Preamble: apparently a Red Line train caught on fire and the MBTA bussed people between Broadway and Harvard (basically, the entire stretch of the Red Line that most riders use).
When I found this out at South Station, rather than fight the hordes, I decided to walk to Park St, take the green line to Hynes, and get a #1 bus to Harvard. But when I got to Park St, there was one of the shuttles right there, and when I heard the driver lean out the door, and — I think — say that they were going express to Harvard, I decided to jump on. It was full, but not as crowded as it could have been, presumably because it was going express.
Except, when the closed the doors closed, the driver turns around and says, “OK, does anybody know how to get from here to Harvard Square?”
Now the chances of someone knowing the way are pretty good (but not 100% because a lot of Red Line riders are suburbanites who just take it to Porter Square to catch the commuter rail). But the chances of a Red Line rider knowing the best way to go, especially the best way at 6:30pm during rush hour, are low. People generally take the Red Line specifically so they don’t have to know. The chances that someone who knew the best way would be in earshot of the driver on a full bus are just about zero. And indeed, we ended up not going express to Harvard, because we got lost in Beacon Hill and ended up at Charles MGH, and just took the normal Red Line route and made all the stops from there (which meant that it quickly went from full to overcrowded).
But honest to goodness, where did the MBTA dig this driver up? It wasn’t just like he had no idea of how to get out of Boston, he seemed to have no idea of where the Red Line actually goes and where it stops. After a while, it gets easy: you just follow Mass Ave and stop at every big “T” sign you see; and because there is no subway, there will be huge crowds of people standing outside and waving to you. But this proved too difficult for this guy. People actually had to tell him to stop at Central.
I sound indignant, but mostly I felt bad for him. He was clearly asked to do something he had no idea how to do, and everybody’s been there at one point or another. Luckily most of us don’t have to do it when we’re driving a huge piece of machinery, crammed to the gills with sweaty, tired people.
That said, my fellow commuters were taking it in stride: there was the same kind of jovial whatcha-gonna-do solidarity that is usually reserved for the first big snowstorm of the season.
I made it home by 8:15, which made the trip about double my usual commute time.