Column: The Boston T Party

Column: The Boston T Party

This Christmas I asked my mother to buy me a semester T pass. Imagine, I thought to myself, four months’ worth of public transportation, prepaid. Sounds fantastic. No scrambling for change as I run out the door. No planning my days and nights around whether I can afford the $2 (still can’t believe that) for train fare. Just sweet, simple transit, wherever the T may go.

It took me until Jan. 4 to realize exactly what I had done. I headed to the T stop early to catch the train to Quincy. My heart was eager. I had not a dime on me, but it didn’t matter. I had my Link pass, burning a hole in my wallet.

When the T finally came, it was a shiny new car – one you have seen running on the B line or the C line, but never on our humble E. The brakes sounded, not like the opening of the gates of hell, but the whispers of cherubs. I was blown away; any thoughts of the excitement of my new pass evaporated in my awe.

That’s when it happened. The driver opened not just the front door, but all the doors. Haha! My mind laughed, as I was overtaken by an instinctual sense of giddiness and adrenaline. Free ride, MBTA. Take that.

I sat down on a gleaming green seat, basking in my victory over The Man. But then came the epiphany, the moment of clarity, of realization: even though I got on through the back door, I was on the train legally. Because of my pass, all my rides from now until May are paid for, whether or not I show my pass to the driver.

Ah, dammit.

Stealing from the T was a favorite pastime of mine, a moment of joy on otherwise monotonous days. And I was good at it. I’d disappear into the crowd boarding the bus, escaping the glance of the driver. I’d talk my way onto the train: “Oh god, I’m sorry, I only have 75 cents on me.” I’d fold up my dollar bill and bend down to stuff it in the slot, but walk away with it securely in my palm.

My all-time favorite was skipping the turnstiles. It was so easy, physically, but one had to avoid the attention of the booth-troll. Not that one of those MBTA employees dishing out tokens would emerge to chase you down, but the rush was there. It was especially nice when there were other people putting tokens into the turnstiles, and even better when there was a line at the booth. The poor slobs, I thought.

Sure, the turnstiles are gone these days, but I was looking forward to finagling a way through the new Charlie-fueled gates. Now that the old days are gone, I suppose, I can share the secret of the turnstiles.

I’d approach, my hand in my pocket, feeling for a phantom token. At the turnstile, I’d put my right hand over the slot, “inserting” my “token.” Then, with my left hand, I’d grab the top bar and pull it back. The rest happened quickly (and, not too often, gracefully). I turned sideways and stood on my tiptoes, sliding between the bars. I was in, even if I had bruises on my thighs.

I taught a few close friends, some of them visitors, and we’d all do it together, each with our own turnstile. The best things in life, it turns out, are stolen.

And now here I am, paid in full for every bus and subway ride I take over the next four months. I’ve unwittingly taken a small ray of sunshine from my days.

So now what? Where can I get my fix of sticking it to The Man? I have two jobs, I go to a (somewhat) respectable university where I work hard, I pay my rent and my gas bill on time(ish). Since September, I can even drink legally. Getting carded is no longer a nervous moment of heightened senses, of will-he-or-won’t-he let me in.

Sure, I haven’t paid for electricity yet (and I’ve been in my apartment since June) and I have a ghetto (also unpaid) Internet hookup. I use antennae for my TV instead of paying evil Comcast, but it’s just not the same. The biggest thrill I’ve gotten recently was finding a hidden bathroom at Symphony Hall during intermission at a Pops concert so I didn’t have to wait in line. And I don’t think that counts.

So, dear reader, if you haven’t burdened yourself with a T pass, please steal from the MBTA as much as and in any way possible. If not for yourself, then for me.

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