I saw something on the MBTA Red Line that frightened and angered me. No, no one was acting out! It was a sign, a real sign that was also a sign of the times. It was one of those interior train car cards that advertise restaurants, employment services etc. I was mesmerized by the message.

“Are you 9 – 17 years old?” Earn Cash. Participate in study.” There were also promises of playing computer games, learning about research, meeting scientists and lying in a magnetic resonance scanner! (PS, the words “parental permission,” like batteries, were not included in the description).

Every parent’s nightmare, the creep offering candy to children was now cleaned up and dressed in a lab jacket. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the train car card sponsor was/is a reputable New England hospital.

I was amazed by the boldness of this advertisement/recruitment campaign. The sign was carefully/casually posted in a train car, a place that kids frequent, often without adult supervision. And the sign had potential universal appeal, directed towards teens and children in school, out of school, attending private, and public schools.

I have seen the sign twice, which is two times too much for me. I wonder how many other adults have seen the writing on the train walls (Note: I use the word adult to include adults regardless if they are parents or not).

Hopefully, the next time you are riding the T, you might want to check out those train car cards placed above our head. Think of those cards as captions for a massive cartoon in which you have been pulled into, and think about the messages. Really think about them and then take the time to make calls, write letters and send texts to the politicians, government and T officials.

Make sure they can see the writing on the walls too.


Janet Cormier is a painter, writes prose and poetry, and performs comedy. JC prefers different and original over pretty. She loves collecting stuff, but cleaning not so much. Janet also talks to strangers…a lot. Her column appears regularly in Oddball Magazine.