Monster on the Green Line
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
During my second year of university, I lived on the very edge of Brookline near the Harvard Ave T stop. Everyday, I would take the B Line to the Boston Commons and then walk to class. The train, or the T, was never on time. These trains?, or perhaps trams, (or I guess even street cars), are not the most state of the art modes of public transportation. Even though the Green Line is one of the busiest light rail systems in the US, they always seem in need of repair. Inside is always too hot or too cold and they emit a bloodcurdling screech as they turn corners. Despite Boston being a moderately sized city with a little less than 700,000 residents, the Green Line is incredibly crowded. During Boston winters, with all the full coats, scarves, and hats, it is hell.
At first, it was annoying, but I got used to the Green Line. In fact, I become fascinated by it. It is divided into subsections, B, C, D, and E, (A has gone out of service) and spans the whole city, as well as many of the towns located outside of the city limits. Taking the E Line will get you to the Museum of Fine Arts, the D to Fenway Park, C to... well there isn't too much going on around this line, but there is a nice French Japanese fusion bakery across from Saint Mary's Station. And the B Line has Boston University, Paradise Rock Club, "Korea Town", and the college-student oriented districts of Allston and Brighton. Just hearing the name "Green Line" brings me back to the days I called this area home. I can clearly see my younger self walking down into the coin laundry to get some quarters for the washing machine in our basement, carrying a giant cardboard box of Mike's Hard Lemonade home from the liquor store, going out at midnight to get groceries with my flatmate, and celebrating St Patrick's day with Shamrock Shakes at McDonalds. Simple, college life. I wasn't doing anything significant I guess. For the most part, I was just learning how to interact with people. Since I had five flatmates, I came to understand what kind of person I can live with, what kind of person I shouldn't live with, and how to deal with things out of my control. Or, I started to learn anyways. In addition, this was a period of personal experimentation. I wore colored T shirts (not just black), lifted weights, met new people, got drunk. I volunteered at a homeless shelter, watched the Fresh Prince of Bel Air during a black out with my flatmate at 3 am, held BBQs together, ate Nigerian style fried plantains, and played Battlefield all night on my PS3.
The world around me was new and I could sense myself evolving. While I took the B Line down the same track day after day, the 23 minutes to get downtown tested me in various ways. It wasn't just the quality of the train itself, but the other passengers, both good and bad, that I remember the most.
There is one incident that stands out in my mind the most.
I got on the T at Park Street and was making my way back home. It is not too uncommon that someone on the car will be muttering something or trying to get the attention of other people. Usually I would just turn up my music and ignore them. Other passengers did the same. City people are cold? Yeah, that reputation has its reasons, but some of these "odd" people are real con artists. Others are mentally ill, or both. At the same time, they are still people. This day, there was one guy in his mid-twenties, who I had seen before, making an announcement to the car that he was in trouble and he needed any help we could offer. He wasn't aggressive or scary, yet, realistically I assumed that he wanted money for drugs or booze. I wasn't able to ignore him this time. I want to say that I was overtaken by compassion, but something else forced my hand. There was a monster on the Green Line. Sharon. I'm gonna call her Sharon. (Karens get it bad enough already) Early forties, fat, stout, and with a head of curly, short blond hair. She reminded me of a cross between a chihuahua and the Nintendo character Wario. Standing in the aisle of the elevated portion of the car with both hands grasping opposite handles, she began her cascade of ridicule and mockery towards this young man. Anytime he'd make one of his pleas, she would curse him out, call him a loser, and accuse him of lying. What she was saying, about him lying at least, is most likely true, but I ended up giving him the five or ten dollar bill I had in my pocket. It probably didn't help him get many drugs, or whatever he was after. He was very thankful, though, and remarked how hurt he was from being bullied.
I wondered about that. Was she a bully, or monster? Sharon's slitted eyes had a fire in them, filled with a sense of self entitlement, and an enjoyment in preying on those people she considers lower than herself. Surprisingly, she was surrounded by her family. They just kept their hands in their pockets and laughed along with her cruel remarks. Judging by their red and blue attire, I assumed they were on their way to a Red Sox game. Perhaps they had just come to the city for that? Maybe they weren't used to the rules of the Green Line? Or they simply considered themselves above them, and us.
In a way, I am thankful. Living in the city, we tend to disconnect ourselves from the affairs of "undesirables". In most situations, it is out of fear of safety or principal that succumbing to their cries for helps will only hurt them; a hard stance of "tough love". Through encountering this Sharon, I could make a connection with a person I normally wouldn't talk to. And of course I knew when I gave him money that he probably was not going to do anything good with it, but the way he flinched when she would speak back to him hit me hard. If anything, I did it for myself.
"I am not as prejudiced as she is. I am not. I am a good person." Was I? Or was I just selfish and manipulative enough to make it seem that way? That's okay though, I was still growing up and developing as a person. Am I really any different today? I wish I could say yes, but there must be a reason I keep reliving this memory.
I still find my second year of university to be one of the most significant in my life. The good memories outweigh the bad, but I treasure them all regardless. I frequently wonder about all the people riding the Green Line. Everyone has their own stories, but we will never know them. It is only in incidents like these that we get a peek into the true characters of the other passengers riding with us.
When taking public transportation, remember to be polite, keep your voice down, and most importantly, do not be like Sharon.