There was a time at the start of the 1970s when I was among the nation’s youngest and most-unqualified sports editors at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. There was a boss, an executive sports editor, a hearty and well-met fellow who also wasn’t much to write home about as an administrator.
One of the old Irishman working for the afternoon Dispatch was overheard by a friend to suggest that the Reusse kid seemed to be a “live and let live kind of a guy.’’
How right he was. All these decades later, I’m still a sweetheart, and yet have a quality of self-awareness that allows me to detect a few minor flaws.
One of those would be impatience. For instance: If we’re driving along and you’re in front of me, and there’s a chance for both of us to make a green/yellow light, and you slow down to make sure that doesn’t happen …
Well, I’m not the kind of guy to make obscene signals, for that could lead to violence, but I will let out a string of invectives inside my vehicle cursing you and all your relatives, living or dead.
This is particularly true when visiting Florida during baseball’s version of spring, where drivers EVEN older than me consistently will slow down to make sure they miss the light, rather than vice versa.
Anyway, patience … not one of my many strong points.
Which has me wondering why this took place last week:
The Star Tribune wanted a couple of columns on the atmosphere surrounding the Twins’ first visit to Wrigley Field in nine years. Mrs. Reusse agreed to join me on the trip to Chicago.
And on Tuesday night, out of nowhere, I had the idea of taking the train from St. Paul to Chicago on Thursday. The bride’s enthusiasm was minimal, but she said, “OK, if that’s what you want to do.’’
I checked on Wednesday, there was availability and I went ahead and purchased a pair of round-trip tickets. What I should have done instead on Wednesday was to schedule an emergency brain scan.
You know how people are always saying, ‘"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,’’ as if they have come with something new?
I have a definition that just might be new: “The definition of insanity is the impatient man who decides to take the train from St. Paul to Chicago when he could get there in under an hour for a similar amount of money on a commercial jet-powered airplane.’’
What happened was that impulsiveness defeated impatience in my aging brain. As I pointed on Twitter during Thursday’s ordeal, I arrived at the St. Paul Union Depot thinking the train scene in “North by Northwest’’ and wound up with the train scene from “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.’’
There’s a whole Twitter community out there. Before hitting purchase on the Amtrak site, why didn’t I send out a message: “Anybody ever take the train from St. Paul to Chicago? I’m thinking about it.’’
Pat Fischer could have alerted me to his family ordeal on a passenger train. Jan Unstad could have told me of the friend who was 27 hours late getting to Portland. And @msp_traffic could have told me, “The only way to survive is to drink, and you don’t drink, so you’ll hate it,’’ as he did when I told him about this trek at work on Wednesday.
It was too late with all the warnings, of course, because the tickets had been purchased.
We arrived more than an hour early at the depot for the 8 a.m. departure. We were soon informed the train now was scheduled to arrive at 8:35 a.m.
I wandered the terminal for a while. There was a lonely fellow running a shoe stand. My shoes were in need of a tuneup.
“Train late,’’ he asked.
“Yes,’’ I said.
“It’s late every day,’’ he said.
“Every day?’’ I said.
“Every day,’’ he said.
You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you’ve talked your wife into going to a new restaurant, or to a movie not in her wheelhouse, and you can tell right away it’s going to be a disaster?
You know what’s worse? Having talked your wife into taking an 8-hour train ride to Chicago, and knowing it’s going to be a disaster and the train isn’t even within 100 miles of the station as of yet.
I could go on. The 8 a.m. train left at 10 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, my wife put down her Kindle for a moment and asked, “It’s a train. There’s a track. Why does it move so slowly?’’
There’s also 10 minutes of river scenery followed by hours of brush and the delipidated areas of towns. They don’t put train tracks in the nice parts of towns. I should have remembered that.
It had to be 3:30, maybe 4 o’clock, when the Amtrak train with 121 passengers – dang near all Twins fans – stopped in the middle of nowhere. The previous town had been Oconomowoc, but we were now in brush.
There could have been a family of Walking Dead out there and we couldn’t have seen them.
There was an announcement that we were stopped to allow a freight train to pass. They didn’t have the courage to announce how long this stoppage was going to take.
Forty minutes. In the middle of nowhere. Plenty of time for a few Walking Dead to break in and slaughter all of us.
After about the half-hour mark, I decided to lighten the mood and said to my wife: “We’ve done a fair amount of traveling, Sweetie. What’s the worst trip we’ve ever had?’’
She put the Kindle on her lap, stared a dagger and said: “This is it.’’
Right then, I knew we were flying home Sunday.
Which we did. The American Airlines flight was detected to have a bad tire right before we were scheduled to board. It took 20 minutes to change, we were off a half-hour late and on the ground at MSP within an hour.
(Note: We did have to take a cab to downtown St. Paul to pick up the car that was parked at the depot.)
Twenty minutes to wait for a tire change on an airplane; 40 minutes to wait for a freight train to pass … so much nothingness that you start thinking if there are daytime zombies.
It might not be a philosophy worthy of Confucius, but I can guarantee these as words to live by:
Impatient Man Does Not Take Train.