I couldn't get to sleep last night, I was so excited about going into Chicago, meeting up with Heather and some other folk, and seeing the Mountain Goats. I thought it might be something that would finally go well.
I was excited and nervous and couldn't get to sleep until 5. Slept until around 11 maybe? Way too late. Needed to go deposit a check, my security deposit from Santa Clara, that had arrived in the mail. Couldn't find the check. Bad omen. Needed to drop a letter in the mailbox. The post office removed the mailbox that used to be a few blocks from my house; now the closest one is way too far away. Everything in Elmhurst is just taking me twice as long as it should, I can't do anything efficiently.
So I got to the train station in Elmhurst to take the Metra downtown in plenty of time. The train didn't arrive. Just west of the depot there was a big freight train standing still on the tracks. That might be it. Indeed, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that the 5:49 train was 13 minutes late due to the disabled freight train. Unfortunately, since the 5:49 train wasn't moving, and nobody seemed to have any idea how long it would take to get the freighter moving again, after 20 minutes of listening to meaningless updates on how late the 5:49 train now was I just walked back home. Had to call the gang up in Chicago to let them know I'd be late, even if the Elmhurst train was going to depart in an hour or so, which seemed like a best-case scenario given the size and acceleration speed of typical freight trains.
My initial plan was to drive up to Metro. Then my mom came home and offered to drive me to the Hinsdale train station, which is on the BNSF line, where I could catch a train. Worried about parking and traffic, I chose that option. I should have used my brain and realized that Metro is right next to Wrigley, and that with the Cubs out of town there would be plenty of parking nearby. So I got up to Metro probably by 8:25. I don't know exactly the time I got there, but it was shortly before the first band finished playing, and after 8:15.
Because at 8:15 apparently Heather and Eli scored free VIP tickets and went in. Had I known this I would have just bought one off of someone outside and met them after the show. But I had no way of knowing, so I waited outside for about an hour and a half. They came out after the Mountain Goats were done, fortunately, and so I ran into them then.
So to recap, the trains from Elmhurst could have been running. I could have made a smarter decision about how to get to Metro after finding that they weren't. Heather and Eli could have not scored such an awesome deal and met me outside just before the Mountain Goats started. I could have realized that this wasn't going to happen around 8:45 and just found a ticket outside. I could have done one thing right, luck could have once been on my side, but no. I totally missed the show.
So to top things off on the train back to Elmhurst there was a guy that had boarded with no ticket and no money and was trying to get to Lombard. He was dodging the conductors going from car to car asking people for money for a ticket. I gave him a buck; while Metra certainly doesn't want to encourage people doing this, that's pretty abstract, and this dude getting thrown off the train in River Forest was pretty concrete. He thought this would be the last dollar he needed, but it wasn't $3 to get to Lombard, it was $3.05. The conductor was adamant about this last nickel; apparently this guy had done this before, and the conductor was not going to tolerate anyone else giving him more money. They tried to get him to leave the train but he refused, so they stopped at River Forest and called the cops. As the conductor left the car to make the call the guy went down to the lower level and got a nickel from someone, offered it to the conductor. The conductor wasn't buying. The guy wasn't getting off the train. He walked through the cars telling everyone what was going on. None of the sleepy folk in this night's last outbound train were going to protest for him, though, not as he grandstanded and accused Metra of racism (he said he was Puerto Rican). A few confronted him and argued with him, though. There was an opportunity for a fight to break out between him and another passenger on the upper deck, right next to my seat, but fortunately it passed. Finally the police arrived and he left the train. It's a sad story all over, far beyond it continuing my weird string of bad train luck.
EDIT: When I say, "string of bad train luck," it really extends for quite a long time. Many people ride trains daily with few incidents. I ride trains rather infrequently and yet have had a Metra train's engine die on the tracks, waited 45 minutes for a Red Line train due to some incident on the train up the line (at least I wasn't on that one when it happened, plus today's shenanigans, in the Chicago area. In San Francisco the first time I rode the Muni it was an F-line streetcar; in the bumper-to-bumper traffic along the Embarcadero (yes, bumper-to-bumper streetcars, all packed with people) I could have walked to my destination faster than the train got me there. The second time I tried to ride the Muni I waited at an N-line stop for almost an hour because Critical Mass was having a bike rally along the N-line route. When the train finally got there it was too full to fit another person on board. Later that day I caught an N-line train back towards downtown and tried to transfer to a T-line, but the turnstiles would accept neither my transfer card nor my money (yes, you can pay with coins at some of the turnstiles in SF). The next day was when Jess and Katie were in town. Our N-Line train stopped on the tracks for a very long time while the incompetent operators tried to help a man in a wheelchair onto the train, causing a few riders to chant, "Refund! Refund!" Later that day we tried to connect to a T-Line train to get us back to the Caltrain station. It was late, and we missed the train back to Santa Clara by just a few minutes and had to wait two hours for the next one. Which gives the Muni a perfect record: every time I've dared to make a trip on a Muni train it's been a disaster.