Public transport, MBTA style
Some adventures in aviation begin in a place very different from what you normally think of. I was on my way to Sun’n’Fun, the traditional Mecca for experimental and general aviation pilots which happens every spring in Lakeland, Florida. I mean what better place can you imagine being at the end of a long northern winter than a small airfield in the heart our sunny southern state. For one week each spring we get to gather, listen to airplane noise from dawn until late into the night. Campers are packed together and the party continues round the clock. Everyone here has something in common, the love of airplanes.
The harsh reality of general aviation these days is for those of us in the real world it is far less expensive to fly to Florida commercially, and dream of the day when we have the time and resources to fly our own personal pride and joy into the field. For me, it may never happen, but I’ll keep dreaming.
This trip, however, began with the purchase of an airline ticket to Tampa. Not wanting to end up with both my husband’s car and my own in Boston, I elected to travel to the airport utilizing our state’s public transportation system. This began by imposing on a friend to drive me to the commuter rail station.
Following recent locale flooding, Massport, has chosen to close the road in front of my neighborhood, only allowing travel to the south. Unfortunately, the rail station is on the north side of town, so after an additional 12 miles of travel on rural back roads, my friend and I arrived at the station.
Moments later we were greeted by a woman in a florescent vest.
“Are you planning on taking the train?” she asks.
I consider, “No, I just thought the parking lot was a scenic destination, or No, I’m checking for loose change on the station platform, but I dumbly reply, ‘yes’”.
She nods towards an old yellow school bus, and tells us the bus will take us to Campello, up the line. She hands me a piece of paper with the words, “Here, this will explain.”
Have you ever tried to hoist a suitcase, and a backpack onto a yellow school bus? Not a pretty picture, but after several minutes I was occupying two empty seats on the bus. At 5’5” I could barely fit between the seats and wondered how the gentleman climbing on, who was well over six feet and outweighed me by a significant measure, would manage to shoehorn himself into the seat behind me, clearly designed for a member of the third grade class.
An obese woman dressed in a red sweater searching for an open seat brought back memories of Pooh Bear forcing his ample proportions out of rabbit’s hole after excessive honey consumption. Mild curiosity on my part as I watched her progress was replaced by a look of terror from the woman on crutches whose injured leg stretched out into the isle.
Finally, looking like well-dressed patrons on a bus in Bolivia, miraculously everyone was seated. Slowly the gears of the bus went into arthritic motion and we headed north. Passing the highway entrance ramp, the bus trundled towards the traffic light marking a secondary road, which paralleled the highway.
Murmurs of surprise, were soon replaced by sighs of resignation as we slowed for the first of an endless string of stop lights. Leaning forward, I looked at the woman in front of me, agreeing the wheels of the bus might fall off if speeds over thirty mph were attempted.
Disembarking from our chariot at Campello station, we again found ourselves on the commuter rail. The train gained speed and dutifully stopped at the next station. A wave of relief swept through the group, perhaps we wouldn’t be too late.
Just as heads were dropping, the train rolled to a stop.
There appeared to be a conflict with a train passing in the opposite direction. Another twenty minutes and we were back in motion, informed by the printed data sheet we would be required to switch to the red line at the Braintree T station.
Dutifully, again we disembarked and searched for signs indicating the location of the inbound train. Tugging my Pullman over the eroded cobblestones and cracked concrete, I wondered how the woman on crutches was going to manage.
Arriving in the catacombs of south station I followed the suitcase crowd towards signs indicating the Silver Line, the transfer line to Logan airport.
By this time, my bladder was starting to complain and I was thankful I had passed on a second cup of coffee earlier. I was told I’d have to go back to the main station if I expected to find a washroom. I elected to let the yellow level rise in lieu of missing the bus to Logan.
Terminal C, relief, I was still well in time for my flight. I’ve been known to carry a bladder relief vessel in my Citabria, perhaps this might be a new consideration for the MBTA.