It all started off oh so innocently. My girlfriend, Haley, was talking about her Winter formal, the Snowball, and asking if I would mind if she went with one of her friends. I had no problem, since I really did not want to go back to a high school dance and be That Guy. You know that guy: way too old, completely sticks out, and sits at the table doing nothing but sulking that he got dragged there. While in high school, showing off my white boy skills on the dance floor, I would point to that guy and exclaim "HA! LOOK AT YOU! YOU'RE SO FUCKING THAT GUY! WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE? YOU LOSER!" Through dating Haley, I had eaten my words enough, and didn't want to taste them again.
And then that innocent start fell into a skanky place held only for people who live in Emerson, NJ. The person she was planning on going with drunkenly tried to make out with her. For me, there was no choice - I had to go. My pride had to be sucked up like a milkshake through a crazy straw, long and hard. We had to go together to support what I called "Operation Unified Front," to show all those little fuckers that the state of our union was strong...without having to bomb another country. There was another problem. The Snowball fell the weekend after I went back up to Boston, so I would have to return to Park Ridge after being there for 28 days. Wonderful. The trip had to be made...the Front had to be Unified.
Amtrak has a funny little site. You can easily book tickets for their trains online and pick them up at the train station with the credit card you purchased the tickets with, like Fandango at a movie theater. I have used this wonderful option every time I took a train, including my first trip up to Boston for orientation. There is a fundamental flaw, however, because whenever you hit "back" in your browser, the date goes back to the day when you're buying the tickets. This apparently happened because on the Friday when I was going home, my tickets wouldn't print. Finding this odd, I went up to the Amtrak desk at Boston's South Station.
I walked up to Maurice and told him my dilema about how my tickets wouldn't print. I hand him my license and give him my driver's license when prompted. Maurice swipes my backward-ass card (it was printed upside down on the back, and they still spelled my name "Micheal," which is incorrect if you couldn't figure it out) and comments how the magnetic strip is broken. "Well, there's your real problem," he says to me. I do a surprised "oh, well, I'm sorry, I didn't know." He then closely examines my card as he types in my account number. Two at a time. So it's, "DUNDUN...................DUNDUN............." Helen Keller could have typed it in faster if she wasn't, you know...dead.
Maurice then turns to me and says, "oh, wow, this is a double whammy. It says here you booked your tickets for four and two days ago! Man oh man, first your card won't scan, and then this? Wow." Thanks, Maurice. I want to be successful for a few reasons, but mostly to look back and find Maurice, old, maybe in a wheelchair, and go "you remember me? I CAN BUY YOU YOU CONDESCENDING OLD FUCK!" I then buy new tickets for the train that I was supposed to board in Boston, and an 11:30 AM train from Newark, NJ back to Boston on Sunday.
Train trip is fine, no problems, and I partake in Hitchcock's Rope and Shadow of a Doubt, enjoying both. Once I reach New York Penn, I call up my dad, as is the normal custom. He tells me to not venture outside until he calls me to say he's ready to pick me up just outside the station as it's "one of the few safety concerns I have" It's Newark, granted...but it's 7:30, I think I'll survive. By the time I get to Newark, the streets all around are filled with cars, and it is a standstill. I get a call from my dad saying, "well, I'll be there in then minutes, so wait outside for me." Color me confused. It takes us an hour and a half to get back on what is normally a half hour ride. Good times.
The next day, it was time to get festive, and by festive I mean, "get ready to see kids that I knew as sophmores and freshman in high school when I left and not to feel incredibly embarassed and out of place." If I could drink, I would've. I got dressed in my suit (complete with "arms too small" jacket), grabbed the corsage that was nearly forgotten about, and headed out to pick up Haley. Luckily, there was no one there, unlike my senior prom when nearly every person the Brewers knew was there waiting to take pictures and judge me (no one warned me, btw - I still think it was a test). I picked up my beautiful date and we went to Cara's house (she is a faithful reader as well, so bonus points). That was awkward, but it's pictures, so if you're a guy it's always awkward. You sit and wait until some female tells you what to do, and you do it, no thinking involved.
The dance itself wasn't really that bad. I figured it would have been a lot worse, but I knew a lot of the kids there and they treated me as an equal, and not the creepy old guy. Also, a kid that I knew who graduated a year before me was there. I shook his hand and thanked him for making me feel better about myself, before realizing that will probably be me next year. I also realized that being tall and dancing kind of sucks, because you make eye contact with EVERYONE. I can't tell you how many times I would look straight ahead and a couple across the way would look at me, then each other, then turn their heads, like I was fucking spying on their weird pseudo-dance-makeout thing. Don't worry, I wasn't gawking at you, uglies.
There was only one weird part, and that was trying my damndest to be reserved. It's hard sometimes, but I had to realize that this event was totally not about me, and was all about the kids all around me. At one point, Haley's friend (and one of my oldest friends' little brother) Tyler made a crack about how everyone there was invited or included in something "...but Mike." Some people took offense to it, calling Tyler out on it. I was perfectly fine with it - I knew I didn't belong, but I was there for Haley. And to show off the fact that she was mine, god dammit, AND NO ONE ELSE'S. Highlights included seeing Rob hover back and forth like a cloud, listening to Rhino's war stories, and talking to Donkey more than I have in my entire life. Also, this picture:
The next morning I woke up at 9:30 to leave at 10:30, working on an incredible four hours of sleep. After having my bagels and paking everything up, including a problematic book that I will get to next, I was ready to go. At 10:30, I promptly put on my coat, my backpack, and went to leave, as my dad is extremely anal when it comes to departure times. To my dismay, I see my dad, a 6'0" 240 pound landbeast, lumbering over in my pain. He can barely lift his head to talk to me. "Michael...I had a back spasm while turning...the wheel. If I drive you...*wince* I could pull the wheel...and we could get into an accident...and I'd kill us both. ...I can't drive you." He promptly laid face down on the living room floor.
One would think I would be scared, running about, trying to help my father out. This oaf has pulled this three other times in my existance. Although working in the "rough and tumble" world of construction, he mostly sits in an office and deals with highlighting blueprints and doing the work that others don't, because they're too dumb, or unmotivated, or whatever excuse he wants to say. He's a martyr, and will sometimes go out of his way to do things on his own, even taking the job out of someone else's hands, just to say he did it on his own and to complain about how no one helped. He also helps around my Grandma's every Wednesday, doing odd jobs and lots of manual labor.
My dad, who I refer to as Kenjamin, has pulled out his back on three seperate ocassions before this. The first time, I was around 7 years old, and I thought he was going to die. The second time, I realized it was just what happened before, handling it well. The third time, I walked over his writhing body, got cereal, and stepped right over him. When he hit the floor the fourth time, I got my mom up who already knew the drill. She only panicked to find me a ride to the train station, when it was almost impossible to get to my 11:15 train unless he had a rocket booster in the trunk. Meekly, I imed Haley and said "we're having some troubles." She offered her mom, and after all the car services rejected her, my mom said "take it."
Just before Mrs. Brewer was to pick me up for my patchwork 1:30 train to Boston, I got a text from Haley detailing a little medical emergency of her own. Now, I can vividly see the Brewers and the Antons hanging out in the waiting room, sharing war stories, as I sat looking out the window like a puppy. Who would take me out? Luckily, she gutted through, and sat in the back with me. Why? Because we're a Unified Front, that's why.
I prepared to fight to the death to get my ticket changed. After the tongue lashing Maurice gave me for no real reason, I knew getting my ticket changed to a later train would be hell. I approached the Amtrak window, stuck my ticket in the indented peice of metal, and forcefully asked to change my ticket for the 1:30 train. The woman behind the bullet-proof glass partition kindly said, "of course, and I'll print you out a new ticket for that train. The only problem is that there is an eleven dollar charge because the fare is higher."
I got on the train without a problem. Something did strike me as strangely annoying, though. No one sat next to me on either train. Usually, these trains are packed, and I have to sit next to some middle aged mess who tries to flirt with me because she read the book I was reading or she went to a school near mine. It's awkward. I lucked out once with a girl who was in her mid-to-late twenties, who, upon nearing her NY Penn Station destination, began to hike up her calf-length skirt, and unzipper her boots. I have no idea what that means as a come on or what, but I took it as better than "I went to Northeastern! *blink blink*"
All in all, I learned that Amtrak's website sucks, going back home to your high school dance function ain't so bad (especially when you get 2 votes for Snowball Queen!), Percocets rock (thanks Kenjamin), and that I find having lots of space as a personal offense. Invaluable lessons, all.