It's Rough Out There: Mistreatment By T Employees and Strangers

Harassment on the T and on the streets, witnessing violent assaults with children children in tow.

And roughest for me when I'm out with my children.

- A few weeks ago, I took Jazmyn to her orchestra rehearsal at BU.  When we entered a Green Line train station, I was accosted by two MBTA employees- one on duty, one off- that I needed to pay for Jazmyn.  They were wrong- she was eleven.  I told them as much.  They demanded ID.  I told them I didn't have to give it to them.  They accused me of being a liar. 

I walked down to the platform and fumed; Jazmyn handed me her phone so I could call and make a complaint.  The Customer Service person was very apologetic and requested that I get the on-duty employee's badge number.  He refused to give it to me. 

My husband was incredulous that someone would treat us like that.  Of course he was- he's a six-foot tall, white male- he would not have been treated like that.  He went with me to try and get the man's badge number.  The discussion degenerated to the point where my husband pressed an assault charge against the employee.  I am not making this up.

Just this week we got a phone call that the employee had been suspended.  Good... but not good.  I don't want him to be suspended, I don't want him to lose his job, I don't want him to have something on his record.  I want an apology from this guy.

- This Sunday, as Jazmyn and I were returning from her rehearsal, we were literally minding our own business and waiting to cross the street when a very hostile bicyclist asked me to move.  "Ask" is too gentle a term- more like "ordered".  When he addressed me, he called me a derogatory word for a female organ and modified it with a gerund that begins with "f". 

This man was so hostile to a complete stranger that I immediately assumed a mental illness of some kind.  I have told my children repeatedly that people like that should not be engaged because they are unpredictable.  I did not take my own advice because 1) this man used those words 2) in front of my daughter.  I told him not to talk to me like that.  He asked me if I was going to get my "gang banger boyfriend".  I told him I was married.  He told me to go home; I told him to do the same.  I was unharmed; I was lucky.

Once again, my husband was incredulous and outraged.  Jazmyn, however, just might be used to this. 

- I wasn't harassed today.  Of course, because I didn't have Jazmyn with me, I had Simon.  Instead, as the train pulled into the Chinatown stop, we saw one man get assaulted by five other men as he was trying to retrieve the phone they had stolen from him.  I didn't know what was going on other than that it was one against five.  I yelled for the men to stop (which, in retrospect, may not have been the best thing to do with Simon in tow).  It wasn't until after they got on the train that I realized what had happened, but we couldn't stop the train.  The young man filed a complaint, but the other men were off the train by the time they had located it. 

Here's hoping that they can find the little bastards who did this on the basis of their Charlie Cards and the cameras at the train stop they exited.  I do want to see these young men punished, not just because they committed an unarmed robbery, not just because they assaulted the man as he tried to get his property back, but because they were cruel and they were cruel in front of my seven year old son.  I don't want to see them go to jail, but I want them to make up for it.

What are my children learning?

This is cross-posted from the author's personal blog.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jonathan October 24, 2011 at 01:47 AM
Amazing, I've been riding the T regularly for 5 years and would say that curtesy outweighs rudeness well over 100 to 1. I regularly see people give up their seats for other passengers, assist women with strollers, etc. The author seems to have very bad luck.
Deb Nam-Krane October 24, 2011 at 02:22 AM
Unfortunately, luck has nothing to do with it. Last year I was similarly harassed by other MBTA workers four times: once at Downtown Crossing, once at Forest Hills and twice at Copley. I understand asking once about my very tall ten or eleven year old, but to treat me as if I'm lying once I answer is galling. It had gotten to the point where my daughter seriously thought we should bring her birth certificate with us to avoid being harassed. We are both frequently mistaken for being Latina, and I don't think the treatment we've received is a coincidence.
Em October 25, 2011 at 02:10 PM
It's unfortunate that you've had so many issues with the T, but.. in all honesty I've never heard of anyone having so many problems. Is it possible that there is information missing from these stories..? No offense, but could it be something you're doing?
Sean October 25, 2011 at 02:33 PM
I ride the T twice a day, and in a way, you're right - 99 rides are incident-free, but that 1 other ride can be very scary and get out-of-control very quickly.
Chris Child October 25, 2011 at 05:10 PM
None of these stories are unfortunately surprising to me at all. I've been riding the T for over twenty years, and rudeness and violence can rear its ugly head at any hour and there is often enough no blame at all due to the random person bearing the brunt of this behavior. While perhaps I have not witnessed such episodes in such a short time period (my rides are usually uneventful), I have seen hundreds of similar episodes over the years to believe the accuracy of what Deb is reporting.
Deb Nam-Krane October 25, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Thank you Chris. Em, really... what other information are you looking for? I was traveling with my child or children- I used my T-pass. As for the assault I witnessed last week? I have no idea what other information you could possibly want. Congratulations on not having witnessed or been subjected to harassment yourself on or near the T, but just because you haven't doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I won't respond anymore to blame the victim baiting.
Deb Nam-Krane October 25, 2011 at 06:45 PM
Thank you Chris. Em, really... what other information are you looking for? I was traveling with my child or children- I used my T-pass. As for the assault I witnessed last week, what other information are you looking for? Really....
Em October 26, 2011 at 12:00 PM
Obviously I wouldn't know the answer to that. I specifically mean the harassment by T workers. Why do they keep bothering you - is it only when your daughter is with you? Since it happens so frequently, maybe it would be a good idea to carry a copy of her birth certificate or something... if that's the only thing going on, wouldn't that solve the problem? I'm sure many people try to get on the T without paying every day so of course the people working there are skeptical. You are one of thousands they see. You mentioned offhandedly in a comment that you also happen to look Latina and that may be the reason for all of this harassment. To me, that's more than an afterthought... that's a new spin on this entire article - it goes from venting for having constant bad luck to being discriminated against because of your perceived race. Really. That's all I meant.
Deb Nam-Krane October 26, 2011 at 01:09 PM
That's an amazing suggestion. The last time we were harassed, the MBTA employee said we needed a student ID. I know having looked at the MBTA website that we DO NOT. When I called MBTA Customer Service to complain, they confirmed that we DO NOT. No one has to carry around their Birth Certificate to get on the T- why should my daughter? Are we in Arizona now? It's been stressful and anxious riding the T with her this entire year. The solution is that I have to take extra measures no one else has to take? No, it's not.
Sarah Lydon October 26, 2011 at 03:30 PM
For several years my daughter and I took the T and two buses daily and I have to say that it was an education indeed. The sheer variety of people we encountered every day--the high school students, the commuters, the eccentric and plain old crazy. Plenty of kind and friendly and funny people, plenty whom you'd rather not share a small enclosed space with. We saw fights and freak-outs, heard language that curled my toes, encountered smells that I will never forget. But for better or worse, it's all part of city life and the price we pay for not traveling by car. T employees are decidedly a mixed bag, but most of them are just average, bored, cranky people. I also had words with employees on two occasions when they challenged my (also very tall) daughter's age, but I can't see that there was any ethnic or racial element involved. No one is questioning your daughter's citizenship, just her age. If it's been a persistent issue to the point where it's stressing you both out, why not xerox a copy of her BC so you can just flash it at employees who question her age? Most people who get discounts on the T--senior citizens, military, etc--do have to carry some sort of proof of qualification.
Em October 26, 2011 at 10:07 PM
You asked me to explain and I did. I didn't attack you. There's no need to be sarcastic or hostile, especially If you're going to post publicly.
Em October 26, 2011 at 10:09 PM
I don't think people who work for the T should be rude, but it is hard to work with the public. Having been in customer service all through college, I found it very stressful. People yell at you and treat you badly and you're just trying to do your job. No wonder people get so bitter.
Em October 26, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Furthermore, proving your daughter's age isn't the most horrific thing they could ask you to do. We have to prove who we are when we vote, when we buy cigarettes, alcohol, get into movies, vote... having to prove her age is such a hassle? Wouldn't something so simple alleviate your stress, especially if that is the only thing causing you to get harassed repeatedly, so much so that you blog about it? I don't mean to trivialize your bad experience(s), but I feel that there are bigger battles out there to be fought.
James LaFond-Lewis October 27, 2011 at 03:15 AM
Em, you are blaming the victims. There is no excuse for the behavior that Deb describes, whatever she looks like or did. Explaining it is one thing, but allowing it to continue by accommodating it only compounds the problem.
Em October 27, 2011 at 11:50 AM
I stand corrected - you don't have to show your ID in MA to vote, but you do in other states.
Bill October 27, 2011 at 01:04 PM
I've ridden the T since the late sixties, when smoking was okay and it wasn't uncommon to see a wino passed out on a seat, raving bag-ladies inhabited the trains and folks were pretty much on their own. The underground stations typically stank of concrete and urine, the above ground stations were built like wind-tunnels and the only T employee anywhere in sight was typically the fare collector in the booth. I saw fights, drunken parties and sex on the around town way too and fro. Oh, and about 90% of the employees were 'connected' White people. The T today is a bastion of modern convenience and cleanliness by comparison. It's unfortunate that Deb seems to have had more than one issue with T employees, and the old routine about 'getting badge numbers' -- inefficient as it may be -- seems the first line of recourse. Beyond that; date, time and place will help bolster a complaint, presuming that the T knows the location of most employees at most times, as well as witnesses if at all possible. This isn't the perfect world and normal is a cycle on a washing machine -- proceed accordingly.
deviant rascal February 18, 2013 at 10:54 PM
Funny, you say that you allegedly told your children not to engage people that you assume "have a mental illness of some kind" but then in the very same article you say that you yelled at the five fellows beating up the man that apparently got his phone got. And this is after you admittedly also spoke up against the cyclist (and against your own advice, twice in the same article) because of the vernacular he used and that it was displayed in front of your daughter. It sounds to me like you should have taken a long hard look at the world before you chose to breed. All the blogging in the world isn't going to change a damn thing either. LOL
deviant rascal February 18, 2013 at 10:56 PM
the good old days.. Before the Patriots ever won and Redsox hats were not pink.


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