next to your mother while your father struggled to collapse the stroller. You wanted the train to start moving; you were practically vibrating on your seat. You knew that the ride was just for fun—there was no real destination—but still. You wanted your father to hurry and stow the stroller so that the four of you could start moving. You felt like that was within his control. Why wasn’t the train moving already?

Granting your wish, the train lurched forward—and your father, still wrestling with the stroller, got his finger caught on some random piece of metal. Crimson ran down his index finger—the color is what keeps this memory so fresh for you.

You remember what he did next. He looked at his finger, wrapped it with a cloth—a towel or something. Then he sat down, calm as anything. No problem.

He must have wanted to get off that train, get back home and clean up, but he sat there patiently. And as you recall, when someone asked him later how the ride was, he said it was fun.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

October 22, 2014