Ten years and a trolley, baby.
Congress Street. Four o'clock on a Friday. Traffic is backed up to Springfield. Cars are honking, cabbies are hollering, pedestrians are everywhere. It's so hot, I'm cemented to my seat.
Finally, two police officers on motorcycles cruise past on the sidewalk. They brake, switch on their sirens, and slant their bikes diagonally in the middle of the four-way mess. With them comes a momentary sense of order, control, relief It passes quickly. Sure enough, they're here to shut down three lanes for the March Against Toe Fungus.
Everybody on the road hates everybody else, I
hate myself and a persistent tapping on the shoulder reminds me that the 42 tourists who paid $23 a head (less for children; sorry no discount for seniors) aren't real big on me, either.|
"How long till the next stop?"
"Where's Ko-Pley Square from here?"
"Can you let us off now?"
As much as I would love to hurl out every last sweatsuit-wearing, camera-clicking tourist in sensible shoes ~especially the loudmouth from New York who keeps telling everyone that everything is better there ~one of the countless company rules prohibits letting passengers debark in the middle of a four-lane road at rush hour.
And so I talk. I have to educate and entertain, enlighten even. Silence is deadly. I launch into the history of Faneuil Hall. The long version. There's plenty of time.
Add a car accident, inclement weather, the Big Dig, and assorted death threats, and you've got yourself a relatively standard two-hour excursion on one of Boston's ubiquitous and widely hated tourist trolleys. The job: guide, ambassador, blue-collar thespian, driver. The product: "transportainment," known by locals as the ugly goddamned thing you never want to find yourself behind.
For two years, I drove one of these infamous whimsical trams. I cut you off, then slowed to eight miles an hour to point out the duckling statues in the Public Garden, or the Cheers bar, or the grave that may or may not belong to Mother Goose. I've dealt with the drunk, the dumb, the disillusioned. I've been in accidents, caused accidents, broken down on Causeway Street before a Bruins game. I've been laughed at, quacked at, and attacked.
I was a trolley tour guide.
Why did I do it? For the microphone, of course. I was the emcee, and the city was my stage. I had the power to leave guests with a lifelong love for Boston, or to ruin their vacations. I could harp on our towns beauty, its compactness, and its parks, or rant about the roads, the rents, the lack of parking. If my passengers didn't laugh at my jokes, I'd drive faster. If they were an exceptional bunch, I'd add on Harvard Square and Fenway Park. An inattentive group that made me feel like a Greyhound driver got the big sell at Stop No. 6, the Holiday Inn on Cambridge Street.
"Just two minutes away is Massachusetts General Hospital, the first hospital to use ether as an anesthetic. This is one of the most fascinating points of interest on the map. I highly recommend it."
Reshuffle the deck. A more enthusiastic audience was certainly waiting at the next stop.