I usually pack light, so when I'm travelling, I just hop on the T (what we call the subway in the Boston Area, short for MBTA - Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority, or something like that...), which takes you straight to the airport. But this time around, I was going to a wedding and had to check some things on the plane. I called Yellow Cab, a Cambridge taxi company listed in "Boston for Dummies". Not only did I have to call them 15 minutes after my scheduled pick-up (I was sitting outside in the cold at 5:30 am), but the car that screeched down my street 10 minutes after that was an *unmarked car* with *no fees or registration posted*! I asked the guy to show me his license (to be a cab driver) and he showed me his license plate. If I had been in Russia, I wouldn't have gotten in, so I figured there was no way I was going to do this in Boston. I grabbed my bag off the back seat and called Ambassador Brattle Cab. (Meanwhile, the "taxi" continued to sit in front of my house and Yellow Cab proceeded to call me, asking why I wouldn't take their "cab" - when I explained, the guy just said, "Uhh, thank you," and hung up!) Ambassador Brattle arrived 10 minutes later - good thing I had left some extra time to get to the airport!! But seriously, in all my years of travelling, this has got to be one of the sketchiest incidents ever...
Okay here’s a warning, Harvard Square is infested with bums and beggars that heckle passersby. Before I get started on this topic, I would like to say that by and large, I don’t give money to people who merely ask for it.
This evening (07/17/2002) I was walking down Massachusetts Avenue talking to my sister on my cellular phone. As I approached Harvard Square, a 'bum' dressed up like a clown cried out, 'cell phone guy, cell phone guy' and then put a whistle into his mouth and starting blowing. At first, as I approached him, I smiled and went on about my conversation with my sister. After all, people talking on cellular phone can be annoying, but I was in one of the most busiest and public sections of Cambridge and I was not talking loud; so, I was certainly not bothering anyone.
Anyway, as I passed the clown/bum, he started following right behind me blowing that loud whistle. Well this lasted about ten steps before I lost my temper... Without any warning, I turned and yelled 'F*ck off' so loud that half the people in Harvard Square turned around and looked at us. Naturally, this shocked the clown/bum who was 'suddenly' offended. Resuming my conversation and continuing my walk, I could hear the clown/bum starting to yell back at me while his street friends tried to calm him down.
Of course, I could have handled the situation differently, but the guy just wouldn’t quit bothering me and (even worse) he was so obnoxious that I lost my temper. Bottom line, he stopped blowing the loud whistle which he rudely started blowing at me for no good reason.
The same traffic/driving warnings for Boston apply in Cambridge. In fact, driving is pure hell anywhere in the greater Boston area (that is at least driving as one would think of it in area that has laws encompassing that sort of thing). Moving violations are a frequent occurrence, so much so that I think the police have simply given up on enforcing traffic laws.
Cambridge is particularly bad because you have the added mixture of a lot of pedestrian traffic as well. It’s like a giant, real-life game of “Frogger” where people try to cross the road (jaywalking) without getting hit by cars traveling too fast or committing moving violations. Oh, there are also a lot of people riding bikes as well, so, add that into the foray.
Finally, I come to the parking situation. It is nearly impossible to obtain a parking space in Cambridge, especially around the Squares with Harvard Square and Porter Square being the most difficult. So, use the “T” and be careful crossing the street.
Warning: Don't believe everything you read on the statue of John Harvard in Harvard's Old Yard. It's often referred to as the 'Statue of three lies' because first of all, the model was a student and not John Harvard. The inscription, which reads, 'John Harvard, Founder, 1638' therefore is wrong on three counts. It's not a statue of John Harvard. John Harvard was not Harvard's founder, but rather its benefactor and the university wasn't founded in 1638, but instead 1636!
Do not try to drive to Harvard Square! There is no parking. Park at Alewife Station (on Rt. 2) and take the Red Line subway in, or dispense with a car altogether and just get around by T (subway and bus), on bike, or on foot, like many Cambridge residents.
Just like any place else in the world ... watch out for pick pockets! Always be aware of your things. Never carry your wallet in your back pocket. Just like anywhere else!
More pictures of Harvard Square in my Travelogue!
Be careful when crossing the streets. Boston drivers don't always give pedestrians the right-of-way.
Also, Boston was or still is one of the highest car-theft places in the U.S. so be careful when you park and keep your valuables out of sight.
The winter in Boston lasts from mid-November until mid-April, with crappy weather persisting into May. If only there were just 2 seasons, Spring and Autumn...
One of Harvard's gates. Beware: upon entering you might feel dumber than the 18 year old, apparent slacker who scored a 1560 on his SAT.