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My, what big trains you have

Posted by Joe Allen-Black  June 13, 2011 10:10 AM

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I expected to get confused and turned around when I moved to a new part of the country. I just didn't expect that I would be so pathetic in the very first hour.

The first time I ever stepped foot in Boston was for my interview here at the Globe. I flew in from my former newspaper in Florida, determined to take (what I thought were) the idiot-proof, color-coded subway trains around the city and to my Back Bay hotel. Mass transit was one of my deciding points to move here, and I wanted to immediately take advantage. To me, cabs just weren't nearly as charming as the idea of Boston's T.

Armed with my phone's GPS, I followed the transit directions on a Google map. I dutifully boarded the Silver Line bus at the airport, only to discover I needed either a ticket or something called a CharlieCard. The driver took pity on me and let me ride for free.

At South Station, I wandered around looking for the right train -- No. 4. I asked a Boston cop which was train 4, and he started counting, very deliberately: "That's number one, that's number two, that's..." Okay, I got it.

I boarded, and again ran into the no-ticket snafu. And again, the ticket collector let pitiful me ride for free. But I hardly gave the ticket issue a second thought because I was too busy marveling at the enormity of Boston's subway trains. Wow - this really is a big city, I thought.

I took the train one stop, got off, and walked to the hotel where the Globe was putting me up in Back Bay.

If you haven't guessed by now, yes, I took the commuter rail about 1 mile from South Station to Back Bay. I don't know what the commuters settling in for a long ride to Framingham, Needham, Franklin, or Providence thought when I got up after just one stop, but I hope I provided them with a little amusement. The trip took forever - I could have walked it faster.

Mistakes like that provide fodder for conversation and laughs at my expense, but they're also part of the adventure of moving to an unfamiliar region of the country. I had lived in Florida for about 10 years before deciding to come to Boston. My husband had lived in Florida his whole life. The change for the both of us has been incredible, but fun.

Being able to experience Boston from scratch has been amazing -- every day we find a new restaurant or learn some new historical fact that shows why this city is so incredible.

But now I've been here long enough that I'm over looking up recommendations in guidebooks, and we've done the Freedom Trail quite a few times. I hope I can get your help in introducing me not only to Boston, but to New England.

If you're new to the area like me, let me know what kind of information you've been searching for as you get used to the city. If you're a native or have been around awhile, tell me what I need to know so I stop looking like a lost tourist carrying a suitcase on the commuter rail.

Oh -- and if you have stories about being a stranger in a strange land, please share. I need some company.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

About the author

Joe Allen-Black left the flat landscape and temperate climes of Florida, where he was a reporter and web producer, for the peaks, valleys, and mercurial weather of New England. Joe, More »

Follow Joe on Twitter at @joe_allen_black

He can be reached by e-mail at

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