Rohit Khare (khare@mci.net)
Sun, 1 Jun 1997 13:03:06 -0400




I have just had it with this tiny little out-of-the way overcrowded
underprovisioned sinkhole and its artsy-fartsy Urbanisme.

I want my car, my freeways, my REAL beaches, and most of all I want OUT of

Settle back as I tell my tale, because I sure as well have to -- I'm
waiting for a Green Line E train, which has taken an AVERAGE of 15 minutes
this week.

This week, I began working at MCI, which is in the Prudential Center in
Boston. You've all seen it: it's a hideous example of 60's modernism
crossed with the worst excrement of the 'let's decorate it a little /
Edward Stone reaction" movement. Sprawls on for acres, covering all (and
all parking) in sight.

All week, I've been subject to the grandeur of the T, America's first
subway system. Thanks to this wonder of very early 20th century
engineering, my half-mile commute on foot to MIT has been replaced by a
one-mile commute on foot and two-mile commute by rail to Pru Center. Those
three miles take no less than 35 minutes end-to-end on a busy morning.

Ah finally, my train arrives: 18 minutes. TWO trains passed in the
direction in the meantime. I board, 85 cents. I offer the driver a dollar.
He takes it. No change, it seems. Fare machine's dead.

This is the main reason why the T sucks for me, the change from Red to
Green lines. Paradoxically, it sucks precisely because of how close I am.
The average commute is entirely dominated by the inexorable wait for that
one of four green line trains which will stop at the Pru.

Now, as a Californian, I'll put aside my horror and take the T. I'm only
working at MCI until September. Parking at the Pru is $275/mo, and it just
doesn't seem sporting of me not to give the T a fair shake. Besides, it's
summer. Not like I'm walking to work in, say a winter with 140" of snow
like 1996.

At least it only means putting up with it during the week. SURELY there is
reasonable public parking there on weekends. Well, when I tried to go the
gym this morning, I found out otherwise. The gym, also at the Pru, costs a
staggering (for the weak facilities) $88/mo. It would be $39, except that
MCI quit subsidizing it before I signed on. I drove out on a sunny morning
at 9AM and found that there just wasn't any parking alternative below
in the area, even on a Saturday morning. Actually, I knew this all along
from my 2 years of getting screwed by life in Boston, but I thought I'd
try. I had to drive back to Cambridge for parking (at MIT, in fact). By
11AM, I was back at my office.

Now, the plan for the day was an hour at the gym, and some serious time
writing a paper I owe the Web Journal in a big way. I sat down to check
some email. Called Adam. As a result, only got the gym at 1PM to face the
fact that my precooked weight can currently stack up favorably against one
thousand two hundred and thirty two Mc Royales (hold the cheese). TICK.
back, got lost surfing. TICK. Got paged by Tim Byars, long call ensued.
TICK. The ONLY other MCI employee who showed up all day long came by and
said hi, esnaring me in a politely lengthy discussion on the hard times in
the audio|video conferencing market. TICK. I tried to research ONE quote
for my paper, looking for Reagan's favorite Russian proverb, "Trust, but
verify." Failed. TICK. 6 PM.

Time for drastic measures. I got rid of my ethernet and modem cards and
out of the Pru to go somewhere I could actually write undistracted. A half
our on the T later, I made it 3 miles back to my favorite coffeehouse in
Central Square, Caf=E9 Liberty.

Wrote, theorized, wrote some more. I was on deadline, I had to get the
for the next section back to Adam for his editing loop. Finished one pass
at 9PM, turned to flash it to Rifferboy. Caf=E9 Liberty actually has 10BaseT
ethernet taps at the tables, you see but I left the adapter cable at the
Pru DOH! I went home to use the phone but no modem card, either.

Well, now, I could take the T back to the Pru to get my danged cards, or I
could risk driving in for the five minutes it would take. This is known as
the Slippery Slope. It's just a little to the left of the Grassy Knoll.

I drove into the city, which is still a pretty slow proposition because of
the convoluted streets and anti-correlated traffic lights. One theory has
it that the city street were laid out by farmers herding their cows to the
Harbor markets. Another is that they follow the drunken meanderings of
sailors on shore leave. Ernie's theory is the closest to the unreality of
Boston navigation, though: he postulates drunken cows!

I turned into the Prudential complex, where I had heard there was an
executive waiting area for 15-minute use somewhere. I found a nice little
underground cul-de-sac in a deserted corner of the complex labeled "20
minute loading". Fine.

Not fine. A shrill ancient white woman lunged out of the door and started
yelling at me. Apparently I was given no quarter, not even a polite
me", since brown people have no business in their complex. Her
excruciatingly rude and unhelpful manner during the next two minutes is
core of my rant today. She didn't offer to help me find this waiting area,
or even listen to my claim that I worked here. It was a "do you live here?
I think NOT" monologue. I was sorely tempted to fight back, but I figured
it was the only pleasantness she had in her small little life serving the
successful people of the Pru apartments.

I drove around the corner, and there's the definitively shut-for-the-night
Saks, with a yellow-marked side lane for valet parking, also shut for the
night. It's the only corner of the complex NOT plastered with NO PARKING
signs, so I figure that'll be OK for the five minutes I need. Parking
tickets are a fact of life in this city.

I hike through the labyrinth, though security, back up to my cube. I stash
the modem, then think "Hey, my ether tap is right here, and I'm REALLY
getting this segment to Adam". This is known as the Greasing Of The
Slippery Slope.

I fire up the notebook with the ether card. TICK. I go to MSWord, save the
document. TICK. I launch Navigator especially, since Word wants to use the
MS browser, which doesn't "Mail Document", only "Mail Link To Document".
TICK. Normally, I'd use MS Outlook Express to mail the file, but the 4.0
beta hangs the SMTP connection every time I've ever sent a file, often
taking the machine with it. TICK. Launch Netscape *Mail*, which has no
Start bar entry of its own, so can only be launched from Netscape itself.
TICK. Prepare a message to Adam with the paper attached. Send. TICK. While
that's going, log in to MIT to see if Adam sent me mail there. Picking up
speed down the slippery slope TICK. Netscape hung. Huh? Never done that to
me before, must be a critical need detector. Try Outlook, just in case.
TICK. TICK. Outlook hangs, too. Time to run: time to brute force this by
pasting the HTML into my telnet session to MIT. TICK. Open up Notepad,
since every dang Windows tool wants to render the HTML. Go to paste it
the VT100 emulator. Nothing. Hung like a dog on a hot afternoon. TICK.
been downgraded to a 16Mb Armada, so the machine has been thrashing to
within an inch of its life. TICK. Try another Telnet application -- maybe
Windows Telnet has a buggy paste function. Nope, eXceed Telnet hangs also.
TICK. I figure I already got a ticket, I might as well get this damn file
transmitted. TICK. I try FTP'ing the .html file to my MIT account so I can
mail it from there. Even *FTP* hangs 2% through my text file. Twice. TICK.
I'm beginning to think my *Ethernet adapter* doesn't like some string in
file! TICK. I try telnetting to my Caltech account instead. Paste again.
Hiccup -- almost hung -- then wham, it starts pasting my file. At a measly
300 baud. MCI runs the fastest Internet backbone in creation, and I can
read my file as it types by. It's the Latency, Stupid. TICK. Paste stops.
In The. Middle. Of my file. Huh? Must be some arbitrary 16k limit or so.
Silly me, used to NextStep, where I've pasted megabytes in milliseconds.
TICK. Pasted second half into the buffer. DONE.

I run down and out of the Pru back to my presumably now-ticketed car. Good
news: there's no ticket! Bad news: there's no car, either. They towed it.
[Not very nice of me to make you read this far for the punchline, is it?].
I hit the Emergency button, and the guard goes helpfully, "The Pontiac,
right?". Yeah, thanks. March back through the labyrinth to get the card of
the towing service, fuming at the studied uninvolvement of the Pru

"Is there someone I can talk to about the fact the Valet zone is NOT
'tow zone'? Don't y'all bother to ticket first?"
"Yeah, there are some managers at Premisys during the weekdays."
"Can you tell me the name of someone responsible I can ask to talk to?"
"No, I don't know. Ask the management company"

Alright, FINE. Nothing like the customer service gap where the owner fobs
you off on the towing company and the towing company mumbles about the
owners. I call the company from the free local phone the Pru thoughtfully
provided at the guard desk.

"Brookline Towing"
"I have a Pontiac "
"Yeah, the gold one, right? It's just coming in"
"OK you know who I am. Where are you? Can I get there on the T?"
"Beats me, I don t know how to get here. I'm only filling in tonight and
I'm not from around here. There ain't nobody else here neither."

This is going to be a fine evening. MY only Boston maps are in the car, of
course. Needless to say, the Pru security desk, responsible for the
security and emergency needs of a small city, in fact, larger than Boulder
City, NV where I grew up, does NOT have a set of maps of the metro area.

"It'll be $80, cash, we're open 24 hours"

My, how helpful. I even have $43 on me. And no ATM card, since I emptied
out my wallet for the round-the-world tour. Time to trek back home.

I walked out to the T, but got stopped by a lovely elderly conventioneering=0D

couple. "Excuse me, but are you a Bostonian? Can you tell us the way out
this mall to a Taxi stand?"

And that's where this story started. "No, sir, I'm damned well not from
this unprintable town, but there are some cabs thataway. <sarcasm>Enjoy
your evening</sarcasm>"

After the aforementioned 18 minute wait, I caught a train and eventually
walked back home, dodging 4" thick tree branches at chest level on the
untrimmed Cambridge sidewalks. At least I got a few sympathetic words from
Beth (and a $2 off coupon on Checker Cabs).

We drove out to Brighton, since at least if there aren't any legal spots
Boston, it's fitting that there's no nook or cranny for a tow lot until
more cities further out. At least I didn't have to figure out where the
was from the lousy dispatcher's directions (lousy applying to the
directions and the dispatcher, I suppose) -- the cabbie's own car had been
towed by those very "thieves".

Along the way, we were hailed by a cute Subcontinental girl in a silver
Accord desperately seeking unleaded. Cabbie offered 4-step directions to
the one 24-hr station in Allston. Personally, I just acted mortified -- I
had no idea. One of my other Beantown horror stories is limping back from
Wellesley on an empty tank and passing *twenty nine* shuttered gas
until I got to downtown Boston at 3AM (97% rule in action, please note).

In the end, I had the privilege of ransoming my car for $55 towing, $20
20 minutes' storage, and a $5 'service fee'. Say goodbye to, at today's
prices, eighty Quarter Pounders. Cheap at the price, I suppose.

Look, I'm damn well raving mad right now. I'm pointing my finger in a
of directions, I know. But the underlying kernel of the problem is Boston
ATTITUDE. I've just had it with a place that's so stuck-up, so rigid,
inscrutable and insular. It's just not for me, end of story.

At least I'm not blaming Bill Gates for it. But this 3-hour, $90 incident
does make real the fact that every time a Windows programmer puts a 5
second delay in, he or she murders a user in cold blood. That delay,
multiplied by millions of users by several times a day adds up to
-- literally killing off users. I, a master user, should not be invoking
loud voodoo curses at two email programs, a file transfer utility and two
terminal utilities that all fail to work correctly due to Windows
networking and clipboard mismanagement.

Or maybe I'm just not enough of a master user. I'm obviously still stupid
enough to go into work every morning hoping "it just works". Dan Connolly
gave me my best definition of insanity, after all: "Doing the same thing
over and over again expecting something else to happen."

And in this case, that would be trying to hurry to edit an update 30
minutes earlier in a five-week project. Adam hasn't read the file yet,
anyway. The entire exercise was moot.

Rohit "No Ma'am, I'm Not From Around Here" Khare

PS. This lousy memo took 153 minutes to write, according to Word. This is
why I will never be a writer: I talk too fast and type too slow. Er,
slowly. (That's another reason I won't be a writer )