Wednesday, December 16, 2015

that joke isn't funny anymore

See this transit pass? I have been buying one of these every month* for the past nine years. It entitles me to unlimited rides on the SEPTA Regional Rail systems for the entire month designated at the top of the pass (in this case "November 2015"). I ride the train to and from work five days a week. Sometimes, I take the train on weekends. Other times, I take the subway system for quick commutes within the city. My transit pass includes unlimited subway rides, as well.

For the past nine years, I don't believe that my train has ever been on time. Not going to work. Not coming from work and not on those infrequent weekend trips. The train is usually five or six minutes late. Sometimes longer. Sometimes, a lot longer. According to several inquiries to SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, the entity that runs the public transportation system in Philadelphia and its surrounding area), a train can be up to six minutes behind schedule and still be considered "on time." That is a rail system standard — a standard made up by the rail system. I told a representative from SEPTA that it's a good thing that doctors don't work within similar guidelines. ("Yeah, we'll try to operate within six inches of your heart. If we hit your lung, we're still considering that to be your heart".) It's very frustrating to have the train arrive late every single day. I know I get angry and I can tell by the expressions on the faces of my fellow commuters that I see pacing the train platforms daily, the feeling is shared. Sometimes, an announcement is made over the PA system, but the ancient equipment renders it incoherent. Frustrated commuters look at each other in wonder, hoping someone was able to decipher at least a few important words regarding the status of the next arriving train. Once the train does arrive, no words of apology are ever offered by SEPTA personnel. After all, the conductors and the engineer are already at work. They don't give a fuck if you're late.

Then there's this guy. 
He has been the regular conductor on my morning train for several months now. Every day, the train pulls up to the platform and I board, along with the regular group of commuters I see most mornings. Everyone silently selects a seat (if one is available and not blocked by some inconsiderate asshole's purse, briefcase or other type of bag) and then either reads, sleeps or stares into space until we arrive at their station stop. It's sort of a peaceful time to gather your thoughts before mounting the bustle of a hectic workplace.

But this guy.

Obviously, a frustrated performer, this guy uses the captive audience of the morning train riders to test out his lame attempt at humor, delivered in an unfunny deadpan monotone. Believe me, no one is in the mood for his childish wisecracks at such an early hour. Just take my ticket or look at my pass and be on your way. You don't even have to thank me for being a paying customer. He broadcasts announcements on the PA system from the seclusion of a small vestibule outside of the train car itself, then he enters the car and comments on the announcements, pretending that it wasn't his voice we all just heard. He does the same routine every morning and no one laughs. Y'know why no one laughs? Because it's not funny!

One morning, the train arrived (late) and a few people were walking across the parking lot on their way to the steps to get up to the platform. This guy announces that passengers not on the platform when the train arrives would not be able to board and must wait for the next train. Then, with no expression, announced, "I'm only kidding." I can't believe no one slugged him.

I suppose his little jokes would be funny if SEPTA ran an efficient transportation system. But they don't. Not by a fucking long shot! The train is late every, single morning and every, single evening. I know I am not alone in my anger. Co-workers from other suburban destinations share my experience and frustration. My son has given up taking a bus — one that goes right by his house — because of its unreliability. Instead, he has become a regular user (and advocate) for Philadelphia's new bike-sharing** program. He has said that even walking to work would get him there faster that waiting for a SEPTA bus that may or may not even come.  So, I am in no mood to hear the jokes of a system that can't get their primary function — on-time and efficient transportation  — in smooth running order. After all, the "T" in your name stands for "transportation." It is, quite literally, your middle name! 

You wanna joke? Get your shit together first. Then, by all means, joke all you want. You have my blessing.

In the meantime, SEPTA, invest in an accurate watch instead of a book of one-liners.

Note: this was changed from "week" after it was pointed out, by a sharp reader, that I wouldn't be buying my monthly pass on a weekly basis, unless I was an idiot. She was correct on both points.

** I, unfortunately, live too far from work to ride a bike (if I had one), so I remain at SEPTA's mercy. 


  1. If it's a monthly pass, why do you buy one every week? (And as a regular rider of Metro-North—aka the NY train network with the fatal accidents—I feel your pain, although our conductors are great.)

    1. This is why I should not proofread my own writing. Good catch, there, Sherry. I'll change it, but now your comment won't make sense.