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Saturday night T: An Observation

March 24, 2010
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It’s nearly half past nine on a Saturday night, and all is quiet on the eastbound Green Line T. Just eight people inhabit the second car.

A gray-haired woman in a lavender fleece jacket sits alone. She stares blankly straight ahead, a vitamin water in her hand, plastic shopping bags at her feet. Two men stand by the middle doors despite the many empty seats, gripping the metal support bars. The first, in a black and white knit hat, complete with earflaps and a poof, holds his jacket and murmurs to the second. They stand steady as the train lurches forward, then back, before halting at the Pleasant Street stop.

Up front a couple climbs the steps into the T. A blonde college-aged girl in heavy eye makeup and a silver sequined dress fumbles with a pair of crumpled dollars bills. She smoothes one with her palms and feeds it into the fare-collection slot. The machine spits the bill out once, then twice before her date steps forward with his pass. The T proceeds.

They both sit: her sequins and his pressed khaki pants on the grimy plastic seats. She crosses her leg toward him, then rests her head on his shoulder revealing a sparkly rhinestone barrette clasping her hair half back. He pinches her cheek and grins; she sits up and says something softly. He shrugs. They stare in opposite directions silently for a moment, then turn back to each other and kiss quickly on the lips.

At the next stop, half a dozen formally attired sorority sisters disrupt the calm. A threat of freezing rain on this February evening hasn’t deterred the barelegged girls, who hobble to the middle of the car in short gowns and high heels. The standing men look up from their conversation wearily as the newcomers chatter unabashedly.

In the next 10 minutes the B Line train accumulates enough BU students in its five campus stops to fill the seats and aisles.

“I like the blue. It makes your eyes pop,” a banged brunette with fist-sized hoop earrings shouts to her friend across the aisle. “It’s sultry.”

“I hope there’s food there – I’m so hungry. All I’ve had to eat today is a protein bar,” another says, stretching her legs, revealing pink-painted toenails in strappy Grecian sandals.

“Anybody want some?” says a third girl, this one in seafoam-colored chiffon and matching eyeshadow asks the group after applying a shiny lip gloss.

“Look at that girl’s dress. I like the purple,” the brunette points to the back of the train at a swarm of perfumed and suited college students. “Are we all going to the same place?”

The answer is apparent when the train reaches Copley. The girls button their pea coats and the couple stands and grasps hands. They join the crowd shuffling out of the car and onto their collective destination.

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