BOSTON CONFIDENTIAL (part one)
The Insider's Guide to Logan Airport
Parking. If your second cousin twice removed is too cheap to take a cab, wind your way up to the roof of the Central Parking garage and follow the signs to the short-term zone. Few people bother to go this far, yet it's only steps from the gates (unlike much of Logan's other parking, which seems miles away). If you'll be away for more than a week, consider stashing your car at the Tage Inn in Somerville. For $155, the hotel provides one night's lodging, a free shuttle bus to Logan, and 14 days of parking — cheaper than storing your vehicle in the airport's lowest-price spots for the same amount of time. When leaving town between Thursday evening and early Tuesday morning, head for the convenient Terminal B garage, which clears out on those days as domestic business travelers return from their junkets.
Securitylines. Long backups at the metal detectors have become a necessary hassle, but US Airways and Northwest passengers have potential shortcuts. Both carriers use gates fed by two checkpoints; when the wait at the US Airways security station grows interminable, for instance, follow the signs to the nearby shuttle gates. Shuttle customers generally tote fewer bags, so the line goes more quickly, but it feeds into the same place.
Amenities. In the event your flight is delayed — and, as the chart on the opposite page illustrates, the odds of some flights being on time are longer than John Kerry's poll numbers — Logan offers several little-known diversions. The airport's post office on Harborside Drive is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Its nondenominational chapel between Terminals B and C provides aerophobes with a place to pray for safe passage. But the best-kept secret at Logan is the Houlihan's in Terminal E, the new international wing — the only restaurant in Boston that still allows smoking. “The rest of the airport is smoke-free, but the city's ban does not apply to our facilities,” says Tom Kinton, Massport's director of aviation. “We were hearing from some of our international customers who still smoke at restaurants in Europe, so we thought this would be good customer service. It's a specially designed lounge, with its own filtration system.” Boston's smokers, at least, have something for which to be thankful to the French.
How to Score Last-Minute Tickets
At athletic events, tickets held for the players' relatives and friends are released if those guests can't attend. To hype new plays, theaters offer special eleventh-hour promotions: The first two rows of the Wilbur went on sale just two hours before the opening curtain of tick, tick . . . BOOM! Before concerts at the FleetCenter and Gillette Stadium, extra seats sometimes materialize near the stage after the set is installed. Last-minute tickets are even available for once-in-a-lifetime events. A couple of songs into Bruce Springsteen's first concert at Fenway, prime unclaimed seats were offered to a few dozen very happily surprised fans. As is often the case, these weren't in the nosebleed section — some were as close as the third row.
“You should always call the venue the day of the show,” says Shred, publicity director at the Middle East. Should that prove futile, you can always try your luck on the black market. State law prohibits resellers from charging markups of more than $2 above face value, plus service charges, a regulation enforced as aggressively as the city's official ban on public use of silly string. Buyers can compare the prices offered by online ticket brokers, but for the real values, such as they are, you have to deal with scalpers in person.
“A lot of the scalpers work together, so always talk to more than one guy,” says Sean Somers, general manager of Somers Pubs, which owns the Grand Canal near the Fleet.
“If the first scalper tells you the tickets are $50, say you're going to ask someone else. Tell the next guy that the guy you just spoke with is charging $50, but you only have $40. That works 9 times out of 10. Oh, and the guys holding the ‘I need tickets' signs, they're -usually trying to get tickets to sell. So go talk to them, too.”
How to Negotiate with Anybody
BY CAPTAIN ROBERT LAPREL, COORDINATOR, MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE CRISIS On the Crisis Negotiation Team, we use active listening skills all the time with people who are suicidal or have taken hostages. But these skills can be used in any high-stress situation.
Imagine you're in a parking lot, and you pull into a space. As you get out of the car, some guy says, “I saw that parking space first! What are you, a jerk?” You can ignore him, or you can call him a jerk, too. But in this society, it's not always safe to talk back. To relax the person, lower the tone of your voice. Speak slowly. Give them a little smile. Most important, use calm language. For example, if you tell someone, “You're an idiot,” they'll naturally be confrontational. How much better does it sound to say, “You acted like an idiot”? In the second choice, you're attacking the bad behavior instead of the person. Keep in mind, it's the behavior you want to punish. This is particularly useful in parenting.
Or say a husband is heading out to play golf, but before he leaves his wife tells him, “Before you go, make sure you take the clothes from the washer to the dryer and then fold them. Can you remember that?” “Sure,” the husband replies. Then he gets a phone call before he can get to it, and immediately leaves for the golf course.
When he comes home, his wife is upset. The husband could snap back and raise his voice, which often happens, or he could pick up on the fact that she's really just frustrated. He should say, “I understand that you're upset with me about the laundry. I feel bad I let you down.” That's called emotion labeling — when you put a label on what they're feeling. And sentences starting with “I” show empathy. They personalize the problem. He's showing that he's not a selfish oaf. Maybe a forgetful oaf, but not selfish.
Sometimes it's necessary to get the other person talking. An employee in trouble with his boss might say, “Let me understand, Mr. Jones: You're upset with me because I didn't complete the report on time.” The boss will say, “Yes, I am,” and then give clarification. Just talking about it can lower emotions. Effective silences — when one party in a discussion pauses — also work well. They give the other person a chance to be heard, so they can vent freely without shouting over the other party or being interrupted. Even if you can't get a word in edgewise, let the other person know they're talking to a breathing human being by saying “yeah” and “uh-huh” periodically.
It's also important to understand body language. A person is in a defensive position if their arms are folded across their chest, their jaw is tightened, they're standing at a 45-degree angle, or their posture is rigid. Watch the eyes. Look for any signs of fight or flight.
When is enough, enough? It depends on how well you know the person. If after using these skills the person is still upset, at least you know you didn't inflame the situation or make it worse.
How to Work a Room
There are people who know me who say I work a room pretty well, but there's no formula to it. There's no playbook. Well, there are people who have a playbook for these things. I don't think about it that much.
I try to talk to people on an ordinary level. Only on an as-needed basis will I talk business. I try to stay away from that. You don't go to -parties to talk about permits; if you're among newspaper people, they don't want to hear about why you thought their last story was too tough. You're establishing a personal relationship. Later, when you do want to talk business, they're more likely to trust you. There are some topics everyone tends to be able to converse about — for example, food, films, and something topical. Like Ben and J.Lo.
There are people — and I like them the most — who are very good at wrapping things up. They'll say, “Hey, it was great talking to you. There are a couple more people I want to catch up with. I'll see you again soon.” If you do get stuck, it's important to have a friend who will come pull you away. You give them the signal. It's not anything you work out ahead of time. They just know.
I don't like to have my picture taken at these functions. I will absolutely refuse. If you're in the party pages twice in one month, you're over the line — for me, twice a year is more than enough. You don't want to become overexposed.
Where (and What) to Eat after 2 a.m.
South Street Diner. South Street ranks as the city's quintessential diner, especially when it comes to the food. The chicken club sandwich, layered with mildly aged lettuce and petrified bacon, was paired with soggy French fries and an ill-colored pickle. An order of over-easy eggs and wheat toast came slightly burnt, the better to match the coffee.
The hand-cut grilled chicken sandwich, full of flame-kissed zest, begged for barbecue sauce, but at least the wait for condiments and beverage refills was short. The staff at this lively mainstay remains friendly and attentive at all hours.
Golden Gate. Unlike most Chinese restaurants, this Beach Street establishment doesn't serve fortune cookies. Alas, that nod to authenticity fails to extend to the quality of its fare, which includes generous portions of staples such as chicken chop suey and crab rangoon. The butterfly shrimp lacked flavor, and the fried vegetable dumpling, too leaden for an appetizer, was as inexpensive and inadvisable as a slice of deep-dish pizza. Better meals were found in the broccoli and rice and the roast-pork soup, which arrived brimming with delicious wonton and shards of porcine protein.
News. News, which serves food until 4 in the morning, might be the only place in town where a customer can follow a “mountain of nachos” with a plate of delicate sashimi. The schizophrenia seems to be taking its toll on the kitchen. The shrimp accompanying the pasta pomodoro were notable only for their relative absence, and the sauce tasted suspiciously prepackaged. Though the chocolate-chip pancakes oozed with sweetness, they had rested on the grill so long they more closely resembled a plate of cookies. The Cubano sandwich represented an ideal marriage of pork, pickles, and cheese, but it would have been even better if served on traditional flatbread instead of a sub roll — a shortcoming patrons will likely overlook after downing one of the stiff designer cocktails mixed at the bar.
Pizano Café. Tucked inside Boston Bowl on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester, Pizano serves food only until midnight on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends. A shame, really. The salads, displayed in a convenient see-through case, were filled with crispy lettuce and fresh toppings. On the chicken parmesan sub, the juicy fillet rested under a blanket of gooey cheese and piquant tomato sauce. The saucier displayed a light touch with the impressive array of deep-fried goods on offer, and beers were thoughtfully poured into plastic cups that made them easier to carry over to the nearby tenpin lanes.
IHOP. This culinary oasis in Brighton may be part of a chain, but its menu represents a singular triumph of fusion cuisine. The Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity, an ambitious blend of salty and sweet, deftly combined eggs, bacon strips, sausage links, and pancakes topped with cinnamon-spiked apples and whipped cream. Crispy hash browns nestled against the side of the pillowy steak omelet. Remarkably bright-yellow eggs, layered with fine regional meats and cheeses, leaped off the breakfast sandwich. C'est bon!
Where to Feed Your Buzz After the Bars Have Closed
Unlike alligators in the sewers and the Curse of the Bambino, this urban legend actually proves true. We'd rather not name the enlightened establishments that provide this much-needed public service — that could potentially spoil all the fun. But when you find yourself unwilling (or unable) to call it an evening after the bars shut down at 2 in the morning, go over to Chinatown, find an open restaurant, and order the cold tea. If the proprietor is game, the waiter will serve you something with a lot more kick than Qi Hong. “I've done this many a night,” says one clued-in woman. “My friends and I ask for cold tea, and they bring us tea cups and a little metal tea pot filled with what appears to be beer. Now, is it real beer? For all I know, it could be O'Doul's. But it's always tasted good to me!”
How to Hit the Town Like a VIP
“You never really know who you're dealing with, so you try to treat everyone well, just in case,” says veteran Park Plaza concierge Frank Gallagher. “I once called my favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant to make a reservation for a guest, who happened to have the same last name as [former Arizona congressman and Democratic presidential candidate] Mo Udall. They assumed she was his wife, and treated her like a VIP.” Media personalities, business executives, and cast members of Fox Searchlight films are also good people to impersonate, though requesting a quiet corner for Affleck, party of two, is bound to raise suspicion.
Night spots, by their nature, are even more likely than restaurants to accommodate a boldfaced name — even when the boldface is self-applied.
“My friend, a theater major, once called Axis and told the woman who answered the phone that she worked for the Bluesky Levine Talent Company and represented an independent Indian film star named Lakshmi Gowda — another friend of ours, who possesses the bone structure of an actress but not the talent,” reports one intrepid Boston magazine intern. “The woman at Axis put ‘Lakshmi plus 10' on the guest list, with a complimentary drink and coat check.” To seal the ruse, the girl then changed her answering machine greeting, so it said ‘Bluesky Levine' when the club called back to confirm.”
How to Dine at a Hot Restaurant (Without a Reservation)
When you're celebrating a special occasion, nothing beats a romantic, home-cooked dinner — unless the person you're treating is hankering for the sauternes-poached lobster at Excelsior, and you forgot to call way ahead for a table. Before you run out and buy that forgive-me bouquet, try these tricks.
Shop online. Using the Internet to land sought-after reservations is like cyber-dating: It feels a little uncool to have to rely on a high-speed modem to accomplish what others pull off with their charm, wealth, or good looks — but, damn, is it convenient! Seats at many of Boston's best restaurants are often up for grabs on the free opentable.com network or the fee-based dinnerbroker.com, which charges $2 to $10 per person for prime-time dining.
Act like an out-of-towner. The concierges at luxury hotels have longstanding relationships with restaurants — Nine Zero concierge Chuck Huller jokes he's even dated hostesses at hot local eateries to get on their good sides — and you don't have to be a guest to take advantage of those connections. You are, however, expected to tip more generously than one: $20 is appropriate.
Play for sympathy. Give the concierge extra incentive by indicating you're celebrating a special occasion. Another tip: Use the Anniversary — which everyone forgets — over the Birthday or, worse, the Engagement. You won't earn pity for failing to plan ahead for that one.
When all else fails, just show up. Restaurants average a 15 to 20 percent no-show rate, so there's a decent chance there'll be a few spots open. But be warned: Claiming to be someone already on the wait list, though potentially fruitful, should be attempted only by gourmands willing to risk public embarrassment. “I once watched a guy put his head over the podium and read me a name off the sheet,” says Jason Babb, the manager and maitre d' at Grill 23. “I said, ‘Actually, I happen to know you aren't that person, because the name you gave is my cousin, and he's sitting right over there.'” The ever-reliable Andrew Jackson handshake provides a safer route, but don't be fazed if the money you just pressed
Sinatra-smooth into the host's palm is promptly returned. “If you hand me anything,” says Babb, “I will say, ‘Go to the bar and I'll see what I can do.' It's classiest to tip on your way out.” A maitre d' at an exclusive restaurant reports that the going rate in Boston is $20 for a couple, and twice as much for larger groups. While you're at it, grease the sommelier, bartender, coat check attendant, and parking valet. That way, maybe you won't have to hustle so much the next time you're stuck without dinner plans.
How to Get Out of a Traffic Ticket
The one question the officer will almost always ask is, “Do you know why I stopped you?” A person who says, “No,” is usually written up for the maximum fine. A person who says, “Yes, because I was speeding,” or whatever, might get a reduced amount or just a warning — I don't know that that's an official policy, but that's what I've seen on the tickets I've reviewed since I started specializing in traffic law. Asking for a warning usually backfires. The officer isn't going to make up his mind based on your request.
If you want to appeal the ticket, do so immediately. The hearing will take place before a court magistrate. The officer who pulled you over typically won't be there, but that has no impact on whether you'll win; the ticket will be presented by a police prosecutor. These hearings can be especially effective when the ticket was mailed to you, because you can argue that the wrong license plate number was taken down. This is what I get paid to do, so I won't go into all my secrets. Let's just say there's some statutory wiggle room.
I've beaten a lot of cases on other technicalities. The Federal Highway Administration has something called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which controls what shapes signs can be. Massachusetts has a lot of trouble with this. The whole Liberty Tunnel, for example — billions of dollars, and they couldn't get the signs right. Last I checked, the signs hadn't been fixed, so tickets issued in or near the tunnel shouldn't stick.
If the magistrate goes against you, you can appeal and appear before a judge. At this stage, some courts will clear the driver if the officer who issued the ticket fails to show.
How to Get the Most out of Your Emergency Room Visit
From 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. during the week — and pretty much all the time on weekends — many ERs are overwhelmed with patients. Then things tend to calm down until the big morning shift change. That's when you should plan to arrive — just after the fresh doctors and nurses have settled in. “The best time, by far, to come into any emergency department in the state,” says Ron Walls, chairman of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women's and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, “is between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m.”
The next step is deciding which hospital is best equipped to treat your condition. Suburbanites suffering from the flu or other routine illnesses should consider a community hospital like Emerson, Norwood, South Shore, Brockton, or Good Samaritan. “Because those hospitals don't have residents who have to present their diagnosis to an attending physician, it's theoretically possible that their
ERs will be faster,” says Mark Pearlmutter, chief of emergency medicine for St. Elizabeth's and the Caritas hospital network. For more acute ailments, academic hospitals offer a distinct advantage. “One reason to go to a teaching hospital is that if the situation warrants, they have on-site specialists,” says Pearlmutter. “You'll have nationally renowned figures coming down to see you.”
How to Get Out of Jury Duty
Unless you're lucky enough to qualify for an automatic exemption — you're over 70, don't speak English, have done hard time, etc. — the surest way to shirk your civic obligation (and really, you shouldn't) is to make yourself untouchable. During the pretrial screening, the judge will ask potential jurors if they harbor any biases that would prevent them from weighing the evidence impartially: Officers of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for example, are likely to be barred from ruling on DUI cases. It takes either deep-rooted bigotry or Oscar-worthy acting chops, however, to confess to a roomful of strangers that you are prejudiced enough that your sense of jurisprudence might be clouded, and more gall still for a faker to put on a convincing performance. And in the end, channeling Trent Lott might actually work against you. “I've picked that type of person in the past because if they have the backbone to stand up and say they're racist or hate cops, then that's a juror I want for that trial,” says Kevin Reddington, a Brockton defense attorney. “Judges could also punish them by deferring a decision on their impartiality and making them sit there for the rest of the process, reflecting.”
How to Deal With Your Noisy Neighbors
Last year, the Harvard School of Public Health found that people living within a mile of a college campus, in addition to receiving a disproportionate number of pizza coupons, are 135 percent more likely to endure disturbances of the peace. Since metro Boston covers roughly 50 square miles, and those 50 square miles contain some 68 institutions of higher learning — which in turn enroll about 250,000 students — most of us face a high risk of being awakened by the joyous strains of raging keggers. When a neighborly conversation or the always-popular pounding on the wall fails to turn down the volume, consider these solutions.
Alert the authorities. Under Boston's official noise ordinance, any sound exceeding 70 decibels is deemed “unreasonable or excessive”; from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., the threshold drops to 50. As it happens, the whir of a garbage disposal (95 dB) and an alarm clock's bleat (80 dB) both top the daytime limit, and a hard rain pushes the boundary at night — which means city residents needn't hold off until their windows rattle before calling the cops. The Boston Police Department has recorded nearly 60,000 noise complaints in the past four years, and officers can slap obstreperous individuals with fines that start at $30 and climb to $300 for serial violators.
Go vigilante. On online shopping sites, albums consisting solely of annoying sounds now represent a genre nearly as popular as polka — which would actually work equally well for these purposes. One of these CDs, loaded with 64 minutes of lawnmower noise — recorded by a New Zealand man as a follow-up to his hit debut, Urban Assault — is particularly effective when played at dawn, just after the offending revelers have finally gone to bed. For overall value, however, we like the straightforwardly titled Revenge, which is imported from France and comes with complimentary earplugs. Loud home improvement proj-ect? Play the lead track, “Drill.” Newlyweds next door too exuberant during their conjugation? Fast-forward to “Orgasm (Outstanding).”
How to Never Get Stuck in Line Again
At the Registry of Motor Vehicles. “We don't advertise this,” says deputy registrar Joseph Kelley, “but although we officially open at 8:30, we actually start serving customers at 8:15.” Many branches don't close until 7 p.m. on Thursdays; on any day of the week, avoid showing up between 11:30 and 1:30 — while you're on lunch break, the clerks are, too. Overall, it's best to avoid the RMV entirely in the fall. The start of the school year brings college students looking to transfer out-of-state registrations or replace the licenses they gave to their fraternity pledges to use as fake IDs. Vanity plate, trailer permit, and commercial tag paperwork typically dominates November, and motorcyclists flood in to renew their registrations in December.
At the passport agency. You fly first class. You glide through airports with your Vuitton-on-wheels. Why put up with delays when renewing your passport? For an extra $60 fee, travelers due to depart within 14 days can schedule a one-on-one appointment at the Boston Passport Agency, which occupies a suite in the fashionably utilitarian Tip O'Neill Federal Building.
At the doughnut shop. This summer, Dunkin' Donuts invited its NewEngland franchises to compete in the company's first-ever customer service championship, a sort of Olympics for coffee pourers and baked-goods handlers. The team representing the store at 915 High Street in Westwood won the title of “Fastest Dunkin' Donuts Crew” by completing 18 different orders in just less than 7 minutes, which works out to roughly one transaction every 23 seconds. Honorable mentions went to the Dunkin' Donuts shops on Whiting Street in Hingham and Cambridge Street in Burlington.
At the post office. As with Mogadishu and the Hindu Kush, there's really no good time to visit the post office. Beat the throngs with an early morning or late-night visit to the Fort Point Channel sorting facility beside South Station, where amiable clerks sell stamps and accept packages from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday.