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Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Memorable Memorial-Day Misadventure

When last I blogged proper, I was back in Atlanta, at Georgia Tech finishing up my second semester. Now that that's done with I'd chosen to move to Boston for my summer internship. I wasn't quite in love with Tea Parties but it's a place I've never been to, was significant in the American Revolution (yes, I'm a history buff) and thought I should have a look around when I had the chance.

It's only been a few weekends but the very first misadventure was on the very first weekend. Now, being that it was Memorial Day here in the US, we had the Monday off. Little did I expect that the bus drivers had the evening off too. But more on that later.

To get a printed subway+bus pass in Boston, you absolutely have to use a vending machine at an MBTA station, and my trip began with the singular goal of finding the same. I left my place in the one of Greater Boston's suburbs on the one (and only) bus that plods this route to the nearest station (that's Alewife Station) around 3.30pm having spent the whole of the morning on Skype with someone I'd missed talking to for quite a while. My plan was "get off the bus, run in, buy the ticket and run back out to hop on the same bus back home". Like they say, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. Mine was no exception.

The moment I alighted and procured the pass, I headed back out to find that the bus had already left. With an hour to go until the next one, my only option (OK, I could have held my horses and waited) was to look at the subway map and figure out where to venture first. The name Harvard sprang out prominently on the same Red-line subway and I decided that was my first stop. So off I went to Harvard. Right outside the station, I found myself staring at - what I then assumed to be - a church campus of some sort with walls all around. It was only after I'd walked around the perimeter once that I headed in to find that this was indeed Harvard University's main campus! So I walked a while around the place, snapped a few pictures with good ol' John Harvard (his statue atleast), took in the beautiful scenery and headed back to the station. In all my infinite wisdom, I somehow concluded that I wouldn't make it back to Alewife in time for the next bus, and knowing full well that the last bus was at 6.50pm (thank you Memorial Day timetable) I headed on to MIT's T-stop (Kendall/MIT). For the uninitiated, the 'T' is how Boston's residents affectionately refer to their transport network - I'm sure that 'affection' is quite relative though.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology had a decent campus, but nothing quite that awe-inspiring as I'd come to expect, and it wasn't endowed with the same architectural wonder or natural beauty as possessed by Harvard either. The one saving grace though, was the location. Right across the road on one edge of campus, you'll find the Charles River waterfront. Not that Harvard is any different in that respect. With the breeze blowing and the sails fluttering in the wind, it's quite a wonderful place to spend an evening gazing upon the water. And entranced by the entire scene I stood, not quite keeping a track of the time I'd been spending. So I ran all the way back to Kendall station and took the red line back to Alewife all the while praying to make it in time for the final bus at 6.50pm.

The timing was actually perfect, but right before Alewife, the subway train pretty much stopped in the middle of nowhere for 5 whole minutes and I was greeted by (the rather distressing sight of) the rear end of the bus speeding away right when I arrived at Alewife's bus berths.

Seeing as how there was no other bus back home, the only way I was getting back was with help from my new house-mates (who proved rather unhelpful at that time of need), or taking a taxi. Now the reason I didn't take just any taxi here was because Georgia Tech (being in Downtown Atlanta) had trained me to be paranoid about safety and the taxi stand at Alewife looked rather shady to say the least. So, following directions from my supervisor/manager at work I actually took the tube back to Harvard station and got a bus that got me to Arlington center, which shaved off a few miles. In the meanwhile, my phone's battery was on its last legs, having started off at around 60% and having served me well throughout the day over 4G and GPS. Got a taxi cab to show up all the way from another suburb and the taxi driver showed up just in the nick of time before my phone finally died ("You couldn't get a taxi in Arlington? Seriously").

During my ordeal, somehow my manager and my apartment-mates had gotten in touch with neither knowing for sure where I was (remember I was not touching my phone for fear it would switch itself off). Fortunately I arrived back home ($40 poorer) just before both parties took to their cars and began searching for poor old me. The one thing I will never again do is venture out late in a new city when I know that public transit stops early that day!

Stay tuned for my second and third weekend's sightseeing in coming posts.


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