The orange highlighter hopscotched across the pages in my hand as the B-line rattled up and down the hills of Allston. From my Converse-clad feet propped on my backpack, to the reusable water bottle in my left hand proclaiming that I “support love” and that “consent is sexy,” to the dozen or so other passengers in the car I was a caricature of a college student.
Across the aisle was a much older woman, probably in her 70s. At every stop, she would shakily rise to her feet and use the metal poles in order to advance to the front of the train, almost reminiscent of a child on the monkey bars.
With all the arrogance expected of a 20-year-old, I mused to myself how awful it must to be to get old. How terrible it must be to be alone, physically weak, and no longer as beautiful or agile as you once were.
As the B-Line wheezed to a stop, this woman unsteadily stepped off the train. To my surprise, she was not alone at all, but instead stepped into the waiting arms of her husband. For once, the agonizingly slow progress of the Green Line was a blessing-while the train was stalled, I was briefly allowed to intrude on her reunion with her husband. He gently kissed her hand with the cheesy tenderness expected in made-for-TV movie. Her eyes danced as she laughed at him. They turned and walked, shaky stride and steady arm, side by side.
Only then was I ashamed of my original presumptions. Only then did I observe the grace in the way she carried her head and shoulders-a grace that only comes from years of living-or the beauty of the laugh lines I can only imagine her husband helped to etch into her face.
On Monday, demolition crews in the Government Center station peeled back a wall of the station and a modern Blue Line sign only to find a mosaic reading “SCOLLAY UNDER,” according to The Boston Globe. Before it was dubbed Government Center in 1963, this central point of the city was called Scollay Station. The mosaic dates back to 1898. The tiny maroon tiles create an intricate background for the elegantly seriffed typeface.
“It’s really a piece of craft. It’s a beautiful, creative thing,” Brian Howland, resident engineer for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, told the Globe. “As soon as they saw it, they knew it was something important.”
In the push to modernize the city, the discovery of subway sign is not only a palpable reminder of the city’s history, but perhaps another illustration of what that elderly couple reminded me of the other day.
In Boston, a place where skyscrapers have risen up around the Old State House and cobbled roads are known to peep through cracked pavement, islands of history in the sea of modernity are nothing out of the ordinary.
Yet, as one of the major transportation hubs in the city is renovated, the cliche lesson is clear. As the modern overtakes the historical, one must regret that a mosaic, a work of art, was covered up with a garish, industrial plastic sign.
In some ways, Boston can share the arrogance in which I found myself while observing the elderly woman on the T. According to the U.S. census, Boston, with a median age at 30.8-6.8 years below the national average-is a youthful city. Predictably, there is a popular desire for innovation and development. However, there is great beauty in age. Just as I needed to reassess my attitude of the old woman on the T, Boston needs to remember not to sacrifice the elegance of the old for the temptation of the new and innovative.
As a city and as a college student, the T can remind of a reality it is rather easy to forget. Growing old is a privilege denied to many-don’t take it for granted.