One student's life on the Red Line

by Beacon Staff • October 18, 2011

/div

divstrongAbigail Collins, Beacon Correspondent/strong/div

divWhen boarding the in-bound red line train to Park Street, Matt Zakrzewski is cautiously optimistic. “It’s really not usually this crowded,” the senior writing, literature, and publishing major said, unable to find a seat.The train rolled, or rather, squealed out of Quincy Adams station promising it’s entire $1.70 worth of overcrowded seats, and, for Zakrzewski, a full day of classes.As a WLP major with a photography minor, Zakrzewski is no stranger to a heavy workload. Luckily, as a commuter from his mom’s home in Walpole, Massachusetts, he is also rarely short on time.A large amount of time emerges from gaps between classes, and the commute to and from campus. However, as his homework continues to increase, he is thankful for the nine stops and just under 30 minutes that the commute promises.

As a first year commuter in his senior year, Zakrzewski has few complaints. “I can take Boston when I want,” he said with a smile, highlighting his main reason for moving off-campus.

/div

He said he also enjoys filling his weeks with aspects of both city and suburban life, without being chained to either one.

Zakrzewski chose to live at home to save money, he said.

Far from mundane, Zakrzewski said he gets a thrill out of his commute.

“Each day and each week is different,” he said. “I don’t know where I’m going to be spending the night.” This nomadic lifestyle is exhilarating and new to a former on-campus resident.

“Sometimes I miss the dorm life and being around friends,” he said.

Though at times Zakrzewski finds himself missing life on campus, the communal bathrooms and crowded bedrooms prove no match for the comfort of his Walpole home.

While his suburban residence provides some comfort between classes and extracurricular activities, Zakrzewski often finds it easier to stay with friends on-campus instead of making the commute home. Generally, he crashes with his cousin, sophomore Patrick Weed, a political communications major, in Piano Row. Weed could not be reached for comment.

“I feel like a burden because I stay at their dorm all the time,” Zakrzewski said. However, staying in Boston is practical during busy weeks that require his presence on campus.

What’s not practical, for Zakrzewski, is the sign-out process that he has to adhere to, as he is no longer a resident of the dorms. If whomever he is staying with has to leave, Zakrzewski must follow suit.

“There have been lots of times I’ve slept in the library because I have no where else to go,” he said, appreciative of the naps he takes on those mornings when his hosts have to leave early.

[caption id=attachment_3813680 align=aligncenter width=400 caption=Ryan Catalani/Beacon Staff]a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/ryan_matt-z.jpgimg class=size-full wp-image-3813680 title=ryan_matt-z src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/ryan_matt-z.jpg alt= width=400 height=300 //a[/caption]

When Zakrzewski does arrive at Quincy Adams station at the end of the night to make the trip home, the parking garage is often dark and empty.

“It’s really creepy,” he said, and on particularly late nights he chooses to avoid it by staying with a friend in the city.

Even on days that he finds himself sleeping among studying classmates, he does not have many grievances about the commute. However, Zakrzewski admitted his biggest complaint — the cost.

Although $1.70 per ride is less than the cost of the coffee clutched in the hands of commuters throughout the train, the subway fare adds up quickly. Zakrewski purchases tickets on a semi-regular basis, as he has only recently become aware of the semester passes available. These passes allow students to pay a flat rate that lets them to use an unlimited T-pass for the semester.

Based on the amount of incoming commuters that stream through the train doors at the JFK/UMass stop, the cost for some is not as big an issue as the lack of elbow space passengers have. For Zakrzweski, however, this is hardly an annoyance, and perhaps even a comfort during a ride which, he admitted, can get lonely.

Looking at the groggy crowd of fellow 8 a.m. commuters, ears plugged with headphones and eyes staring at the pages of their books, Zakrzewski said, “It makes your day a lot longer.”

Zakrzewski doesn’t regret his decision to commute; he said the extended day allows him to read more and embrace a moment-to-moment schedule.

“My backpack is usually incredibly heavy,” Zakrzewski said, equipped with everything he needs for his lengthened day. Regardless of the weight bearing down on his shoulders, he has no choice but to make accommodations for textbooks, photography supplies, and a packed lunch that fondly reminds him of his high school years.

While it may not add much weight to his backpack, Zakrzewski must also make room for necessities like the toothbrush he carries in case he has to spend the night somewhere unexpected.

“You really have to plan it all out,” Zakrzewski said, glancing down at the hefty bag of photography supplies at his feet.

While students living on campus often have the luxury of planning their next move moment by moment, Zakrzewski has to be prepared for his entire day.

Wearing only a light sweatshirt, amidst a heavy rain, Zakrzewski wasn’t prepared for the unpredictable weather.

“I just have this, this is all I packed,” he said as he exited Park Street station. Luckily, his dampened shirt was no match for the warmth of the library, only a few blocks away.

At the end of a day of classes and extra curricular activities, Zakrzewski says he feels relieved upon boarding the train that will take him to the comfort of his suburban home. During the commute he said he listens to music and lets the heavy metal stylings of Tool overpower the sighs of the train.

emCollins can be reached at abigail_collins@emerson.edu./em