12 February, 2009

Sometimes I love the T. Only sometimes.

On the three days each week that I work I walk to the Hynes Convention Center stop and take the T to Coolidge Corner. For those who don't know, the T costs $1.70 if you have a plastic Charlie card. Without the Charlie card you have to buy a paper ticket which costs $2. Occasionally I'll buy a weekly pass if I know that I'll be taking the T again later in the week. This week I opted to pay as I used it. I wasn't sure today how much money was left on my card so I checked at a machine when I arrived at Hynes. The screen flashed that I had $3.30 left. There is no way to purchase a ticket or add money to your card at Coolidge Corner and I would need an extra 10 cents to get back home.

I sat there staring at the machine for a few seconds trying to figure out what to do. I had no change in my pockets. I searched my messenger bag for change; all I found were old train tickets from Belgium and Switzerland. I had a single dollar bill in my wallet so I reluctantly walked up to one of the machines that takes cash, tapped my Charlie card, hit "add money" on the screen and watched as the machine ate up my last dollar. It was then that I finally learned the secret of why the MBTA keeps losing money.

'What a pointless fucking transaction,' I thought to myself. I'm going to get 90 cents in change back and now I'm completely out of cash. I also lost my ATM card for the second time in 5 months last week so I have to actually go to the bank to get money. My one consolation was that at least I'd have some change to keep in my bag if this ever happened again. The machine registered the dollar I had given it and began spitting out my change with the familiar "clink-clink-clink!" sound coming from the slot towards the bottom. I stuck my hand in, swiped up the change and withdrew it to find $1.50 in change. There were five quarters, two dimes and a nickel. I had gained money in the process of paying 10 cents to the MBTA.

Obviously the reason that the MBTA keeps raising the fares is because their machines aren't making anyone pay for Charlie tickets and instead are dispensing change to any and all customers. I'm never paying with a credit card again. Now before you reply with, "wait, isn't it possible that somebody forgot to take their change and it was already sitting there," let me go ahead and put those thoughts to rest. No, it was not possible. I have a sixth sense about these things. The Charlie ticket machines are broken and dispensing too much change. The MBTA should really hire me as a consultant for uncovering this serious problem.

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