"Columnist" Responds to "Readers" (Weekly Dig)


Originally published in the November 7 edition of Boston's Weekly Dig (go there for the great art and here for a related reader letter).

I'm trying something new for this column. I want to respond to critical reader comments directed at moi. Consider it part of my new accountability initiative.

First up, "spokesman" Joe Pesaturo of the MBTA. I'm using quotes because Joe addressed me as "comedian" Baratunde Thurston in his letter, as if to say he doesn't really believe I'm a comedian. Well, I don't really believe Joe is a spokesman for the MBTA. What I do believe is that I'm rubber and Joe's glue, so whatever he says bounces off of me and causes a commuter train delay for you.

"Spokesman" Joe criticized my last column in which I documented the heroic actions of a man named Bill, co-liberator of trapped MBTA Red Line riders. He said my claim that the train operator refused to turn on the air conditioning was wrong. The fire department cut the power necessary to run the AC system. "Spokesman" Joe wrote, "his misrepresentation of this basic fact casts serious doubts over the rest of the claims in his column."

Joe, dude, I'm flattered that you're a fan of my column, but why are you coming at me like we're running for the same political office? To your point, if you reread my piece, you'll see that I never claimed the operator refused to turn on the AC. I merely quoted her statements "I don't know if I have the authority to do that" and "I don't have permission from Central Command," whatever that is.

The real story is not my failure to precisely recreate what happened on that train, but the authorities' failure to handle the situation better. Keeping the public informed during a panic-prone incident, such as being trapped on a train, is the least you can do. Complaining to a columnist, weeks later, that what had happened was the AC could not be turned on because the fire department ordered the power cut is not helpful. Next time, use your spokesmanly powers to tell that to the passengers! This assumes, of course, that you have permission from Central Command.

Next up: Jake Hess of Somerville. Back in August, Jake called me out, writing, "Baratunde Thurston has recently written about the potential ramifications of peak oil theory and how much he enjoys walking. Great. So, Mr. Thurston, why do you still own and drive a car? Mind the Categorical Imperative-what if everyone behaved like you?"

While I don't like you throwing Kant in my face (we used to kick it back in the day), you are right Jake.

I truly didn't realize the irony of writing about my road-raging bloodlust behind the wheel of an SUV so soon after my peak oil manifesto. And, although I drove the car infrequently, your letter helped motivate me to change my ways. Last week, I donated my car to charity. Thanks for keeping me honest.

Besides lowering my carbon and petrol footprint, losing the car means that when I visit Boston, I'll have even more cause to take the T and write columns that will annoy Joe Pesaturo.

BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY. WRITE TO THE TOP AT BARATUNDE.COM.