i decided to take the commuter rail into boston to go to haymarket. from the schedule, there was a 12:10pm i wanted to get catch. i thought it'd be a cold day and from the house i could see there was a strong wind, but when i stepped outside, i realized it was a pleasant sunny day, and i debated whether to take the bicycle instead. but if i took the bike, i'd be tired afterwards from all that cycling, and besides, i already purchased a train ticket online, might as well use it. and i've never taken the train to north station and back, so this would be "fact finding" mission.
if i thought taking the train into boston would be faster than biking, i was wrong. for one thing, i arrived at the station relatively early, leaving at 11:40am and getting there at 11:50am because i didn't want to miss the train. had the train shown up on time it would've arrived in boston at 12:20pm (40 minutes after i left the house; normally it'd take me 25 minutes to bike to haymarket); but unfortunately there was an updated notice announcing that the train would be 10-15 minutes due to a freight train issue and signaling problems. so i had time to go back into the station to see if i could find a machine that sold physical tickets. all i saw were the usual charlieticket/add-value kiosks. scanning the options, i didn't see any choices to buy commuter rail tickets. maybe they just weren't sold from porter square.
i went back down to the platform. during non-peak hours, passengers are supposed to wait on the upper platform. few passengers take the train this time of the day, and there was only one other person at the platform, a young townie with wireless headphones playing with his phone and smoking a cigarette (which is illegal to do on train platforms). i noticed there was another entrance to the commuter rail, from the opposite side of mass avenue, near bruegger's bagel; this could be used as a potential shortcut for people who live on the other side of the track and don't want to wait to cross busy streets.
the train finally arrived at 12:25pm. the conductor checked our tickets before we boarded. i showed him my phone with the activated e-ticket. this was my first time taking the commuter train from porter square in the daylight, so i figured there was more to see. but the windows were foggy from aging and the train was traveling so fast i only caught glimpses of local landmarks: the shortcut behind star market, the back of the tibetan house, the street level train crossing at dane street, behind market basket, union square, behind target, east cambridge skate park. we finally arrived at north station at 12:35pm, 55 minutes after i left the house. it would've been faster had i taken the subway. despite the considerable delay, i didn't mind it because i planned on returning on the 2:15pm train, so this helped me to kill some time. there was also a 1pm train departing north station, but that would've too rushed (had the train arrived on schedule, 12:20pm, it might've been doable, but still cutting it close).
since i had the time, i did at least 3 loops through the haymarket stalls. i ended up getting: a box of blueberry ($1.50), 6 yellow bartlett pears ($2), a papaya ($2), a stick of garlic ($1.50) and a pound of ginger ($1), 2 lbs. of long green peppers ($2), a box of green figs ($2), 2 bundles of asparagus ($2), and 2 bags of grapes (4lbs/$4). i could've bought more but i couldn't carry anymore.
i then went to the fancy new local artisanal market next door. it couldn't have been more different. while haymarket is populated with minority vendors and customers, with all sorts of accents (from boston to middle eastern), the artisanal market was predominantly white. it was also more peaceful, compared to the noisy crowds at nearby haymarket. i did a tour of the place, didn't see anything i wanted, then left. besides, i wasn't exactly the kind of clientele that usually shops there, with two armfuls of cheap produce, so i was basically ignored, while the vendors serviced the paying customers.
even with all that wandering around, there was still plenty of time when i made it back to north station around 1:30pm. just like at porter square, i went in search of a ticketing machine. and like at porter square, the only machines i found were the regular charlieticket kiosks. there was also a ticket counter with real live clerks, but i decided to avoid the hassle and just buy an e-ticket with my phone app, which took only a few seconds. where do you go to buy a commuter train ticket?
i sat down and waited for the 2:15pm fitchburg train. a pretty young woman with a rolling duffle bag sat next to me, i could smell her perfume. while i was reading an article about the chemical dangers threatening nail shop workers, she was busy texting on her phone. occasionally indoor pigeons would fly overhead or bobble on the ground.
at 2pm they began boarding my train. this was all new to me. i've now taken the commuter train twice from porter square, but never going back in the opposite direction from north station. when i boarded the train, i grabbed a tiny single seater, while everybody else took lounge seats that can seat 3-4. there was so few passengers everyone could get their own seat. there was also the upper deck which i was tempted to sit, but since i was getting off in only a few minutes, i decided to stick to the lower level. and once we got close to porter, i got up and stood at the nearest exit. but when we arrived, i noticed nobody was getting off here, and the conductor was at the other end of the cabin, so i quickly made my way down, like a person who's never riden the commuter rail before!
inside the station i once more looked for the ticketing kiosk. i finally found it: it's the charlieticket machines, but there's an option under charlieticket that also sells commuter rail tickets. that's a confusing interface, commuter tickets should be on the top level, not hidden one level down. but anyway, now i know.
i arrived home at 2:35pm. after dropping off my things and using the bathroom, i raced back out again, this time on the bike to harvard square to rendezvous with the chicken and rice guys food truck that was supposed to be there until 3pm. i had there food once (during the dragon boat festival) and ever since then i've been jonesing for some more. but all throughout my time at haymarket, i was just thinking about some delicious chicken and rice. but wouldn't you know it, as soon as i got there, they were already packing up their truck. there were two other vans, and i ended up going with bon me. i had their version of the vietnamese sandwich, but with coconut chicken ($7). it was okay, but i was so hungry by that point, i wouldn't eaten anything. they didn't give me a bag and the wrapped was too short to cover the entire sandwich, so i ate about 20% of the tip so everything could fit inside before i put the sandwich in my rear basket and returned home.
putting away the produce i purchased in haymarket, i discovered i didn't have enough room in the fridge (not with freddy's groceries taking up half of the space). so i decided to ride down to the cafe on the bike and drop off the produce there.
while i was at the cafe i went downstairs into the basement to check if the furnace had a common terminal. like many of the older machines, it didn't, and i couldn't tell where we could add one. the cafe would be an ideal place for a nest thermostat because it has both heating and cooling; but because people are always there, there's always someone to control the thermostat.
i returned home by 5pm. i finished the leftover pizza slices for dinner before freddy came home. we watched the martian in the evening.