Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Governor

Today I am feeling tired and not quite over whatever it was I had last week, whether a bad cold or a mild fever or just a system rebelling because I had gone to my friend’s son’s wedding and consumed more calories in four hours than I typically process in a week.  

I’ve also come to wonder if my office is not filled with toxins of some sort. I know there is construction going on below me because I can hear the pummeling racket of a jackhammer for thirty seconds at a pop.  So, I’ve wondered if the construction doesn’t involve the emission of something not meant for those to inhale.

Whatever,  I am still not completely through whatever is running its course.  And when that happens my emotional meter also dips.  In other words I am dragging myself around town with less hop to my skip than is usual.

So, that was the state of the author of the Madness of March when I went to the Orange Line early this afternoon.  I belong to a library in downtown Boston and had a book that needed to be returned.  I have an app that tells me when the Orange Line is a’coming, but I never use it since they run every few minutes.  Besides I am not sure how it works, though I will bet it is simple.

I put my terrific Senior Citizen subway pass on the turnstile sensor and for half the cost of what young ‘uns pay, I got through to the Ruggles stop.  I approached the down escalator to the tracks and saw that an outbound train was parked there. No need for me to rush because I was going inbound.  I saw the sea of folk coming up the escalator as I was starting to descend.

It was then that I spotted him or at least I thought I did.  About half way up the escalator there was this old guy emerging with the rest of the army. Every stair on the escalator was taken and this guy—when I first spotted him—was half way up crammed between two kids scanning their cell phones.  The man was gray-had to be pushing 80 (just looked it up, 84)—and was a little tired looking.

As I went down and he came up, it became clear that it was he.  And also it seemed to me that nobody on that upcoming escalator and nobody on the down one I was on, knew who he was.  I knew he worked at Northeastern and have seen him on campus now and again. It was definitely he. I smiled and waved at him, and he smiled back in the way that famous people do when someone else recognizes them and they know that they are recognizable.

And it struck me that whatever garbage is coursing through my system and causing me to feel blue and tired, this guy at 84 has better reasons to be exhausted and blue. Nobody, I will bet, nobody on that Orange Line knew who he was. He had not taken a cab, or a limousine, or an uber. He was riding on the Orange Line with about 150 others near the platform.

I looked at the oblivious escalator riders and wanted to tell them that this person between them, just under thirty years ago, ran for president of the United States on a major party ticket. President of the United States. He was not running on the Free the Pelicans ticket, he was the Democratic candidate for president.  Had it not been for a dumb commercial and dumber answer to a stupid question by CNN journalist Bernard Shaw, this gray haired man likely would have been president.  In addition, for twelve years this fellow that nobody recognized, was the Governor of the state of Massachusetts. Almost the most powerful person in the United States, and for over a decade the most powerful person in Massachusetts.

But there he was, thirty years later, riding the Orange Line in Boston at the age of 84, just another Charlie of the MTA.  Me, if I were he, would still be thinking about that dumb commercial, dumber answer to the stupid question.  And I would have trouble shaking it.   Not Michael Dukakis.  Eighty four years old going to work on the Orange Line, apparently unconcerned that he had been one dumb advertisement away from being president and unconcerned that nobody knew who he was, Governor Michael Dukakis was seizing the day riding to his office to go to work.  

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