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Urban diary: A sssssstop to remember on the Red Line

Posted by Roy Greene  January 6, 2011 05:12 PM

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Just before the JFK/U MASS stop on the Red Line, the woman sitting nearby began moaning, "No! No! Noooo!"

She was on her knees, looking through her purse, in her wallet, and under the seat. I assumed she was looking for her T card, credit card, or something like that.

Then her next remark sent a jolt through the crowded car: "I need help," she pleaded. "I've lost my snake."

I hoped and prayed I had misheard her. Maybe she was referring to some rune necklace, or some kind of newfangled mobile device I was not hip enough to recognize.

"You mean an actual animal?" I asked.

"Yes, an actual snake. She was just around my neck a minute ago!"

And that's when the train car got lively.

"A snake?! On this car?!"

The woman was pretty upset. "My husband's gonna kill me!" A passenger murmured, "What if that snake kills ME?"

Until then, no one knew there had possibly been a snake on this car. This woman had boarded somewhere between Park Street and South Station, as best as I can remember.

When her "snake on a train" revelation came, I'd been on a train with this snake for upwards of 10 minutes. None of us had seen this snake. Maybe it was a tiny snake, I thought.

"How big is she?" I asked.

"Three feet."

To me, any snake is too big. It was going to be like Nagini, the snake in "Harry Potter" that eats people. (I don't speak Parseltongue.) I was going to get eaten by a snake, and never make it to work.

Luckily, that did not happen.

By the time I exited the train at JFK, this woman was still looking in her purse, under the seat and in the aisles. I, meanwhile, walked down Morrissey, hoping this snake wasn't crawling up my pants.

The MBTA searched the train but did not find any snake.

My Globe colleague Eric Moskowitz covers transportation, so I asked him about the rules of pets on trains. MBTA policy allows riders to bring non-service pets on the T during off-peak hours. Dogs must be well-behaved and properly leashed, while small domestic animals must be carried in lap-sized containers and out of the way of exits.

From now on, I'll be a lot more mindful of whether that thing wrapped around a passenger's neck is a scarf or a pet they should have left at home.

Patrick Garvin is a graphic artist for the Globe.

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