Curiously Pleasant Subway Trip

February 14th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Something New Yorkers and Bostonians share is a dread of dirty-smellies, particularly on the subways. I got a chuckle a few days ago from a variation on that theme.

I slid over undulating sheets of iced waves that should have been sidewalks to Mattapan Square. It seems Milton has three very strict snow-emergency rules — Chapter 6, Section 10 forbids sliding or coasting on a public way without a permit from Selectmen or the Chief of Police, Section 13 bans throwing snowballs, again on any public way, and Section 3 reads you can’t move any snow from your property into a public way. The bylaws don’t bother with the silliness of clearing your sidewalks of ice and snow. Harrumph, surely anyone foolish enough to walk in winter deserves the worst.

From there, the Mattapan high-speed rail, a.k.a. the trolley, is frequent and quick to Ashmont. Ah, there where the subway begins, the vicissitudes of urban transit are in charge of your body and timing. The trains arrive when they arrive and leave when they leave. Moreover, many passengers are in for the long haul. They are likely to be headed to Downtown Crossing and many to Harvard, Davis and Alewife.

mints

This inspires you to look carefully as you enter a car. You likely know which end of the train you’ll want to be on for the right exit strategy. You’ll almost certainly have your choice of seats at Ashmont. You’ll really want to be careful about your proximity to cellphone yammerers and screamers, those dirty-smellies, and the obviously demented. You might be elbow to elbow for 20 to 40 minutes.

On my last right north, I smelled him from 12 or more feet away. To my amusement, it was not the scent I might have feared.

I checked him out. He was deep into his tin and not noticing me or anyone. He had on old clothes, but they were clearly clean and well taken care of. I could surmise that he was not homeless, but not quite all the way in the present. Perhaps he lived in a group home.

What he was noticing and into, and what permeated half the car, was the curiously strong Altoids scent. It was the red-trimmed peppermint variety. The oils filled the air between us, aggressively and agreeably. He carefully and with apparent pleasure plucked three or four at a time to place into his mouth. There was a man who enjoyed his mints. He rolled back when they were in his mouth and grinned his satisfaction.

If there was a wee lesson there, it would be to go with what is before you and be aware of it. I might well have seen a not-quite-together fellow and ignored him or worse thought ill of him. Instead even my low level of awareness let in the pungency of his mints and a glimmer of his pleasure in them.

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