Monday, August 5, 2002


Thursday of last week, the company where I work had an off-site meeting in downtown Boston, and I decided to leave my car at home, and take the bus and T to the venue. Since early 1997, I have been a regular automobile commuter. So the day trip into Boston was a very pleasant change from driving my car.

I have to walk through a lightly wooded dirt path and then down a steep hill to get to the bus stop. I met two nice gentlemen, who cordially introduced themselves to me. It was a marked difference to being alone in my car! There was a nice pace to the morning as we each exchanged pleasantries.

The bus trip was filled with chatting, and people watching. The crowd of people increased as we neared the Alewife T Station, where we would pick up the train. There, I felt the rhythm of people rushing to get tokens, newspapers, iced coffees, before boarding.

On the train, people were in their own "space", listening to music, reading books, magazines, or newspapers. I spoke with my bus-riding colleague until he reached his stop, then sat alone, feeling wonderfully at ease.

My meeting didn't start until 10AM, so when I got to my stop, Park Avenue, I leisurely strode down Tremont Street, and picked up breakfast at McDonalds. Park Avenue is a crowded stop, at the intersection of the Boston Common, the State House, and the start of the Freedom Trail. People going to work were walking briskly, with high purpose. Tourists walked like zombies, looking everywhere except ahead of them, as they drank in the surroundings. I was in between: I was touring a familiar place, on my way to "work".

Some of my colleagues and I compared notes on our various commutes into Boston. Some drove in ($15 to park!). Most took public transportation. Our company chartered seven buses for those who wanted to go the office first. We all acknowledged that our routines would have to be different if we worked in Boston.

What I enjoyed the most last Thursday was just the ability to walk in a vibrant city. In my first year in Boston, I lived in the Back Bay with three other guys (the only way I could afford it). From the apartment, a few of us would often walk to work. We cut through the Public Garden, up Charles Street, then over the Longfellow Bridge to get to our office in Kendall Square (near MIT). People from the world over come to Boston to see these sights, and it was for me an ordinary and mundane walk to work.

And that's the kicker: if I had to commute into Boston by public transportation, it would eventually become mundane, would become ordinary.

When the Red Line train leaves Kendall Square, it rises out of a tunnel, then lumbers over the Charles River, offering a postcard view of the Boston skyline. It's a gorgeous view, and I gawked out at it, while my fellow commuters remained unmoved. I had been away so long it was all new to me again.

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