Thursday, June 19, 2008


Living in a major city guarantees two things: professional sports teams and bureaucrats who don’t think. Occasionally these two forces combine to wreak havoc, like when the Celtics win the NBA title and someone gets the moronic idea to have a big parade at 11 am on a THURSDAY, when school is out for the year. Then they encourage people to take public transportation, which normally I’m all for. But YOU’D THINK it might occur to SOMEONE, especially when gas is $4/gallon, to ADD SOME ADDITIONAL TRAINS. Instead, the MBTA apparently felt it was ok to just post an advisory on their website saying “expect delays due to heavy ridership today”.

What they should have said is:

"The commuter rail parking lots will be completely filled by 7:45 am by cars driven by teenage boys and cooler-toting men with large bellies, all dressed head-to-toe in green and white Celtics gear. They will stand on the train platform pretending to shove each other onto the train tracks, occasionally shoving each other into other people. They will smoke on the platform in defiance of the “No Smoking” signs plastered everywhere. They will pile onto the train and sprawl across the seats, or, because the pack cannot be separated, will sit together on the floor until the conductor yells at them for blocking the aisle. They will not pre-buy their tickets and then throw hissy fits when the conductor tells them they can’t use a credit card on the train. Those in seats will not keep their hands to themselves and occasionally hit innocent bystanders, and they will repeatedly kick the seats in front of them. They will hold loud burping and farting contests, with both the sound and smell reverberating throughout the train car. They will pound on the train windows. They will carry on loudly, using every expletive imaginable and then some. Earplugs and ipods will not effectively drown any of this out, and the offenders will be oblivious to all glares of death directed at them by those of you on your way to work. Eventually the train will be so packed that the conductors will give up trying to get through to collect tickets or deliver reprimands. Have a pleasant trip and thank you for riding the MBTA."

I want to know a couple of things. First, why can’t they do these things on SATURDAY? The commuter lots are vastly underutilized on the weekends, for obvious reasons. And, you don’t risk lowering workplace productivity because people are standing around grumbling about the idiots on the train or *ahem* writing blog entries about it, if they aren’t figuring out a way to sneak out to watch the parade themselves.

Second, why is it ok for people to act like this? I was not the only person beyond annoyed, and yet we collectively sighed, rolled our eyes, and deferred to the train staff to deal with it. The train staff, who probably don’t want “babysitting” in their job description any more than the rest of us, see this for what it is: a losing battle. There’s a segment of America that believes they have the right to do anything they want, and that no one has a right to tell them otherwise. Yes, it’s a free country, but why does the trade-off have to be that we tolerate rude and inappropriate behavior? David Sedaris writes about visiting Japan, where he noticed real plants in subway stations. He remarks that in America they would be defaced or destroyed within ten minutes, and he’s right. Why are we like this?

Third, what is it about professional sports anyway? Why, exactly, do we pay people millions of dollars because they are good at doing something with some sort of ball, and then pay police officers and fire fighters and teachers with the leftovers? I know, I’m a big socialist killjoy because I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t just stay home with a good book. But I’m a big believer in people putting their resources where their mouths are – we put our time and money into things we value, and disregard the rest. So I presume that, as a society, we must place high value on sports because we give private companies huge tax breaks to build stadiums that are used at a fraction of their capacity; we overburden our infrastructure systems; charge $85 a ticket,$5 for a hot dog and $8 for a beer; and spend several hours watch people we don’t know personally run around chasing something (or someone). Meanwhile, towns all over the state are voting down additional school expenditures, resulting in teacher layoffs and cutting extracurricular activities LIKE SPORTS. It’s a little ironic when you think about it – people paying hundreds of dollars to see professionals play but refusing to pay a few extra hundred to see their own kids play. And then the obesity police start yelling about how fat our kids are now because they don’t get enough activity. Surprise, surprise.

Personally, I don’t expect the vast majority of people in the world to understand how I derive fun out of writing, or knitting a sock, or spending an afternoon up to my eyeballs in quilt fabric. I do usually end up with something tangible for my efforts, though, and they usually don’t include a hangover. I also don’t expect the government to subsidize my fun. With rare exceptions, writers and fiber artists are not multi-millionaires (I actually think the terms “multi-millionaire” and “fiber artist” are mutually exclusive). With the possible exception of some of the farmers who raise the sheep and a few paltry NEA-funded grants, there are no public subsidies involved, either. And, perhaps most importantly, I don’t inflict my “fun” on others, unless you happen to live with me and sit on a pin. (Another possible reason that I am single.)

All this to say, I should be in charge of things, dammit.

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