An open letter to the MBCR [UPDATE]

by david

Dear Mass Bay Commuter Rail,

I’m sure you get a lot of open letters, and I’m sure you respond to each with the same care and precision you approach all other tasks that don’t raise unearned revenue. Which is to say, I’m not expecting a response.

Last week, I might have left a Kindle on one of your trains. I can’t be sure: I’m a bit forgetful, and tend to misplace things. This fault is mine, not yours, although I know you can sympathize. You seem to share those traits, frequently misplacing trains, staff, announcements, timeliness, and explanations for your constant dereliction of basic duties to your paying customers. I’m sure you disagree, but that’s just your forgetfulness. You really, really, really have a terrible track record with this kind of thing.

I know! I know! This is unfair! You’re not given an incentive to do this stuff well:

Why would anybody do a job well if there wasn’t a penalty for doing it poorly, right? I mean, we’d be suckers to expect differently, right?

Wow, sorry for the digression. Sometimes I fail to get where I meant to go. I KNOW you understand THAT. Anyway, still besties?

[In case you are still reading, the Kindle in question was housed in a black leatherish case that opens vertically (it also has an ergonomically-named though seemingly conventional handstrap), and if powered up, is probably open to a fairly early page of a short story collection entitled “Rum, Sodomy, and False Eyelashes.” I would be quite happy to reclaim it.]

I did leave a message late last week, describing the item, and I’m not writing this because I believe you have to return every call regarding a missing item. Oh, no. I’m not irrational. I left that message as a formality, because otherwise you could say, “You have to first leave a message in the impersonal and completely neglected black hole we’ve set up for that purpose.” So, I sent my voicemail missive off into the bureaucratic equivalent of a wishing well, and expect from it the success I achieved as a ten-year-old tossing a nickel into a mall fountain while asking for a Ferrari and a talking ape companion.

No, I’m writing because of my attempted follow-up, my visit to the South Station lost and found itself. You see, like most people who’re blessed enough to have a job in this economy, I run these errands on my lunch break. Being a strategic genius, I decided to leave at 11:30, figuring there was some small chance the lost and found office would be closed for lunch at the time when every single person needing the office’s services would probably come by. Imagine my surprise, when I arrived at 11:45, and saw a placard with a little plastic-handed clock that said the office would be reopened at noon. OK! I got lunch nearby. It was delicious. And I returned at 12:10. The placard’s hands had moved to 12:45. This is when I involuntarily shouted an expletive.

This is surprising. You see, MBCR, I’m used to shouting expletives when I’m on your train platforms, and occasionally while on your trains, but I am unaccustomed to shouting expletives when I am not even enjoying your primary services. I am astounded that the consistency of your customer services extends beyond the train and the platform. It’s the little things, you know, like not posting and adhering to hours of operation. Like disrespecting your patrons’ own lunch breaks to fulfill your own. I am impressed by the consistency of your brand. Bravo.

I wish that members of Massachusetts and other municipal bodies could experience the same treatment–that you could extend your gold standard behavior to them when they are scheduled to meet with you on matters like relaxing regulation, writing huge checks to you, and taking cover for your gross negligence–but I suspect that those are meetings you show up for, speak in complete sentences during, and during which you even exhibit a little bit of human charm. While this is probably good for your business, I daresay it deprives me and fellow riders of an easy way to forgive you: because of your two-facedness, we know that you’re not incompetent, but actually just kind of a dick.

Anyway, MBCR, I hope that you might check the Hefty bag below the counter for my Kindle, and let me know. I’ll probably try to stop by later this week. As much as I hate calling on someone who clearly would rather I just shut the hell up, I guess I’ll be seeing you soon.





I did return to the South Station lost and found later in the week and had a nice, if not particularly enlightening conversation with a perfectly pleasant MBCR employee, and it made me feel a tiny bit guilty about my post. Not guilty enough to change or delete it, but you know, a pang. I’ve worked versions of that job, and know that sometimes you have to take a break even if it’s not strictly time for a break. So, as for the hours of the lost and found, I guess it’s not that big a deal. It’s annoying as hell, but I certainly wouldn’t have posted anything at all if I hadn’t already been feeling like a kicked dog because of other commuting issues.

So, now I feel bad twice over, because the perfectly pleasant person at the lost and found got a visit from their manager because of my dickish blog post. So, to you, perfectly nice lost and found woman, I’m sorry. I hope the visit from your manager goes like this: “Hey, some dick wrote some stupid thing on the internet. Were you around?”   “Yeah.” “OK, he probably can’t tell time. Get to it.” I can tell time, and it was super annoying, but sheesh, I was just blowing off steam.

You know what? I lost a Kindle. It sucks to lose things. It’s easier to get mad at others than to dwell on the fact that you didn’t take care of your own stuff. So: to perfectly nice lost and found woman and to Gillian Wood of the MBCR, thanks for looking into it. If you can do anything about the understaffing and delays on the Framingham/Worcester line, I’ll write you the nicest post that ever was written.