Friday, January 19, 2007

An Odd Little Scene From The Life Of Suldog

I don’t really have an introduction for this. That’s because I don’t really have a reason for writing about what follows. I’m going to write about it anyway, which – if you’ve been coming to this place for any decent length of time, you already know this - is about par for the course here.

What follows is just a strange little vignette. It’s a bit of a horror story, and may leave a picture in your head that you might not have chosen to have in there, so there’s your warning. Of course, a warning like that might make some people want to read it more. It would me.


When I was about 18, I had a job with Prudential Insurance. I worked in a warehouse of theirs, in Brighton, where they stockpiled the many forms used in the insurance business. In addition, records concerning claims and so forth, anywhere from a couple of years old to truly ancient history, were stored there.

(Apropos of absolutely nothing, so it fits in as a perfect digression in this story without a real plot or any moral, Joey Kramer of Aerosmith held my job previously. Since my sights were, at that time, set on becoming a rock star, I took that as a positive sign. However, whereas Joey Kramer went on to fame and, I assume, fortune, here I am, not that I don’t appreciate being here.)

In order to get to and from that job, I had to take three separate trips on the T; that is, Boston’s public transportation system. In the morning, I took a trolley to Ashmont station in Dorchester. At Ashmont, I transferred to the Red Line, which I rode 9 stops to Park Street. At Park Street, I transferred to the Boston College trolley, which I took to a stop just about directly at the warehouse. The trip took a bit more than an hour. In the evening, I reversed the route.

In the morning, I didn’t mind the ride too much. Eight o’clock was starting time, so I left the house fairly early and, as a result, somewhat in front of much of the mob that rides the T during rush hour. I usually didn’t run into any true crowds until Park Street. Thus, and this is the important part, I usually had a seat for at least two-thirds of the journey, sometimes all of it.

The ride home was another matter. I got out at 5pm, smack in the middle of the worst congestion in the system. I almost never got a seat on any part of the ride. So, after working fairly hard - at least some days – for nine hours, I then had to endure standing up for better than an hour on the way home. I mean, yeah, I was 18, so I could certainly take it, but it didn’t improve my mental condition any.

One night, after a pretty hard day in the warehouse, I boarded the trolley towards Park Street. No seat, so I stood and rocked back and forth while the car slowly made its way along Commonwealth Avenue. The trolley seemed to take a longer time than usual this night; I don’t know why. It entered the tunnel portal near Kenmore Square and being off of the street and into the subway helped matters a bit. Still, by the time we reached Park Street, I was ten minutes or so behind the usual.

At Park Street, I stood on the crowded platform and waited for an Ashmont train. Of course, as often happens when you want to get home and collapse, the other train, for Braintree, came first. So, I stepped back and waited. And waited. And waited some more. I have no idea what the tie up was, but when the Ashmont train finally came, I was now a good half-hour behind schedule.

I stood on the train, of course.

I mention all of the above just to set whatever mood might be set. Tired, late, a bit grimy from work, wedged into a metal canister with other tired, late, somewhat grimy people – that paints the scene.

Twenty minutes after Park Street, the train left Shawmut, which was the last station prior to the end of the line at Ashmont. About fifty feet outside of Ashmont station, our car still in the tunnel proper, the train comes to a dead halt. And sits there for ten minutes. Everybody is wondering what in the hell is holding things up. Of course, there is no announcement of any sort. We just sit there, except for those of us who were standing.

I’m cursing a bit, and not totally under my breath. Other people on the train are starting to steam, too. We have no idea why we’re stopped. Finally, after perhaps 15 minutes, the train starts moving again, slowly. We pull into Ashmont at a snail’s pace. Finally reaching the platform, the doors open and we begin to exit.

What I’m about to describe cannot adequately be described, but I’ll give you my best shot.

Wedged between the side of the train and the cement platform is a man. Just his upper body is visible. Legs and arms are not seen. His head is the color of a beet. His face is twisted in a grimacing rictus, as though he is undergoing the most severe of pain. However, there is no way he is feeling any pain. He is – God help us, please, he MUST be – dead.

T workers are surrounding him the best they can, and trying their hardest to shoo people towards the waiting Mattapan trolley, but everybody sees him. I sure see him. Women are gasping, some screaming. Those with children try to cover their eyes so that they won’t witness this gruesome sight and have it live in their memories forever.

Me? I’m tired. It’s a horrible enough sight, to be sure, but I don’t linger. One look was enough, thanks. I go directly to the trolley and, while most are standing and staring, I get a seat for the last part of my journey home.

I have many unanswered questions concerning this incident.

How did they move the train forward with this body wedged there? How was the decision reached to move the train forward rather than backward? Couldn’t they have freed the body by going backward? Was there no way to remove the body prior to everyone disembarking? Was he, indeed, dead? If so, why didn’t they cover the body somehow, with someone’s coat or a tarp or something? Could they not have covered his head because he was, God helps us all, alive? If he was alive, would they have moved the train into the station as they did? No, he couldn’t have been alive. Was it a suicide attempt? An accident? Was he in the pit, trying to climb out, when the train came, crushing him where he was?

Most troubling is that there was never anything, that I know of, in the newspapers or on television news reports concerning this incident. I have no idea, to this day, concerning the facts.

And that’s the story. As I said at the top, I didn’t have any real reason for putting it into writing, other than the weak one that it is interesting in a macabre sort of way. I’ve thought about the incident, intermittently, for 30+ years. Now it’s your turn and my apologies.

(I'm going to do some exploring on the web now, to see if I can finally come up with anything connected to this. If I do, I'll let you know. If you do, let me know, please.)

See you Monday.

P.S. There is a new Carnival Of Hijacked Holidays up at Bah! Humbug! There’s almost sure to be something cheerier than this, so why don’t you head on over?


Barbara said...


I spent a fair amount of time this summer falcon watching at High Falls in Rochester NY. There is a pedestrian bridge across the river where you can watch the falls (and the falcons). That bridge gets a fair number of "jumpers" and I never knew that until I talked with the old time falcon watchers. The news media does not report on suicides or suicide attempts. I guess it may be out of respect for the families or an attempt at not glorifying suicide. Perhaps that was the case with the man you saw also.

Chuck said...

Wow, what a bad way to finish your day. I rode the bus here for several months before I got a new (used) car, but I never encountered anything like that. I did have the bus break down on me twice, though it wasn't because we ran over anyone.

Rhea said...

A very interesting and horrifying story, since I ride the T a lot.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for leaving that in my mind. Nice for my weekend.

Kaylee said...

ok you just made me terrified of Buses and trains now:) Just kidding.nice post.

amusings_bnl said...

This reminds me vividly of an episode of my favorite TV show "Homicide: Life on the Streets"... Vincent Donofrio plays a man who was pushed in front of a train by a deranged man. He's alive, but eviscerated. The only thing keeping him alive is the fact he's pinned against the platform and it is acting as a tourniquet of sorts to keep his blood above his hips...

when they move the train, he dies.

it's an amazing episode. Andre Braugher spends the hour talking with him, trying to get info from him, while Bayliss tries to figure out who pushed him.

I believe Donofrio won an emmy for his role as the dying man. At the very end, he says something about how before it rains, leaves turn themselves on the tree so you see the bottoms of them. And i hear his voice when i look out at the trees before it starts raining and they're doing just that.

(I came via Universal Hub to visit).

Suldog said...

Quick addendum: I did try to locate something about this incident online, but came up empty.

MY WIFE mentioned the same thing that Barbara did, that suicides are rarely mentioned in print or on news shows.

Still a mystery of sorts.

Melinda said...

After 4 months in London, and several incidences of "obstructions on the train tracks" of the Underground (many of which turn out to be people and not actual obstructions), I can only be thankful for never witnessing what you did. Keeping my fingers crossed that I never do...

They only report people dying from being pushed in front of trains or "unknown circumstances" here - so I have no idea how many people jump on purpose.

either way - grisly story
thanks for the mental picture ;)

Anonymous said...

I saw this macabre scene on video back in the 1990's with the title of "Traces of Death" or something, and it was the most terrible thing I have ever seen in my life. It was actual police/news footage that was shot, but never used, but it was documented.. Start there..