Do you know what you were doing five years ago today? Well, according this this blog, I was in Santa Monica, but according to the MBTA, I was unboxing a brand new Charlie Card. I know this because today, five years later, that Charlie card, suddenly and without warning, expired.


By “expired” do I mean kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible? Apparently not, because the helpful MBTA resurrectionist customer service person in the station keyed in a secret code on the Charlie card vending machine, tapped my card and read off the balance and passes on it.

So what gives? Well, it seems that what gives is that older Charlie cards like mine have a replicant-like five year lifespan. A new one you get today will last ten years and unlike mine, have the expiration date printed on it.  Why does it expire when the electronics inside are still working? Why do I get no warning in advance of this expiration? That’s not for me to ponder, it’s for me to drag my sorry early-Charlie-card-adopting ass to the one and only “Charlie Card Store” at Downtown Crossing three days before the end of the month and get my paid-for passes transferred to a fresh card. I’m sure it won’t be busy at all, since it operates during the commuter-friendly hours of 8:00am till 5:30pm, Monday through Friday.

In New York City, you can exchange an expired MetroCard for a fresh one (as long as it’s less than a year since expiry) at any token booth with a customer service agent, and I’ve seen those in nearly every station and at all hours of the day and night.

On the way home this evening (after 5:30), the MBTA employee let me through after verifying that my card had a pass on it. In the morning I’ll probably have to pay to get to Downtown Crossing to get this fixed.  What are the odds that I’ll get my fare for that trip reimbursed?