Originally Posted: 2006-07-21 11:48am

favorite this post Your field guide to MBTA employees. (the T)

Through the last 14 months, I have slowly gained a knowledge of and appreciation for this common, yet unusual species. One must approach them carefully, for they are prone to detection of actual MBTA riders and thus tend to disappear quickly when spoken to.

1. The MBTA Police. These individuals are noticeable by the large cup of Dunky's coffee in the right hand, with orange and hot pink plumage. Earlier scientists have postulated that they exist to serve a protective function among the crowds of MBTA riders. However, detailed observation has led me to believe that they are merely decorative in function, aside from their obvious function of economic support for the Dunkin' Donuts franchises in Downtown Crossing, Alewife, Harvard, and other such locations. There is no incident -- attempted mugging, gangs tagging with spray paint, aggressive panhandlers, fare jumpers, urination onto the tracks, drunken teenagers puking in a train car, or flashers -- that they cannot remain completely calm, tranquil, and unimpressed by. Any attempts to enlist their assistance with defending your possessions or corporeal self will be met with an uncomprehending stare and a sip from the aforementioned cup in the right hand. It is suggested that the casual field observer simply regard them as one would a piece of furniture, though furniture is generally more useful. Their mating call consists of a garbled, unintelligible message over the public address system, of which the only distinguishable words are, "See something, say something."

2. The MBTA Token Person. These individuals generally barricade themselves in secure shelters of scratched Plexiglass and steel, where they control the economic flow of usable cash exchanged for MBTA tokens. While they generally refuse to indulge said function, and glare at people who present them with money, they do bellow loudly at persons with bicycles and cameras. They generally appear with a telephone receiver held to one ear, and ask you if "you can fuckin' wait one minute, I'm fuckin' busy here" and go back to discussing their mating rituals and perceived inadequacies of potential partners. Though they have been shown to articulate English (see "Bicycles and cameras", above), when presenting them with cash to transmute into tokens, they refuse to acknowledge this language, and the field observer will desperately communicate through sign language, unusual when the observer and wildlife have a language in common. The MBTA Token Person also will refuse communication with tourists seeking directions, annoyed MBTA regulars who are facing shutdowns of the Red Line, or persons who have lost money in a machine that purports to dispense tokens and/or CharlieTickets, unless there is a queue of at least twenty persons behind said inquirer.

2a. The MBTA Token Person - CharlieTicket subspecies. The MBTA Token Person remains true to form in their new environment of sitting on a chair next to a broken CharlieTicket gate. They still refuse the communications posited to them (See "Tourists, subway shutdowns, and victims of broken machines"), but mostly spend their time idly waving a hand at people and chatting with Species #1 - MBTA Police.

3. The MBTA Bus Driver. The MBTA Bus Driver breaks into two approximate subspecies.

3a. The MBTA Bus Driver - Milton subspecies. This subspecies is named for the character in Office Space, with whom the Milton subspecies shares a complete personality. The driver greets patrons with random mumbles, often proceeds at a glacial pace, and offers inept apologies when s/he completely varies off route and ends up with forty angry riders stuck with him/her in a traffic jam after a Red Sox home game. While the subspecies does appear to have a need to please the MBTA patrons, no one can understand anything that this subspecies says, and thus attempts to communicate are often exercises in futility.

3b. The MBTA Bus Driver - Angry Roxbury Resident subspecies. This subspecies is noticeable for its volatility. It will express anger at patrons that do not have exact change for the bus, at patrons who do have exact change for the bus, and at patrons who are swiping a monthly pass through the card reader. This subspecies is rarely seen without the standard Nextel walkie-talkie phone, into which it screams threats at its unseen mate, usually beginning with "When I get back to Grove, you are so $%@$^&ing dead, you #$62642ing $%@#%!" In between expelling vitriol at the Nextel phone, the driver will also yell at other drivers, refuse to brake for red lights, palm dollar bills from the bus fare slot, deliberately miss stops, refuse to lower the bus for the handicapped, and yell at all visible members of the human race. It is advisable that the field observer remain as invisible and nonthreatening as possible, and display great caution in interactions.

4. The MBTA Train Driver. This relatively invisible species appears to the field observer in two instances. In the first instance, the observer will be standing with a camera on the platform, at which point the train driver will yell that terrorism is not allowed in the MBTA subway system. The second instance is easily observable to all passengers on the MBTA train, when the train driver gives the wrong name for the current stop, misidentifes the train, or occasionally informs everyone that the train will no longer run.

Caution is advised in all interactions with the MBTA subspecies. Truly brave observers may be interested in moving into the next level of field observation - Chinatown taxi drivers.

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