Transcript for Mini Episode: The New System of Labor

[Charlie on the MTA Plays.]


This is

This is

This is

Greater Boston

[News stinger, leading into newsy background music.]

CHUCK OCTAGON – Jeff Van Dreason

Welcome back to The Underground in Red Line with Chuck Octagon. I’m Chuck Octagon. Next up, we turn once again to the developing story of the abrupt roboti…robotitizi..rob… robotize…! Roboticization–that is a very hard word to say–of Red Line train operation, which left hundreds of city employees out in the cold, to the dismay of many Red Line citizens. But what has the city gained through this dubious modernization? To answer that question, we take you now to Nichole Fonzerelli, reporting live from Park Street Station. Nichole?

[Newsy music stops.]

[Park Street Station environment–trains, crowd chatter, easy listening instrumental music.]


Thanks, Chuck. I’m here on the central platform at Park Street, tracking the progress of trains traveling in both directions. I’ve been standing here for the past hour, checking trains against the official schedule, and there’s no denying Red Line reliability has improved 100%. Not one train has been more than 15 seconds off schedule in the hour that I’ve been standing here. Since the robiticization of the system, Red Line has achieved an extraordinary efficiency, never before seen in subway management.


That’s incredible, Nichole.You pronounced that word with no trouble at all. [Carefully] Ro-bot-ti-ci-za-tion. Noun. The act of converting a process previously performed by humans to a process entirely performable by mechanical automatons.


Uh…yes. That’s right Chuck.

From the Czech, meaning “forced labor.” The term originally referred to feudal peasants engaged in compulsory servitude.


Oookay. Thank you for that edifying trivia, Chuck.


You’re welcome! Does the improvement in efficiency suggest that the longstanding service issues in Red Line were due entirely to human error on the part of conductors?


Not at all, Chuck. Human error will always be a factor in any complex system. But the change here is about more than just operating the trains. According to the newly appointed Red Line Systems Overseer, Ethan Bespin–that’s the mayor’s husband, Chuck–

Nepotism! Noun…


[Quickly]The-act-of-appointing-or-hiring-based-on-familial-or-social-relations-rather-than-on-any-basis-of-merit, that’s right Chuck.



According to Red Line Systems Overseer Bespin, the true key to these service improvements has been the networking of the robots individual neural processors…

Positronic brains?


No.   …into one interconnected network of highly adaptive machines. This means that information obtained by any one robot can be immediately transmitted to every other robot in the system, allowing every train to automatically and simultaneously adjust to disruptions in service.


Wow. Red Line residents and commuters must be very happy with these changes.

Well, yes and no, Chuck. First, as I mentioned, several hundred jobs were eliminated, and nearly as many homes lost. That has left many residents conflicted about the service improvements. Commuters have seen fares quintuple since the start of the Bespin administration. This fare hike is a deliberate act of social engineering, part of Mayor Bespin’s agenda to reduce the commuter burden on Commutity Car residents, while also limiting commuter transit to, in the mayor’s words, “a more exclusive and respectable clientele.” As you know, Chuck, “exclusive and respectable” is a euphemism for “rich assholes.”



These are the sort of people who purchase ridiculously overpriced railhomes just to say they own property in Red Line, then leave those homes sitting empty, while other residents search desperately for housing in the world’s tightest real estate market. Many of these previously infrequent subway riders enjoy the increasing homogeneity of the commuting populace, and are willing to pay the premium cost for the service.

This has had a pronounced effect on surface street traffic, which Boston’s Mayor Hutchinson has described as “a commuter crisis,” while commuters unable or unwilling to pay the exorbitant transit fees are facing increased employment insecurity, due to the challenge of arriving at work reliably on time.

That sounds like a major problem for working-class residents of the whole Greater Boston area.


It’s a real humdinger, Chuck. Residents of Red Line and Boston alike have been in need of improvements to subway equipment and reliability for years. But now that those improvements are finally here, the people most in need of them have been excluded from the system entirely, while unemployment has spiked as a direct result.

Finally, while service has improved, there has been one unsettling side-effect, as you’ll hear when I enter the Red Line car that has just pulled up.

[Red line doors. There is an incessant stream of robotic “nope” playing over the intercom.]

This cryptic loop is broadcast constantly by the robots, and residents are unhappy with the intrusive, and frankly creepy-as-all-hell voices. The Bespin administration has given no comment as to the origin, purpose, or remedy for this inexplicable riddle.


Wrong show…


DAMMIT. I’m gonna stop saying that, I swear.

Habits are hard to break. This I know.


Thank you. This is Nichole Fonzarelli reporting live from Red Line for The Underground…in Red Line. Back to you Chuck.

[End Station environment. Newsy music plays.]


Thank you, Nichole. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this continuing story. Coming up next: polyamory–what’s that all about? Join me as I sit down with a local collective of domestic partners who have introduced their unique system of interpersonal harmony to a local carnival community…

[Music fades out.]

[Easy listening music fades in.]



NARRATOR – Alexander Danner

Greater Boston is written and produced by Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreason with recording and technical assistance from Marck Harmon.

This episode featured:

  • Jeff Van Dreason as Chuck Octagon [he/him]
  • And Kristen DiMercurio as Nichol Fonzerelli [she/her]
  • With Brandy Danner as the Cheese Robots

Charlie on the MTA is recorded by Emily Peterson and Dirk Tiede




Robotizi… Robotizica…nope. [Laughs] Me and Chuck…sympatico! Ro-bo-ti-zi-gay…no. It’s not zi-kay-shun. Ro-bot-ti-zi-zation. Ro-bot-ti-zi-zation!


The-act-of-appointing-or-hiring-based-on-familial-or-pbtpbtpbt-ah. Familial or fla-bl-ahh. Okay, fine. We got this.

Commuters have seen fares quintuple since the start of the Bespin adminiblblblbl. Bespin adminispispispi hm. Hm! Hm. Why did you hire me again?


Coming up next…pa….haha. How come I can’t say this word either?




Polyamory. Yup. That makes sense.


[Quickly]The-act-of-appointing-or-hiring-based-on-familial-or-social-relations-rather-than-on-any-basis-of-merit, that’s right Truck. Truck! Ha!


Content notes:

  • Strong language
  • Labor automation
  • Class entitlement


%d bloggers like this: