Thank god Henry had the foresight to actually research where we were going, because I sure as fuck didn’t. Once I bought the Riot Fest tickets, I was like, “YAY! WE’RE DONE! EVERYTHING IS PLANNED! WE’RE READY, LET’S GO!” Meanwhile, Henry was the one who was diligently looking at maps and finding hotels.
This is how he knew that there was no parking around Humboldt Park.
Still, nothing about this statement registered with me.
So Henry decided to re-word it in terms that I might understand: “We will probably have to take public transportation there from our hotel.”
Guys, I can barely take public transportation in my own city! I’m marginally OK with the trolley, but I have only taken the bus ONCE IN MY LIFE AND THAT WAS “FOR FUN” WHEN I WAS 18 AND IT WAS DECIDEDLY NOT FUN AND I HAD TO CALL MY MOM AT 2AM AND HAVE HER PICK ME UP ON THE SOUTHSIDE AFTER I DECIDED I DIDN’T LIKE THE GUY WHO I HAD LITERALLY JUST MET OVER THE PHONE WHEN I WAS A TELEMARKETER FOR OLAN MILLS AND I WENT TO HIS APARTMENT BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I DID WHEN I WAS 18 AND 19 AND 20 AND….Well, and so on.
Thankfully, the gates didn’t open until 2pm on that first day of Riot Fest, so Henry decided to take a trial run to Humboldt Park in our car. Our shitty Econo Lodge was about about 10 miles away, but the road we needed to take was Sketchville. It was all abandoned shops, check cashing places and liquor stores. And the buses we passed did not look fun to be on at all. And they were very slow.
So Henry was like, “Fuck it, we’re just going to use Uber,” and promptly turned around and drove back to the hotel.
This too gave me pause.
“Oh great. This is going to be so uncomfortable! You know those drivers are going to want to engage in small talk and I DON’T DO SMALL TALK!” I cried.
“So, you’d rather take the bus?” Henry asked.
“What? NO!” I cried.
And that is how we ended up using Uber all weekend.
As we stood outside the Econo Lodge waiting for our first Uber ride, another hotel guest was just checking in. Because I’m good at stereotyping, I knew immediately by his clothes and facial hair that he was also in town for Riot Fest.
“Are you guys waiting for a shuttle or something?” he asked us on his second trip back from unloading his car. (I held the door open for him on his first trip in, because sometimes I’m a sweetheart.)
“Yeah, we’re waiting for Uber,” Henry quickly answered, eager to talk about all things transportation with a complete stranger.
“Are you here for Riot Fest, too?” he asked, and I blurted out an excited, “YES!!!”
We introduced ourselves and learned that his name is Mikey and he drove in from Iowa just for the first day of Riot Fest. “I’m here mostly to see Circa Survive,” he said. “They’re my favorite band.”
“THEY’RE IN MY TOP 5!!” I cried, and Henry was like “FML.” Then we learned that Mikey used to live in Pittsburgh!!! After a few minutes, we parted ways and Henry said, “See? You were doing fine having a conversation with a stranger.”
“Um, yeah. Because he’s one of my people,” I scoffed. If I could talk to everyone about music, maybe they would see that I’m not actually some uninteresting, socially awkward idiot. Sigh.
Finally, after watching our Uber chauffeur Marilyn drive around aimlessly via the Uber app, she rolled up to the Econo Lodge and we began a really uncomfortable commute to Humboldt Park.
I knew as soon as we shut the doors that Marilyn was going to be a talker. She was middle-aged and nice enough, but I didn’t want to talk! I just wanted to sit quietly and breathe deeply. But after Marilyn asked us how we were doing while plying us with mints and bottled water, I made the mistake of reciprocating the inquiry.
“I’m fine,” she said, with moderate enthusiasm. But then, “No, not really. I just buried my husband last week.” I made contact with her eyes in the rear view mirror and saw that they had begun to well. FUCK.
Henry and I both bumbled over awkward, obligatory sympathies in tandem and I shot him an angry look. This is why I hate small talk! Because of people trying to “connect” with each other. Ugh, just ugh forever. So then we drove a few blocks in strained silence, before I made some canned comment about the cold weather.
“Oh I know!” Marilyn cried. “Although, I’m kind of glad for the chance to turn off the AC. I had to crank it last week because it was so hot,” she added, and while she could have easily stopped there, she went on to add, “and I had so many people in my house on account of my husband dying.”
And then dumbass Henry started asking her questions about being an Uber driver and she started off really enthusiastic, stating that since she can make her own schedule, it gives her time to spend with her grandkids. Again, not knowing when to stop talking, she went on to say, “I used to work for GM for 22 years, but then they laid me off. So…I have to do something to pay the bills, you know?”
And then she went on to explain IN GREAT DETAIL the whole sordid tale.
By the time we arrived at Humboldt Park, I had a headache and felt absolutely exhausted. The whole process of “human connection” is so goddamn draining.
We used a Riot Fest coupon code to get a free ride, but Marilyn had conveniently cancelled our order by “accident” as soon as we got in the car, and Henry was so concerned that she wasn’t going to get paid that he gave her money before we got out of the car and I was like, SHE WAS SUCH A HUSTLER, HENRY! God, maybe if he spent more time on the streets like I do, he would know this.
I will say that I liked that she offered us complimentary waters and peppermints. NICE TOUCH, MARILYN.
Quiet Foreign Guy
On the way home that night, we lucked out with a quiet Asian man who played the Mexican radio station for us and took us back to the hotel via the highway and not a road with 963984792847 stop lights. Thank you, Quiet Foreign Guy.
“Oh, she’s going to be a talker,” Henry laughed, showing me Patricia’s user picture on the Uber app after our order was picked up by her the morning of the second day.
“Goddammit,” I mumbled, tired already.
Patricia turned out to be a talker, but at least there was moderate compatibility.
“I’m going to Humboldt Park, too!” she said enthusiastically, and I cried, “OMG REALLY? FOR RIOT FEST?!”
She said no and explained that she was planning on staying in that area because she knew a lot of people were going to be using Uber.
“Oh,” I said, trying to muffle my disappointment.
“I might be going tomorrow, though! If my friends give me their extra ticket.” And then she told us that she really want to have gone the night before to see Rise Against, so I was like, “OK, she’s alright.” Until she mentioned that Weezer was the main reason she wanted to go the next day.
Then she asked us lots of questions about Pittsburgh and told us things about Chicago that only Henry would care about (like, things about road work), but the one good thing about Patricia is that she turned off a different road as we got closer to Humboldt Park and while she explained that we were in the Hungarian/Polish section and made my stomach growl with her talk of all the restaurants we should try, Henry noted a RIOT FEST PARKING sign and saw that it essentially would cost us the same amount as one Uber trip and I praised the lord that Sunday would be free of Uber.
Anyhow, Patricia wasn’t too bad. I mean, I didn’t friend request her, but she was alright.
Shady Kid Who Probably Wasn’t an Uber Driver
Saturday night, we were roaming around the outskirts of the park, trying to find our Uber driver. That’s the fucked up thing about Uber: they tell you the make of the car that’s coming to get you, but the driver doesn’t have any details other than a location. It’s a perfect recipe for missed connections. Every time we would get a driver through the app, they would cancel our order and it was so frustrating. I was so cold and my feet hurt so bad and Henry was being soooo annoying. Eventually, some car stopped in the middle of the road and rolled down the passenger-side window. He asked us where we were going and was like, “Cool, get in!” Of course, Henry got in on the sidewalk side and made me go out into the road where I was almost sniped by a dozen speeding cars. Sure Henry, having half of body ripped off will definitely make me skinnier, but it ain’t gon’ look pretty. Asshole.
Shady Kid told us that he was actually looking for a different customer/passenger/order, and had been driving around the block for awhile, so he decided to just cancel them and service us instead. (Not the good kind of service, unfortunately.) So Henry was all, “OK great, should I just re-request a ride then?” Shady Kid quickly said, “No! Because you know, what are the odds that you’ll actually get me as your driver…” So this was the second ride that we took that Uber had no record of, which was fucking fantastic because we were supposed to use another coupon code for a free ride. So now, we were going to have to pay this guy directly because Henry is an idiot and needs to join a gang ASAP so he can learn about the real world and know when he’s getting screwed. (This is the same man who thinks that our landlord is a nice guy. He is not a nice guy. He’s basically a slum lord.)
Meanwhile, Shady Kid had the windows rolled down, Top 40 playing just slightly too loud, and was careening down the streets of whatever scary scary town that sprawled in shambles between Humboldt Park and our shitty hotel. I naively mistook this place for a boarded-up ghost town in daylight when clearly it was hotbed of after-hours activity. This town was poppin’ off with miscreants and unsavories. It was fantastic when Shady Kid decided that all of the cars in the city-recognized streets were going too slow and CREATED HIS OWN ROAD OUT OF THE PARKING LANE. I kept looking at Henry with saucer-eyes that screamed WE ARE GOING TO DIE BECAUSE OF YOU. But Henry just sat there, calmly scrolling through Pinterest on his phone.
Shady Kid almost went through a red light, and by doing so, he came close to taking out a horde of townies en route to the most jumpin’ liquor store I’ve ever seen, so every last occupant of the car got screamed at and threatened. THANK YOU, SHADY KID.
“Well, looks like we’re here,” he eventually said, and was going to dispose of us on some random street corner that was nowhere near our hotel. Then he acted put out when he realized our hotel was farther away than he originally thought. God, fuck you.
Surprisingly, we made it back unscathed and then Shady Kid conveniently didn’t have change, so stupid Henry, who was over it by this point and just wanted out of the car, overpaid him. If you ask me, we shouldn’t have paid him at all! I’m glad I got mud all over his car, that’s for sure.
I tweeted about the reckless driving when we were still in the car, because I was afraid we were going to die and I figured that was the most efficient way to leave the truth out there. The next day, UberPittsburgh replied to me and expressed their concern and wanted to know his name so that they could “take care of it.” I wish I had his name. The whole thing was shadier than the time a taxi driver propositioned me in Australia.
Uber really took us for a ride, that’s for sure.