Ed Cook: The City – How much I had forgotten

I started a new job recently, after being out of work for 53 weeks. Very welcomed, even though it is not in my line of work and it is temporary. For the last 25+ years I have driven to work, except for one 15 month period where I took the train into the city. That was a fun change but the train station was practically under the building I worked in so it was real easy, get on the train, get off the train walks a short distance, take the elevator, and Voila. I had little interaction with the outside. Now though I am taking the train to the subway and a walk through the heart of downtown. Incredible what you see. Incredible what I forget from my days, some 30 years ago working and going to college in the city for 6+ years. The first day of my new adventure, the train before mine had broken down. One of the many benefits of living in my plush but not overly ostentatious suburb of Boston is that it is the first station (or last at night) on the Commuter Rail so you always get a good seat.

This day the seats were nearly filled before the train left the station and became crowded by the fourth stop, and packed by the destination at South Station. Reason: the train just before ours had broken down and all those folks were on my train. I then went over and tried to figure out the new Ticket Machines for the subway at South Station. I had a saint of a woman show me the workings of this robot and I went to the platform. I had forgotten how much you sweat on the subway. Now we are not talking about the crowded trains of Tokyo, but the subway is crowded. Very crowded. The first day of the new job I wore a suit. It was a warm day for November and I was very moist by the time I emerged from the subway station.

My walk to work began with a stop at Dunkin Donuts. I ordered my standard coffee, and a bagel with cream cheese. The “toaster” girl put my bagel into deli paper and popped a packet of cream cheese into the bag with the bagel. I asked “can I have you put the cream cheese on the bagel?” You’d have thought I just asked her to clean the Boston sewer system from the look she gave me. “We don’t do that here”, she snapped. “All the Dunkin’s I go to do that as regular thing” I said. “Well you should have gone to one of them, we don’t do that here”. Woah. OK scary big lady don’t hurt me. I then had the audacity to ask, “since I have to put it on myself can I have another container packet of cream cheese?” “You didn’t pay for an extra, was the response. Note to self, 1. Write a letter to DD HQ. and 2. Avoid this DD in the future.

Frustrated I went on to my new job. Greeted my new boss, and got together with my trainer. Completely forgot about the bagel. Drank the coffee though, there are some things that I won’t do without. I have a number of friends who work at this place that I have known for a long time, one batch that I have known for 30+ years. I’ll write more on them another day.

So for lunch I went for a walk, got a gourmet meal (Big Mac Combo) and took in the “flavor” of the city. People out for a run at lunch, people walking their dogs in the Boston Common, the hustle and bustle of the city at lunchtime. If you are one of Mel’s readers who is not from or has not been to Boston, it is a very walk-able city. Not a dirty city, but not clean like Denver either. Old in places, new in places. I work right near the Park Street Church, where on New Year’s Eve 1862 William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe were in attendance for the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, which became effective the next day. A few yards away, is the Granary Burial Ground where Ben Franklin’s parents are buried. And just beyond that is a 34 story high rise (built in the 1970’s) where I work. Other days I walk across town from the 114 year-old South Station heading toward the 214 year-old Massachusetts State house, (built on land donated to the state by its first governor, John Hancock) and avoid the subway. Its only about a 15 minute walk.

Other less nice things about Boston, or any city, are the beggars and street people. Some play music some just stand there, maybe ask for a quarter, some get in your face. A couple of them that I saw that first day were funny. One said, loudly, “can you give me some money so I can get drunk.” I think he was already well on his way. Another said, as I walked by in a crowd. “Hey can somebody give me some money just for the hell of it. I ran out of excuses why I need it.” He got a bunch of change for that.