Commuting Woes, Charlie on the MTA, and the Glory of Unintentional Irony

In the name of making life easier, the MBTA (Boston’s subway system for the non-locals) has made life much, much harder for folks in my area for the next fourteen months. You see, they’re building a parking garage at my commuter rail station so that more of us can park and use the train. But for the next fourteen months, many fewer of us will have that option because there’s just no place to park.

mbta Charlie cardAs I was going through my bag today I came across my now-unused Charlie card, and I smiled once again to think that the MBTA named its fare card after Charlie on the MTA, a nod to the classic Boston song of course, that tells the tale of “poor Charlie”:


Charlie handed in his dime
At the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him,
“One more nickel.”
Charlie could not get off that train.

What happens to Charlie because the fare is too high?

Did he ever return?
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn’d
He may ride forever
‘neath the streets of Boston
He’s the man who never returned.

And this is the song after which my fair city named named its increasing more expensive fare card. As a writer and an editor, the unintentional irony here is a thing of glory.

Now you citizens of Boston,
Don’t you think it’s a scandal
That the people have to pay and pay
Vote for Walter A. O’Brien
And fight the fare increase
Get poor Charlie off the MTA.

And, being Boston, it all comes back to politics in the end (the song is supposedly tied to the 1949 mayoral race).

Now if only I, like Charlie, could take a ride beneath the streets of Boston once again. But for now, alas, I’m all about a long ride through endless traffic on the streets of Boston—only now with this song stuck in my head.