Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Harrowing

After indulging in restaurant-quality dinner, I decided that to try and avoid jetlag I would attempt to sleep, even though it was only like 8pm at my house. The seat indeed turned into a bed, and I fit in it (I was worried I would be too long). I dozed, turned, dozed, etc. Did this for a few hours. At about 2am Utah time I gave up on sleeping. I was going to take a picture of my bed but the plane was dark and my camera was put up with my carry-on. They served us breakfast too and I had a bowl of fruit and an egg frittata with sausage. At 11am in London. That's 4am in Utah. Yipes.

The airport was teeny. Because I had been upgraded I was given a “Fast Track” for immigration. Cool. I gathered my bags and then swiped two extra travel bags Delta provided. Because who knows? They come with tissues, toothbrush, floss, socks, eye shadow, pen, shoe polish, shoe horn, ear plugs, hand lotion, lip balm, hand wipe, comb, and an eyemask. When we got out to immigration, I was extremely grateful for the pass because we got through before the regular line, which would have been like a 45minute wait. The guy that checked me into the country asked me questions about myself, and I had trouble understanding him. He was nice enough, but didn't like that I didn't have a copy of my Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies. Oops. I had my student ID on my loan forms, which I showed him. He took umbrage at the fact that the document, which was on UK issued letterhead said "program" instead "programme" and had a "z" in "subsidized." I told him he could send the form back, as long as I didn't have to go with it. As he moved on to personal questions he asked if I was already an Orpher. A what? I had to ask him to repeat himself 3 freaking time before I realized he was saying Author. It seriously sounded like he was asking me if I was already an orphan. His pronunciation was just surprising. After he was done stamping my passport and checking me in, he wished me luck figuring out the accents. :/ Sorry bout it.

When I got downstairs to baggage claim, I discovered that unlike America, their baggage carts are FREE NINETY-NINE. Score! Maybe all this stuff wasn't as bad an idea as I thought. Once I had my things, I wheeled my cart over to customs. I checked their board and didn't have dangerous weapons, drugs, or food so I didn't think I had anything to declare. So I went through the middle door with "nothing to declare." I got a look or two from some of the guards, but no one stopped me or said anything. I got downstairs and found a lift to take me to the Underground which I determined was what I needed to take in order to get a train up to Scotland. When I got down there I saw that there were gates all the way across, and the luggage cart had to stay here. Time to consolidate and tie things together. I got 2 of the bags situated and then wanted to tie down my pillow. I looked around. MY PILLOW?!?! I didn't have my bloody pillow. Cue swear words and freak out. My pillow is pretty much everything. I have trouble sleeping without it. And, oh yeah, inside my pillow is my baby blanket (what's left of it anyway after 31 years). The one thing I have had since the day I was born until now. There's probably no possession more important to me than that. Got all the way down and realized let my pillow. I threw my bags back on the cart and started running back upstairs. When I got back to the main level, there was a place called "Left Baggage." I explained what happened and could he call up there and see. He directed m down the hall, to the left, to a place called Terminal Control. I rushed off. Couldn't find the place. Ugh! I stopped an airport employee and asked her. She took me over to a phone for baggage inquiries. I dialed the number for Delta. The lady that answered told me I had to go upstairs to the Delta counter. Are we serious right now? This is like a wild goose chase. So I went and found another lift, went upstairs and found the Delta counter. They told me I had to go to check-in, this was booking. So I went to yet another place. The guy there didn't seem at all interested in what I had to say or the the desperate tone in my voice. He walked into the office to radio the plane and see if they had anything. He came back and told me that they had searched the whole plane and had found no left items. I... that's my pillow. And my baby blanket. I didn't know what else to do. I wanted to bust through security and go look for it, who cares if it gets me arrested and kicked out of the country... I went to sit down and try and breathe. And not cry. This was the beginning of an awesome new adventure and it doesn't matter that you feel like you just got kicked in the stomach. No crying. That's all I wanted to do. Cry. I couldn't believe I had forgotten my pillow on the plane!

I got ahold of myself and went and asked a different agent to check. Because it had to be there. She radioed back and they said they were busy and to cal back in 5 minutes. I waited, standing there awkwardly trying to hold myself together. Of all the things to derail me. I should've never taken my pillow out of the bag in salt lake. That's why I always put it in a bag, instead of carrying it with me! After 5 minutes were up, the agent remembered and radioed back. They said they were still busy. She responded that I'd already been waiting 20 minutes and could they just check. Answer came back that they had nothing. The plane was departing back to Atlanta. I didn't know what to do. I felt absolutely crushed. That blanket survived my childhood. Went on my mission. Went to college with me. Has been on every camping trip. Every Ultimate tournament. And now it was gone. I didn't even get to say goodbye. The agent told me I could go on and report that lost property. But what good was that? My pillow (and blankie) were gone. That rag was my security system in a new scary place and now it had been taken from me because I forgot it was there for 3 seconds. I numbly walked away and took the lift back down to the Underground.

I hoisted my bags over the guard rails and asked the ticket agent how to get to Glasgow. He told me to go to King's Cross station. The map reminded me of New York. And shortly after buying my ticket, I realized that's what this was. A major metropolitan rail system used by everyone. No big deal to navigate, except I have over 150 lbs of stuff with me (not to mention the 70+ in my backpack). This may be the most ill-conceived idea ever, ever, EVER. Just as I expected, it was AWFUL. There were stairs and escalators and not alot of lifts. Yes, the word elevators is out. I spent too much time in lifts to call them anything else now. Elevators are dead. Lifts. When I could find them, I used them. I used two sweatshirts and the shoulder straps from my suitcases to lash the 3 suitcases and duffel into 2 giant bags. That sort of worked, but the straps weren't tight enough to keep the duffel falling off. I had to stop frequently to fix and reposition. And everywhere I was in people's way. Everywhere. Plus there was a gap from the subway to platform. So I'm blocking the door, I'm struggling, I'm sweating, I'm lugging things up and down stairs, I'm having a miserable time. The escalators are big enough to fit two people across so there can be standing on one side and walking on the other. I'm grateful for the extra room because it means I can fit both bags without a fight, but I completely block the escalator. And when I got off at King's Cross the escalator was backed up already. I just wanted to give up and sit down and cry. I was exhausted, frustrated, and still had no blankie. Finally I just went for it, and blocked everyone. At the top I was so desperate to get out of the way that I almost bowled over an 80-year man I didn't see who had stumbled near the top and was in the way also. Add one more great thing to the worst idea in the history of mankind. At that point once I had half-dragged, half-kicked my stuff out of the way, I just sat down. This wasn't working. This was stupid. Why had I even come? I should have got the extra flight, no matter the charges for bags. I should've taxied from London-Heathrow to the train station. This wasn't worth £5. This wasn't worth £150! Once I got going again, I finally got to the station exit. I asked an attendant which way to a train to Glasgow. He told me I was at the wrong station. I needed to go to Euston. I almost cried again. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. I asked him in exasperation, "So, I have t go buy another ticket?" Luckily, because I hadn't exited yet that wasn't the case. He told me to turn around and go back down and just hop a train over to Euston. Easier said than done, mate. That meant I had to go back down there with all this stupid junk. I should have just abandoned the bags and said screw it. So I got back down eventually, and this time two people even helped carry one of my bags down a staircase and up into the train. But getting off at Euston proved easier said than done also. This was a major hub of transfers, so 10x more people. I was only in the way. And people looked at me like I was certifiably crazy. At this point, I was. Who travels on the subway with 200lbs of junk?! Inconceivable. Terrible, no-good, worst idea EVER. UGH. Finally I manage to get upstairs at the Euston station. I've just 2.5 hours naving the stupid subway with all these bags. I go to a desk and ask for a ticket to Glasgow. £129. Talk about expensive. Geez. I pay and then wait until my platform is announced. I have no pictures of any of this because I was lugging all this stuff and just wanted it to be over. The train station was probably cool but I could only think about why I had to walk so far with all these bags just to board the train. When I got on-board there was NO room for luggage. This was a commuter train, akin to the subway. At least there I could stow my stuff by the door. Here there was just seats and the aisle. Which I was blocking. Again. I had to detach all the ties and knots to get it out of the way. So while annoyed people stood there I had to work them apart (but of course I tied them as tight as I could so the bags would sort of stay together while I was traveling the god-forsaken subway system...), and it took forever. Eventually I just tossed the bags in a seat and sat down. I was taking up 4 seats, and had paid for 1. I was scared the whole time people were going to complain, demand I move, or sic the train staff/police on me. The only thing I could think was the conversation Ned Stark has with Arya in the capital city: "I do not mean to frighten you, but neither will I lie to you. We have come to a dark dangerous place, child. This is not Winterfell. We have enemies who mean us ill. We cannot fight a war among ourselves." - excerpt from Game of Thrones

I just sat there, completely defeated, trying not to make eye contact with any of the other passengers. I dozed a little bit as the journey was long (and fraught with danger :P) London was pretty flat. Farmland. So much green, and sheep, and cows. It was picturesque. The sun came out as we were traveling and made it better. I had no energy to take pictures. There were a number of nuclear or power plants. It would be completely quaint and old, and then this massive, and they were MASSIVE, factory just smack in the middle with giant, GIANT silos spilling out steam. Kind of shocking. Wish I'd gotten a picture of one. Alot of the landscape oddly reminded me of Toledo.

As the train went more people got on and off, and I became more worried that they were going to run out of seats. And I had 4. I eventually found a space between some seats and a lady told me she was getting off and taking a bag with her, so I could have the spot, and got my space-taking down to 2 seats. Didn't make me feel better. Scotland got very pretty. There were rolling hills, some mountains, forests, rivers. It was gorgeous in the setting sun. After the second-to-last stop, I put my suitcases back together into two, not even caring that I was now taking up 5 seats. No one else was getting on. I just sat there, staring out the window for the last hour leg. When we got to the Glasgow Central Station, 5 hours after leaving London, I was the very last one off the train. Because it took me 3 trips. I stumble-dragged my bags out onto the platform and geared up for another haul. I lugged them off the platform into the main station and found somewhere to sit.

I tried to log on and get wifi, but the station either had a bad connection or something was wrong with my laptop and I couldn't connect in Europe. Charming. I was going to ask an Ultimate player to put me up for the night, because that was the most cost-effective thing. Not able to connect and get ahold of anyone, I didn't know what other options were available. I took a gamble and got a cab out to my accommodation to see if they were still there and would let me sleep somewhere. Anywhere. I just needed a place for the night. And to leave all this stupid stuff. Cab cost me £5, but I needed somewhere to sleep. They were closed and there was a security guard there. He radioed the senior resident who was useless and said they had no space. I asked him where I could go. He tried to give me a map but after 10 minutes of being unable to tell me where we were currently I gave up and took the map and left. I started back up the giant hill outside the complex and had no arm strength left. I'd been lugging these bags around for HOURS. I couldn't do this anymore. I dropped my backpack and started pulling them one at a time. I was just too tired. Another cab pulled up and I left my bags and ran down the street to get him. What other recourse was there? I asked him to take me to a hotel/hostel. He told me there was a street chock full o'em not too far. So another £5 down the drain and I find myself in front of Argyll Hotel. A gent who's just returned from running helps me get my bags up the step and inside, asking if I've got my key already. I say no, and he says I have to go across the street, but that my bags will be fine inside. I thank him and head over with just my backpack. The receptionist tells me sorry they are full... Are you joking? This is absurd. I've spent the last who-knows-how-long traveling, lugging all these swear-word bags around and I can't find a place to sleep? I go next door. Booked. Across the street. Booked. I continue down the entire flaming street and without fail every single one of these places tells me they have no space and no openings. I sit on the steps outside and am utterly defeated. What the hell am I supposed to do? I couldn't have previously reserved accommodation because I wasn't guaranteed to get on those flights and even then I hadn't been able to make heads nor tails of the train schedules. I'd tried online and it hadn't made any sense. I had to be winging it. I went back to Argyll and asked the girl if I would get arrested if I slept in the park? Because that was the only option I could see. She was taken aback and I lost it. I had been strong all day, but I just had nothing left to give. I cried. I sank into a chair and just cried. I couldn't be strong anymore, it had all been beaten out of me. I had 200 lbs of stuff and nowhere to sleep because there was no room in the inn. The reception took pity on me and agreed to call some places to see what she could find. When she asked my price range, I responded curtly what did price matter if it kept me from getting arrested? I just needed somewhere to stay for the night.

On the 5th call or so, after I'd mostly dried my eyes, she found me a bed in a dormitory, but I'd have to share with 3 other people. Hostels at their best. I asked if they had a place to lock up my stuff. I had everything on me and didn't want to have to sleep with one eye open. They had lockers she said, and I said okay I would take it. She called me a cab and I went to get my stuff. As I lugged it down the steps into the street, the same guy showed up and was aghast that they didn't have anything around. I almost asked him to let me sleep on his floor. Then the cab showed and he wished me luck. Third cab ride of the evening. Sigh. Another £5 just gone. This place is far away and even at full-strength I couldn't have walked back in the morning with everything. It'd be another cab ride in the a.m. And when we got there, of course it was up 20 steps. I used what little strength I had left to lift the bags up to the top. I checked in and went to see the room. I opted to lock up my things anyway. The lockers were down a flight of stairs. The room was already cramped with suitcases. I needed 2 lockers to fit my 4 bags. At this point I didn't care and just locked them up. Didn't bother getting anything out, just threw them in and locked them up.

I wanted a shower and to sleep. All that lugging things around all day had really beat me up. I asked if she had a towel. They wanted a £5 deposit, £2 for use, and £2 for laundering after. I was so over everything. I declined and said I'd use one of my own, knowing full well they were all locked up. I went back to the room, introduced myself to the 2 other occupants currently there and went to take a shower. I had bruises on my fingers from pulling and lifting. I checked in the mirror and my shoulders were bruised too from the backpack. It reminded me of how I looked after riding roller coasters at Cedar Point for 3 days straight. I rubbed them, but the bruises and my fingers were still tender. I got in the shower and rinsed off since there was no soap or shampoo and then just used my tshirt as a towel. I hung it up to dry and crawled into my bed. The light was on and right by my face so I was even more grateful for the Delta eyemask. The pillow was as thick as 2 of my fingers. I would never be able to sleep on this. And the bottom sheet was a piece of plastic. I bunched up the comforter and used that as a pillow, and pulled the sheet over me, not caring that I was going to get stuck to the plastic underneath (I did). I was completely over this city and this day and having all that stuff. I just wanted to forget that any of this had happened. And I wanted my pillow back.


  1. My heart is breaking for you! I want to wrap my arms around you and sob my eyes out too! :(

    You were terribly brave and strong though. Truly.

  2. This reminds me of the time I moved across the country with a 3 year old and 4 checked luggage and 3 backpacks (as far as the getting around from place to place goes). But your experience was that time about 200. Sorry it was such a hard first day! May Glasgow look better in the morning!

  3. Hang in there! The best adventures often begin with a little trauma in the birth canal. Don't let it die aborning! Remind me to tell you about the morning I arrived in Paris to work for a year on my own between high school-college and the person who was supposed to meet my flight didn't. (1983, I was 18, alone, and it was long before cell phones.) #bestyearever