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Monday, February 23, 2009

Head in hand, shaking in disbelief

I'm sure I haven't told the story of my short but complicated trip to Chicago with my sister almost ten years ago. No rational person would call it a trip so much as a study in exacerbation. Why it is top of mind now, is that I want to go in May. I have many reasons to go. The pressing reason is that i don't want to miss another oportunity to see Sting. So I have been thinking about my last trip.
It was late Summer. Pam was teaching at a catholic school in the heart of West Hollywood. She had come home for the Summer to work at her Masters. She hadn't looked at her return trip ticket to verify her departure time but still expected me to drive her to the Station in Grand Rapids. Well, she got on the phone to Amtrak to verify the night before she thought she was supposed to leave. The lady told her what time she departed MI to arrive in CA. Pam repeated "7:30, leave MI arrive in LA at 8:30 the next day". The lady said something else. Pam repeated hte same thing she said before. She had no sooner hung up the phone when she stated she didn't have to get up until 6:30.
ME: It takes more than an hour to get to GR.
PAM: I know. That gives us two.
ME: (with Crusher's face) No it doesn't. Your train leaves at 7:30.
PAM: How do you know?
ME: Because that's waht you repeated to the lady on the phone. Twice.

We did our best "Who's on First" routine and parted for the night at odds. I knew she was wrong and she refused to look atthe ticket. One of the things the lady did was explain to her where to find that info on the trip tic. She wouldn't let me look at it either. Now my sister has an interesting habit of burning all her candles at once. So she stayed up really late, didn't pack completely before going out with her best friend and got to bed at about 3:30. The advantage to this is that when you get her butt out of bed you can convince her of anything. So, knowing she would do what she always did, I went to bed cetain in the knowledge that she would be putty in my wide awake hands.
That proved to not be the case. I did wake her up at 5am. She putzed for an hour because she was certain we didn't have to leave TC until 6:30. I ifnally got her into the car. We picked up my friend Val who was to be my company on the way home. We arrived at the Amtrak station at 8:15. Pam was torked because hse didn't want to wait 15 minutes for her train. Keep in mind that the departure time was 7:30. I told her there would be no waiting. She did not believe.
When we pulled into the parking lot there was no train, nor employee cars in the lot. Nor were there any overnight traveler's cars parked in the lot. A big sign in the window, however, read "DAILY DEPARTURES 7:30" with a "If you've missed your train...." instruction set in fine print at the bottom.
She flipped her gourd, decided it was my fault that we were late for the trian because I didn't drive fst enough. Then she panicked. "You haveto get me to Chicago!"
PAM: It's the next stop.
ME: I'm not driving to Chicago.
PAM: How am I supposed to get there?
ME: PAy better attention to your information
PAM: You have to get me there!
ME: Let's call the number before we charge off for parts unknown.
PAM: WE'll miss the Chicago train and then I won't get home.
We called Dad nad told him what was going on. He wanted me to put Pam in a cab. Val's aunt lived in GR so we went to her house, got a good map and some provisions and headed for Chicago because she would not call that number.
PAM: They will just tell you the same thing. Chicago.
Once we were on the road she fell asleep. She slept all the way through MI, the Skyway and the Arts Institute. BUt I am getting ahead of myself. As we got to the border we tried waking her up.
VAL: Now what.
ME: You have the map. Where are there train tracks?
VAL: Along the lake. What difference does that make?
ME: A paasenger train probably won't share the same lines as the commercial transports but they will probably run parallel. Get me as close to those lines as you can.
In my head I sounded a lot more like Commander Riker than myself. I was also prepared to fight Val on that one. But she was out of ideas.
So we ended up coming off the Skyline and missing our turn that would take us along the downtown shoreline by one road. And that was one road too many. Val rolled up her window, locked her doors and tried not to look at the map or the residents milling about. I almost stopped for directions. But I quickly realized that we were already a target for something untoward. So I kept going. The road dead ended at a Campus ofr higher learning. I don't clearly remember which one, Wheaton I think because I automatically thought of my friends who had attended. The tracks and lakeshore were right. I went right. That dropped us onto the main road following the lake, right up to a gorgeous park and toward the Arts Institute. I whipped into the first driveway I could find. Here, in the maintainence gargage, a very helpful man told us he didn't know where the Amtrak station was.
You ahve got to be kidding. Its Amtrak! Everyone knows Amtrak! (*%&$&% my sister is a dead woman when she wakes up). Another man came out and the first guy asked him what we were looking for.
2ND MAN: Oh. YOU want Union station.
1ST MAN: Really? That is where Amtrak runs? He turned toward us. I ride a bike everywhere. Sorry. But you're really close, just three streets away. But there is a one way street.
He gave us good directions. As i put the car into reverse Pam woke up, saw the guy and freaked out.
ME: If you would have woke up to tell me where we were going I wouldn't have stopped for directions.
PAM: I told you where you needed to go.
ME: Not how.
PAM: How would I know, I've only been here by train!!!
Following that outburst was a discussion about information that could be classified as on a need to know basis and that a helmsman needs to know coordinates. Something disparaging about trekkies and trek talk dissolved in the collective gasp that followed. I was being cut off from traffic and I made a lane change. I only missed the support pylon for the Ell by 6 inches... right after I realized that was why no one was driving in that lane. If you could call what they were doing driving.
Once our nerves were settled I pointed out that knowing we were looking for Union Station would have been helpful.
PAM: How could you not know that? In every city with a stop it's called UNion Station.
ME: Why would I know that? I've never been out of MI.
PAM: Well you're the Jeopardy geek.
True that. However, that does not mean that I know everything. She got on her train. Val nad I prepared to pull into traffic when she shoved the map in my face. VAL: Look.
ME:(*%$#&*^$#%&*- profanity, the only string theory I understand). You're kidding.
Union station was clearly labled in red print, big enough that I could have seen it had I known that was what I was looking for.
The trip home was uneventful. I did pretty good getting outo f town with only a little confusion that resulted in a two minutes delay.
So today, as I am trying to figure out if I can get myslef to Chicago to meet ACG and get to the concert at Orchestra Hall of the Symphony Center what do I find? The concert hall is between the Arts Institute and Union Station... on the same damn street!!!
Head smacks head. I had that feeling as soon as I hit Google maps, that I had driven passed it and was too busy trying to a. not get Froggered, b. run into something, c. disassemble my sister with unkind thoughts. So I know I can get there.It's in the only part of Chicago that I know. And I can still see it in my head as though I was there only yesterday... okay, last year. So now the question becomes, will I have the cash to go?
Apparently it is a corporate event. I am thinking that this is a 1000.00 of dollars fund raiser.

1 comment:

  1. Well, if you can score the $3,000 tickets, I will personally pick you up in TC and take you there myself.