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Downtown View: What Were They Thinking?

A large banner advertisement hangs in the window at the Charles/MGH T station. These are beautiful windows. Why is this big ad there?

$$$$$. First, I heard a 72-year old woman complain about this ad. Then a 10-year-old boy pointed it out, saying it was too big. It is hard to see from some angles, but from other angles it is in your face, as they say. First, it advertised hot dogs. Hot dogs? Are T riders getting on from the hospital side of Charles/MGH a target audience for hot dogs?

In any case, the hot dogs are gone and another ad has taken its place, providing evidence that these banners are here to stay. Whether this is an effective location or audience is questionable.

But I know what they were thinking. The hot dog ad, for which Charles/MGH was only one location, brought in $230,000 for the MBTA, according to T spokesman Joe Pesaturo. Presumably subsequent ads will bring in just as much for our cash-strapped transit system.

Why did Apple bring out a new iPhone and why is it so popular?

Beats me. The iPhone 5 has some upgraded features and, apparently, bad maps, but it also has a secret weapon—it builds community as people stand in line. And it is one of those heralded “job creators” you hear so much about on the campaign trail. Here’s what happened to a friend of mine.

She had lost her iPhone. She thought it would reappear, hidden in some coat pocket, but it didn’t. So when the iPhone 5 went on sale, she decided to go to the Apple store and get a new one. She didn’t feel confident that, on her own, she could order one through the mail and make it work.

She woke up early on the day the phone was to go on sale, and having nothing better to do she decided to head for the Apple store right then, since she figured there would be a line. At 6:30 a.m. she hailed a taxi, and it deposited her at a long line snaking down Boylston Street.

As soon as she got out of the cab, a young woman shouted at her: “Do you want to buy my place in line?”

Actually, no. But later a fellow line-stander told her several people were standing in for acquaintances or for people who’d ordered their line-holding on That was the job creation part, and it wasn’t in China, the only country where Apple is accused of creating jobs. Let’s hear it for these young entrepreneurs.

Inexplicably, however, the shouting young woman pulled my friend over and said she was tired and going home, so my friend should take her place in line anyway. This seemed fine with all the line-standers.

My friend began talking with people in the line. She got some hints about how to work the phone. Several reporters came by and made a bee-line for my friend. At age 67, she stood out from the crowd of mostly 20-somethings. They interviewed her extensively, but she was never able to find herself on television or in any newspaper.

After a few hours of conversation my friend finally got her iPhone. She was able to leave by 10:30 a.m.

It had been an interesting few hours, unlikely to be repeated, and an insight into a younger community of folks who stand in line.

Why does Robert Kraft have a young girlfriend?

You know why. He can’t help it. Downtown offices are chortling over the relationship. There would be even more to talk about if someone were to overhear what his sons are probably saying to him. There’s no fool like an old fool, but one does wonder what to think when the situation he has gotten himself into is more diverting than his football team.

How good are the proposals for changing Boston’s school assignment process?

While it is hard to tell what unintended consequences Boston families will face due to changing the assignment process, the initial proposals are better than what we have now. Four ideas have to be kept in mind as we go forward. One is that many Boston schools are re-segregated right now, due to so many white families having left the system or moved from the city. Second, kids are wasting too much time and taxpayers are wasting too much money on school buses. Third, the Boston Teacher’s Union has no support for impeding teacher improvement and a longer school day, especially from liberal, pinko, commie-leaning socialists like me. (That’s what some people say I am.) If the teachers are not supported by someone like me, however, they have no chance in the rest of the world. Finally, downtown kids are still left with no school, and that must be changed. The Eliot and the Josiah Quincy are already oversubscribed.

There’s a lot of hype about the back-to-the-city movement. But without a first-rate school system that attracts all income groups and entices families to stay here, Boston will never be the “world-class” city the mayor wants it to be.

Downtown View is a regular column by Karen Cord Taylor who founded The Beacon Hill Times weekly newspaper in 1995 and served as its editor and publisher until late 2007. She also founded and served as editor and publisher of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and The Back Bay Sun weeklies. Her column appears in those newspapers as well as the Regional Review, which serves Boston’s North End. These weeklies are now owned by the Independent Newspaper Group. She is the author of “Blue Laws, Brahmins and Breakdown Lanes: An Alphabetic Guide to Boston and Bostonians” and the co-author of “The Lady Architects,” a book about three women who practiced architecture in New England and elsewhere in the early 20th century. She lives in downtown Boston and blogs at