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The Boston Globe



A pain! Medical research ads on the Red Line

The signs in MBTA subways are looking for study guinea pigs. I’m looking for cover.

“DEPRESSED?” THE SIGN ASKS as I wait in a chill wind for the Red Line from Charles/MGH to Harvard. Standing on the platform, I stare at the photo of a young woman, head bowed, chin tucked into her knees, a figure of utter despair. “Do you feel like you lost motivation?” Well, come to think of it, I do. “Have you been feeling worthless or down on yourself?” Yeah . . . “Have you noticed changes in your sleeping or eating pattern? Are you 18 or older?” Yes and yes. And then, the good news: “You may be eligible to participate at no cost in a Massachusetts General Hospital research study evaluating antidepressant medications.” Good news indeed. Just call “1-877-55-BLUES.”

And so each day begins with what I call “The Red Line Blues,” a gantlet of subway advertising signage designed to sink even the most buoyant of spirits and pluck the most private of places. Riders on other lines also feel my pain. These days, the price of public transportation is not the CharlieCard, but the toll on my psyche: that endless barrage of probing questions designed to rattle confidence, burrow into my privacy, and question my virility.

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