Gary and the Conductress: An Appreciation

May 4, 2009 at 10:50 pm | Posted in Lowell, MBTA | 6 Comments
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mbtaA couple of weeks ago, the MBTA distributed a survey to solicit feedback on its performance.  I attempted to complete it, only to be foiled by a convoluted line of questioning that was too challenging for my feeble mind.

For example, here is question 6A:

6a.  How long did it take to get from where this trip started to the first place where you boarded a public transit vehicle on this trip?

I started in Lowell, which was also where I boarded the public transit vehicle.  So it took no time at all, right?  Should it have?  And even if I had boarded in Wilmington, wouldn’t I have also started in Wilmington?  Or would I measure the time from Lowell, where the line starts, to Wilmington?  And if so, am I to assume that the trip left Lowell on time?  How would I know?   

The questions proceeded in this way, bending my mind with their leaps from my present trip to trips I’d taken and then off to theoretical trips that I might one day take.  When I asked a fellow commuter to confirm the cryptic syntax of the survey, she suggested that I might be overthinking the matter.  Though I suspect she was too unnerved by my astounding looks to adequately focus her own thoughts, I will concede the possibility that I may be too dumb or too impatient for the MBTA survey.  But I maintain nonetheless that it could have been more reader friendly.

Because I was incapable of providing my feedback through the conventional channel, I would like to instead use this space to publicly praise two of the MBTA’s finest employees, Gary the Conductor and Female Conductress Whose Name I Don’t Know.

Gary is the conductor who, morning after morning, transports us without incident to North Station.  Like so many of the last Great Americans, he is a man of few words.  And he is super-dapper. 

When he strides down the aisle to check tickets, it evokes images of Cary Grant or Fred Astaire.  He is light on his feet, this Gary, breezing by with a subtle nod to the regulars as he acknowledges their monthly Charlie cards, and effortlessly manipulating his hole puncher to mark tickets for those just passing through.  (I’m always astounded by the number of holes that need to be made on a ticket for one trip.  So many holes, what do they all mean?  It looks like fun, and I sometimes wish that my job required more hole punching.)

One morning, Gary chided me for exiting the train before it had reached a complete stop.  I felt like a shamed little boy.  He did not raise his voice or berate me in front of the other passengers.  He just gave me a stern look and warned me not to do it again.  He was right too because I damn near tore an ACL that day.  The train was crawling into North Station and couldn’t have been exceeding 1 mph.  But Kanye was in my headphones getting me all fired up for the day to come, so I prematurely stepped onto the platform all cool and shit.  I was not cool, dear reader.  I had underestimated the speed at which we were traveling, and my body was ill prepared for the transition to stationary ground.  Had I not jogged that shit out a couple steps, I would have suffered a humiliating and potentially grave face-first digger.

My point is that, if you asked me to show you a Real Man, I would show you Gary the Conductor.  Confidence.  Dignity.  Manners.  Style.  And a 10-pound belt buckle of a locomotive barreling down the tracks.  Gary understands his job and performs it with aplomb.  He was born to wear that conductor hat and never looks distressed or unhappy, though I’ve never seen him smile.  For that, I’m somewhat remorseful because I’d like to see Gary smile.  But perhaps it would in some way compromise his mysterious aura of debonaire charm.  I bet he got a lot of ass in his day.

Then there is Female Conductress Whose Name I Don’t Know.  There have been several occassions in which I almost laerned Contductress’s name.  It’s right on the badge that hangs around her neck, dangling before her ample bosom.  But whenever I get the right angle, the badge flips over, concealing her identity and thwarting my curiosity.

I love this woman.  She is probably in her fifties and has a wild mane of dyed reddish-brown hair.  What color it is exactly, I am not sure.  But looking at my handy color wheel, I’m thinking Pantone 483C.  Regardless, it is thick and, by day’s end, unruly.  It is wonderful.

Every afternoon, we wait for her at North Station.  The message board announces the tracks for each train, but the 5:10 regulars pay it little mind.  Instead, we wait for her to emerge from the little conductor holding cell.  She usually makes her grand entrance a minute or two after 5, rolling her bag to whichever track we will part from.  As her children, we follow her with blind faith.  If, for some reason, the sign announced that the 5:10 Lowell train was leaving from a track that differed from where she led, I would follow her still.  I would follow her to the ends of the Earth.  For I know I would be safe.

In her way, she’s quite fine, the Conductress.  There’s something so appealing about a sexy woman who, by conventional measures, has no right to be so sexy.  I mean, the MBTA uniform is not exactly flattering.  And the aging process is not always kind.  But our Conductress is so happy and sweet, even while wearing a good number of years and that bland, dark suit.  Such a loving face, with a kinda rockin’ body, to boot.  For her age or any age, I say Kudos.  I want to show her pictures of my daughter and listen to what she’s learned about life.  I want to trade recipes with her and make her a mix tape.  I want her to know that her smile makes more of a difference in my day than it probably should.  Her job sucks shit.  My job sucks shit.  Most jobs suck shit.  But if she can smile through it all, then I should be able to as well.

When we finally get to Lowell, the Conductress stands at the door and says goodbye and tells us all to have a nice night.  Sometimes I want to give her a hug, but I think that might startle her.

So that is my feedback, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.  I am fairly easy to please.  Make the trains run on time, and make all of your conductors take a lesson from Gary and the Conductress.  They do their jobs well.  And they make a shitty commute far more bearable.

Also, fire whoever wrote that stupid survey.



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  1. I measured the time from when I started reading this blog post to when the first time my eyes had begun to read the internet on which this post was written, and the answer was a negative fraction — a mathematical impossibility that proves either that the MBTA needs an editor or that Pythagoras was a homo.

  2. Good post. I laerned a lot.

  3. coach football, you are uninvited to lowell.

  4. i only just now caught that “laerned” typo. but i still would prefer that you not visit us in lowell.

  5. […] contrast, seeing this in North Station would probably make for the best commute ever.  I bet Gary would hop right in the midst of it for a graceful, impromtu two-step with a Dunkin’ Donuts […]

  6. From a fellow 7:18’er & 5:10’er…I absolutely couldn’t have said it better myself…seriously, I couldn’t. But, I do miss Gary and I too love the Conductress. My eyes watered a bit while reading, tears of joy mingled with tears of sadness (for Gary). Maybe one day he will come back to us and we can have a little 7:18 celebration in his honor. Silent celebration, while listening to music on our headphones of course, I don’t think he’d have it any other way. Thanks!

    I still stand on the fact that you did overthink the survey. 😉

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