The Three Little Bricks and The Big Bad Microburst

July 25, 2012 at 8:24 am | Posted in Around Boston, Office Humor | Leave a comment
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My dear Factinis readers:

Today’s post is a special treat for me because my friend (and reliable Factinis commenter) Erika will be occupying my usual soap box!  So, in addition to helping with content (of which I’ve been embarrassingly negligent of late), she’s also making me feel better about my own life!  Let’s face it: a lot of crazy stuff happens to me, and knowing that it happens to other people, too, makes me feel a little more normal.  Or at least like there’s a community of abnormality out there that I’m a part of…  So without further ado, I give you Erika’s true tale of commuting madness!

I should start this guest post as my hostess so often does, with a snapshot into my life at work. I have on my desk, along with a pink feather boa, a plastic dinosaur and a veritable rainbow of fuzzy craft bears, a plastic model of the Weinermobile. While all these objects have stories behind them, I blame office gossip for the Weinermobile. You know how these things happen, right? A perfectly innocent event gets warped by the rumor mill and suddenly everyone at work wants to know how you got into a car accident with the Weinermobile.

oscar mayer weinermobile

The perfect desk accessory?

I didn’t. Yes, it was a car accident, and yes, it did involve processed meat, but it wasn’t nearly so dramatic as it sounds. A simple rear-ending by a sausage truck is all. I tell you this for two reasons. One, because I know you’re all mature enough not to snicker by the imagery of sausages and rear ends, and two, because it sets a nice context for what happened eight years later. A.k.a. last week.

Picture if you will a lovely summer evening in a town just north of Boston. And then, just as you’re settling in to enjoy the story, strolling down the country lane (okay, it was a major commuting route) on your way to meet your wife for dinner at your favorite Indian restaurant, imagine yourself up to your knees in water, suddenly caught in a dramatic torrent of wind and rain complete with downed trees and sizzling power lines. Do you panic? Of course not! This is all well and good because your clothes probably needed a wash anyway and hopping fallen branches while trying to dodge the falling sparks from the urban jungle above is kind of like a video game. And who doesn’t love a good video game at the end of a long hard day at work?

I hope you didn’t think that was a rhetorical question. The answer, as it turns out, is “my trusty steed.” Apparently my being drenched, nearly swept away by wind and rain and narrowly avoiding electrocution wasn’t enough for Mother Nature. No, she looked down on me, released a cackle of thunder, and said to herself, “I’d better get her car involved too.” So, when my wife and I went to the nearby parking lot to retrieve a bag from the vehicle, we discovered a pile of bricks surrounding it. Unlike similar scenes in Super Mario World, however, there were no gold coins or feathers of invisibility or extra lives awaiting us. Just a crowd of people staring up amazedly at a hole on the roof of the jewelry shop. Yes indeed, microbursts are all fun and games until someone loses a windshield from a falling chimney.

To be honest, I’m not sure if the odds are better for falling chimneys than for rogue sausage trucks, but either way, I’m concerned about what’s going to show up on my desk once my co-workers get wind of this. So to speak.

So what say you, dear reader(s), what WILL show up on our guest blogger Erika’s desk in the weeks to come? A big bad wolf, huffing and puffing? A wind-up Dick Van Dyke doll that sings a certain tune from Mary Poppins? Santa Claus with a little gray rain cloud over his head? We can only guess… but I’m sure she’ll report back with the answer!

Commuting First Impressions Count

April 27, 2011 at 7:51 am | Posted in Around Boston | 2 Comments
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When I announced I was changing gigs, some of our dear reader(s) were concerned:

Without the MBTA/MBCR, would I still have humorous commuting tales to share?  Could anything possibly be as dysfunctional as the commuter rail? 

Rest assured, as long as I have to leave my house to work, I’ll always have silly commuting missives to share… Though I can’t promise they’ll be as dysfunctional as the tales from my old train, they will probably be less bitter and more random – bonus! 

On this morning’s commute, for example, I was stuck behind a hot mess of a corporate minivan.  With big dents in the bumper, a rust stain on the back, and a general aura of disrepair, the thing is a clunker at best.  But what makes it blog-worthy?

The tagline on the van read: When First Impressions Count. 

Ummm… when first impressions count for what, exactly?  Because right now, the first impression I’m getting is that the company has a particularly dry and ironic sense of humor – in which case, I approve, or that the company is confused and/or lazy (or, most likely, both) – in which case, I’m calling foul. 

Happy Hump Day, folks!

Is the Commuter Rail the “Offline” Ashley Madison?

March 22, 2011 at 10:12 am | Posted in Around Boston, Married Life | 4 Comments
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I’ve been commuting on the MBCR/MBTA Commuter Rail for a long time, and while I’m perpetually grouchy about delays, crowded trains and nincompoop riders, I recently discovered another fun aspect of commuting to gripe about: it seems that commuter trains are hot beds (so to speak) for people seeking extra-marital affairs (does that seem redundant to anyone else? I mean, how many inter-marital affairs have you heard about? But I digress…).

I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it is to see middle-aged professionals flirting over briefcases in purple pleather seats. As Bonnie Raitt* correctly identified, they laugh just a little too loud, stand just a little too close (and it isn’t only when the train is packed) and stare just a little too long. It’s icky. And it isn’t something I want to talk about (but I’m going to anyway). 

Yesterday evening I was witness to one such encounter. Sitting in a “four seater” (you know what I mean: two two-person benches – aka love seats – facing each other), you would have thought the woman next to me had met the funniest human alive, the way she was reacting to the gentleman across from her (who shall henceforth be known as the Middle-Aged Commuting Adonis). Seriously, he flashed his pearly off-whites and the woman, let’s call her Flirty Gerty, practically dissolved into a puddle of lust (if lust could take the form of a puddle, that is).

Being the optimistic innocent naïve gal that I am, I noticed they were both wearing wedding bands and thought that perhaps this amorous couple was a pair of older newlyweds. And that would have been significantly less nauseating.

Alas, it wasn’t the case. Midway through our ride, Flirty Gerty received a text message, and being the nosy know-it-all curious gal that I am, I read the following message over her shoulder: “Picked up the kids. Let’s order pizza tonight and relax together.” 

Okay, that message isn’t proof of anything. It could have been from a friend, a car pool buddy, or even a roommate. But it wasn’t.

Flirty Gerty responded (all the while making googly eyes at Commuting Adonis): “Thanks, John. See you at home. Love you!”

So she’s clearly not married to/living with Commuting Adonis. But this could still all be an innocent encounter, right? Wrong.

Before Flirty Gerty got off the train, Adonis took her hand in his and confessed that seeing her was the best part of his day, and that he would text her later. She blushed, and in the breathiest voice she could muster, replied: “I can’t wait for this weekend,” and then winked at him.

She winked!

Tell me I’m wrong, dear reader(s)! Convince this optimistic, trusting newlywed that I’m misinterpreting their interaction! Find a plausible excuse to restore my faith in humanity, marriage and commuting! And remind me never to sit in that train car again!

Feeling dirty,


* Oops, my inner music dork is showing!

Mothering my Husband?

February 10, 2011 at 9:41 am | Posted in Around Boston, Married Life | 5 Comments
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Around quarter past five last night my more-scholarly-half called to check in…

“Hey Sarah, how was your day?”

Hi Andrew! Not over yet – I’m at work, and I still don’t feel well. Are you on your way to class?”

“Yup! Sorry you haven’t kicked the flu yet.”

“Thanks!” Pause. “Ummm…” Pause. “Everything okay, Andrew?”

“Yeah, everything is fine. But… I need a favor.”

“What kind of favor?”

“I left my homework at home today and I really need it for class tonight – it’s two week’s worth of work and I have to turn it in, so…” Pause. Long, awkward, ‘pregnant pause’ (if you’ll pardon the expression).

“Okay, I’ll bite: what’s the favor?” (As if I didn’t know).

“Can you pick up my school bag and bring it to me?”

So I hung up the phone, raced to the subway so I could catch the commuter rail, drove home from the station, got his backpack (with said tardy homework), floored it to BU’s North Campus and dropped it off. Why? Because that’s what good wives do.

And then it occurred to me: that’s not what wives do, that’s what moms do! I think I just mothered my husband!!

But, as my dear friend and colleague, Rhymes-With-Cannon said (as she sprinted with me to the subway), Valentine’s Day is in less than a week, and that kid owes me! Mwahahaha!


Welcome to #Froston, Part Deux

January 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Posted in Around Boston | 2 Comments
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The paparazzi swarmed again!  Tonight NECN was pounding the frigid pavement at North Station asking for interviews with inconvenienced, chilly commuters.  Naturally they asked the queen of angry commuters (that’d be me) for an interview, but I declined again.  If I didn’t grant the crew this morning an interview, it would hardly be fair to give the evening news an exclusive. 

That and I had hat head…  

When I declined, the reporter suckered the guy next to me into an interview. He kept his hat on.


Welcome to #Froston!

January 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Around Boston | 5 Comments
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Happy Monday, dear reader(s)!  As our local fans know, it’s really friggin’ cold here in Beantown!  Witness:

It was -3 degrees AFTER a slight warm-up this morning! PS Don't worry, my car wasn't moving at the time this picture was taken.

So cold, in fact, that the news channels sent reporters to my train station this morning!  But when they tried to interview the miserable commuters like me who had been waiting over 30 minutes for a train that wasn’t announced as delayed, they found precious few takers. 

Could be because our faces had lost feeling and our mouths were frozen shut.  Or could be because, like the temperature, Bostonians have been declared one of the top ten “frostiest” city dwellers in America by Travel & Leisure Magazine!

Yes, it's cold. And no, we DON'T want to talk about it on live television.

Either way, we weren’t talkin’ without some complimentary hot coffee!

Stay warm, folks!


Trapped on the T

January 14, 2011 at 9:55 am | Posted in Around Boston | 2 Comments
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“Set the hand brake!!”

It was those immortal words that I heard shrieked over an intercom just one week ago. Last Friday evening I was part of the infamous crowd literally stuck in the tunnels of the MBTA’s Red Line between Central and Harvard.

At first no one panicked. It seemed like a routine stop. But after seeing both train conductors heave themselves from the front of the train to the caboose and back again, we knew something was amiss. And when I say heave, I’m not exaggerating – the trains were packed and the conductors weren’t petite.

Then we started to roll. In the wrong direction. As the conductor bellowed those immortal words… over and over again. “Set the hand brake! Set the hand brake!!”  Eventually our heroic conductors managed to stop the slow creep, and then the waiting began.  

Welcome to my commute!

Please keep in mind this was the day after a snake went missing on the very same line, so you can imagine how uplifting the conversation became.

“Well, I guess we’re about to become friendlier,” said a fellow passenger as he removed a few layers of his clothing (although the train’s engine wasn’t working, the heater certainly was – and it was hot!).

“I just hope Penelope isn’t on this train,” I said (half) jokingly to my new train-friends.


“Yeah, you know – the snake that went missing on the Red Line yesterday.”

Commence panic. Apparently no one on my train was a news junkie like yours truly and this was the first they had heard of the missing “pet.” And that’s when our delay turned into a study in archetypes.

Seated next to me was the fearful, uptight woman. The one who picked up her feet (just in case Penelope was slithering under her seat) and pressed me for detail after detail. “What is the MBTA doing about the snake? Do you think it could be on this train? If the snake got into the engine, could that be why we aren’t moving? Do you think it is poisonous?”

Standing diagonally in front of me was the angry, swearing hoodlum. You know the type – they get angrier and angrier the more powerless they feel in a situation. “What the ‘fudge’ is the problem? Why can’t these ‘iceholes’ fix this ‘mother-trucking’ train? ‘Jeebus’ – the T is full of ‘farging’ idiots! They better get me the ‘fudge’ of this train before I find that ‘mother-clucking’ snake!” 

Standing directly in front of me was the unprepared and distracted young male. In other words, the one who neglected to use the “facilities” before he left and couldn’t focus on anything else. At first he was fairly inconspicuous – standing with his legs crossed and taking deep breaths. Initially I thought he was trying not to flip out as a result of claustrophobia. Turns out his quiet demeanor, constant fidgeting, deep breaths and closed eyes signified intense concentration (“don’t pee on the train, don’t pee on the train, you can hold it, think of something other than running water”). After about 40 minutes he let us all in on his secret need when he abruptly stated: “If they don’t get this ‘G.D.’-train moving soon I’m gonna pee myself!”

Across the train were the dorky coeds – the ones who laugh a little too loudly at a stranger’s jokes, the ones who get into heated debates about the veracity of certain television shows, and the ones who will, undoubtedly, do something ridiculous like blog about their experience stuck on the train with a snake on the loose…

Oh. Point taken.

Wishing you an easy commute this evening!


Lost in Space (aka Beverly, Mass.)

January 7, 2011 at 9:30 am | Posted in Around Boston | Leave a comment
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I miss April. A lot. Sometimes it’s a longing sort of feeling, like when my colleagues don’t understand my obscure references. Sometimes it’s a lonely sort of feeling, like when I’m stuck at North Station (our former commuting haven/twice daily date) and my train is delayed and I have no one to distract me or amuse me – or, for that matter, protect me.

Sometimes it’s a sad sort of feeling, like when I’m the only one to get the snortsies (that’s when you laugh so hard you accidentally snort) when someone does something ridiculous like accidentally falling asleep at their desk and waking themselves up by farting, and then looking around to determine:

  1. Who cut the cheese (until they realize what happened), and
  2. If anyone noticed his gaffes. 

And sometimes it’s a sharp, throbbing, stabbing pain, like the pain of being adrift in unfamiliar territory with no hope of escape. And by that I mean I recently got horribly lost in Beverly, the Massachusetts town Arps used to inhabit.

The hubs and I were en route home from a wedding on the North Shore when the traffic on 128 South ground to an abrupt halt, and then the coppers made all cars exit the highway and take the back roads. The unfamiliar back roads. Without any detour signs. Or information on where the highway reopened. Or signs pointing toward other official routes I was familiar with. And that’s when my intense longing for April’s companionship veered its ugly head.   

And yes, I could have just called April for directions anyway.  It hasn’t been that long since she moved and her memory wasn’t erased in the process.  Or I could have punched in “avoid highway” on my GPS and navigated home that way.  But that’s not the point.  Ixnay on the ogiclay! The point is that I miss my bloggier half.

This "Savage Chicken" understands my heartache...

Where’s Your Baby Army?

December 17, 2010 at 10:41 am | Posted in Around Boston, Photo Phriday | Leave a comment
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About a year ago, my bloggier half announced that, should she ever aspire to take over the world, she would use an army of plastic babies.  Well, April, I’ve got some sad news for you: apparently you weren’t the only one to receive this calling.  And while you’ve been focused on your family, someone has been cloning those bizarre little soldiers and amassing quite the group of mercenaries. 

On my commute this week, I stumbled upon the sinister mini-militia I like to call the Plastic Baby Doll Army (PBDA) in their lair of wickedness.  Witness:

Cap'n Creepy leads soldiers in denial practice... Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I can only assume the largest plastic baby doll (which shall henceforth be referred to as Cap’n Creepy) is training the smaller soldiers to commit heinous acts of a truly ghastly nature, and then refute future accusations.  As you can see from my super secret black ops reconnaissance mission, they’re getting very good at denial and have perfected their synchronized “I don’t know what you’re talking about” gesture. 

Guard your loved ones well, dear reader(s).  There’s a toy-war a-brewin’…


Nothing Like BBQ in the Morning…?

December 1, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Posted in Around Boston | 2 Comments
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This morning wasn’t easy.  I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  I got stuck in traffic and waited at the subway platform as two trains so crowded with commuters there wasn’t room to sneeze passed me. When I finally elbowed my way onto the third train I thought my luck had changed when I was miraculously able to procure a seat!  But I was wrong.

So very wrong.


Potato Chips

This is not breakfast...

The older gentleman I sat next to decided the Orange Line was the perfect spot for breakfast, which isn’t unusual for the less-thoughtful commuters among us.  But breakfast on the T usually means toast or a granola bar or a donut, or maybe even an egg sandwich.  The hungry fella next to me consumed an entire family size bag of BBQ potato chips, and for those who have recently enjoyed said snack (meal?), you know it gets all over your fingers and it’s fairly crumbly.  So what does the guy next to me do?  Clap/wipe his hands together and fling chip crumbs all over my left pant leg and the commuters standing directly in front of us. So thoughtful of him to share.


And apparently a bag o’ BBQ chips can really build up a thirst!  So said seatmate extracted a 2 liter Coca-Cola from his jacket (I kid you not) and started slurping it loudly until about mid-way through the bottle when some went down the wrong pipe, so to speak, and he back-wash-sprayed the people in front of us.  And my purse.  He must have guessed that we, too, were parched.  How kind.

Is it Friday yet?


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