Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Man Who Never Returned


Today, we had a trip to the orthopedist. The parking lot at the medical center was filled, but there were a dozen handicap slots open. That is the plus side to hauling weeble butts around, being able to park in the handicap spots. I pulled into one very close to the building. Ma would have no difficulty pushing her walker to the entrance. I asked Dad for her handicap parking placard. He was rummaging in the pockabook, but couldn’t find it. Ma was halfway out of the car and across the parking lot. I told Dad not to worry, but to get out of the car and to see Ma got to the appointment. She had dillydallied so she was a half an hour late for the appointment. I pulled out of the handicap slot and started trolling the parking lot. After the sixth circuit, I felt like an Indy driver. On the seventh circuit, I started humming a line from an oldies tune changing “he” to “she” and taking poetic license with the lyrics. “Did she ever return? No, she never returned and her fate is still unlearned. She made ride forever round the hospital parking lot. She’s the gal who never returned.”


The song I was thinking about is the story of “Charlie on the MTA” by the Kingston Trio. You can crank up the Kingston Trio Jukebox to listen to it. Background for those of you too young to remember the song and/or those of you who live in The Land of Here There Be Dragons and have no clue what I’m talking about. The song commemorates an election campaign of a Boston candidate and his protest of the fare increase on the subway imposed by the MTA, The Massachusetts Tranportation Authority. The fare is raised from 10 cents to 15 cents. The extra nickel was to be paid as an exit fare. As the song goes, poor Charlie doesn’t have the extra nickel so the conductor wouldn’t let Charlie off the trolley. Charlie is forever known as “the man who never returned.” As I’m singing along, it occurs to me Charlie isn’t just caught without exact change, but he’s caught in the middle of OPD.


Charlie's wife goes down tothe Scollay Square station

Every day at quarter past two

And through the open window

She hands Charlie a sandwich

As the train comes rumblin' through.


Every day, Charlie’s faithful wife goes down to the Scollay Square (pronounced Sculley Skwayuh) station. It used to be the burlesque area of Boston and is now Government Center. Anyway, she’s handing Charlie a sandwich, right? Why the hell doesn’t she hand Charlie a nickel so he could get off the train? OPD! She controls the purse strings! Standing on the subway platform before “the train comes rumblin’ through”; she can tell her captive audience crowd what a stupid ass her husband is. He didn’t pay attention to her reading the notice of the fare increase in the paper, and now she has to come down to the station every blessed day to make sure Charlie got something to eat. Woe is her! She has to leave her children every day so her husband can have a sandwich!


Of course, OPD is a double-edged blade, and it cuts both ways. What about Charlie? To some extent, we might be able to extend the benefit of doubt to poor ol’ Charlie. Just about the time the song came out, the city of Boston had a building boom and make over. The seedy Scollay Square got a make over when the mayor’s office and a pedestrian plaza were built along with other government buildings. Scollay Square was renamed Government Center. Charlie could look out of the subway window, but wouldn’t know where he was because that wouldn’t be a stop he was familiar with. Why didn’t he ask someone about the new station and where he was? Why didn’t Charlie bum a nickel from a fellow rider? Maybe Charlie didn’t want to get off the train! He wouldn’t have to listen to the “He’s Stupid” song. He could be a good time Charlie and regale other captive passengers with stories from his youth and war service, over and over and over again. His wife was there with a sandwich every afternoon, and the roar of the train would drown out her yelling, “You stoooopid assssssssss!” Yup, Charlie just didn’t want to get off of that train.

4 comments:

Erica Vetsch said...

LOL, thanks for the explanation! And you're right. If I was Charlie, I wouldn't get off that train either.

nutterone said...

Hey... we dragon dwellers have heard of the kingston trio! The song is a hoot... Aren't you glad your weebles provide you with sooo much to work with!!! *grin*

Alesia said...

I too always wondered why she only handed him a sandwich and not a nickel - glad I wasn't alone!

Anonymous said...

LOL, CJ! I heard that song before but never knew the history behind it! Thanks!

Jo-Ann