Monday, May 31, 2010

in chilly subdepth railways the weathered concrete stairways provide me with a means of getting home - if i ever leave

[My photos wouldn't all update before, so here's the picture of the Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear porridge. I'd already put brown sugar in mine before I remembered that I wanted a picture.]

Despite having missed things from home the night before, when I woke up on Sunday morning I was really sad that I was leaving.

I got up and got ready and we went to church. Jack had told me that Clive (the pastor) wanted me to say something in front of the church since it was my last day, so I made a list of the things I had thought of and hoped that I could make sense when I was actually up there.

Well, it went fine, and I didn’t forget what I wanted to say. Jan and Jack said afterwards that it was very good, so that was a relief.

We left fairly quickly after church, and there was just enough time to gather up my stuff and put it in the car and leave for the bus station.

Goodbye, bed. (This was only my bed for the last week, after Eleanor took her queen size bed, which I had been sleeping in, to her apartment.)

Goodbye, keys I always use.

Jan dropped us off close to the bus station and then parked the car and came back and found Jack and I. We waited in line to get on the bus for a long time, but finally it came, and then Jack put my luggage in the back of the bus. And I said goodbye to them, and I got on the bus. There were no window seats open, so I sat by a late-highschool age boy with glasses who looked friendly.

I got all my things I was still carrying stowed up above the seat and sat down. At first we didn’t talk, but after we got going we started chatting. It turned out that he was studying American politics, so he had lots of questions for me. We talked about our nations’ perceptions of each other, and the differences in words and customs. The time went by pretty quickly, and I gathered up my things and went on a search for the loo and the left luggage place. I found both without too much trouble – although the fact that there were a series of single-stall toilets and then a bunch of sinks, which both men and women shared, was kind of weird.

I had to leave my luggage and then go back to find a cash machine and then go pay, because the luggage place only took cash.

After that, since it was about five o’clock, and the concert doors opened at seven, I walked to the bus station and figured out which bus I needed to take to Shepherd’s Bush for the concert.

When I got there, I had to walk a little ways to find the place where the concert was because I went the wrong way and had to ask for directions. There was no mistaking it once I found it, though, since there was a long line and big letters that said, “OWL CITY” on the building.

I got in line, and felt silly because I was carrying a plastic bag with my food in it. But I found friends – a girl with pink hair and her boyfriend, in front of me, and a twelve-year-old girl with her mom behind me. We all five talked together and had a lovely time – until an employee of the concert place came to tell us that this line was only for people who were standing and the seats line was on the other side. So the girl and her mom and me left the pink hair girl (who, incidentally, reminded me very much of Carol) and her boyfriend and went over to the other side.

Then we waited for another long time, and I worried because the luggage place was going to close at 10:45 and that meant I’d probably have to leave the concert early. I realized that I could take the tube, though, instead of the bus, and that would save me some time.

After what seemed like a very long time, we finally were let into the building. Fortunately, the merch table was already open, so I could buy a t-shirt and not have to worry about missing out because of leaving early. I also asked the man at the door when the concert would get over, and he said about 10:30. Rats. I’d definitely have to leave early.

I found a good seat – my ticket was for the lower balcony – that was close to the front and on an aisle so I could leave quickly when I needed to. I chatted with a couple of guys behind me, and asked them about the time to get back to Victoria. They reckoned 20-30 minutes at this time of night, so I decided I should leave at 10:10.

The first act was a rather geeky young man with a guitar, singing all by himself. The music was rather nice but hard to get into.

The second act was a band called A Fair Frenzy, and I liked them. The lead singer was a red-haired girl who reminded me of Leah Hoffman (the girl who played Puck and Anne, if you saw any CU shows this year), and not just because of her red hair. It was also her spunky attitude and the way she moved. I liked their music a lot but I wished that I could hear more of the words.

After that it was finally time for Owl City. It was so wonderful. During ‘on the wing’ I felt like I was really up in the stars because of being on the balcony. And he did some new songs that I really liked, as far as I could understand the words. (Even with owl city, it’s hard to hear the words if you don’t know them already.)

Happily, I got to hear all of my favorite songs as I had to leave. 10:10 came in the middle of Vanilla Twilight, and I tore myself away and made a dash for the tube station.

Running down a two-story escalator is really fun. It’s like a combination of feeling like you’re flying and feeling like you’re plunging to your death. I had already figured out which lines to take, and everything was going swimmingly until I got off to transfer to a different tube line.

I ran up an escalator, right behind two guys who were also running up. We all got to the top, ran toward the hall where the Circle line was – and simultaneously stopped short with looks of horror upon seeing that the line was closed.

“How do we get to Paddington?” the other guys demanded desperately of the tube worker who stood nearby. He gave them directions to a different line, and they took off.

“My turn,” I said. “How do I get to Victoria?”

“Take the Central line to Oxford Circus and then take the Victoria line.”

“Okay.” And I ran down the two-story escalator and had to wait to get back on the line I had just been on.

By the time I had gotten to Oxford Circus, gotten on the Victoria line tube, and gotten off it, the clock above the line said 22:49. Oh help. I ran the three blocks between the tube station and the coach station like a maniac. Why oh why had I left my luggage at the coach station when I would be leaving from the rail station anyway? I could only run as fast as I could – choking on cigarette smoke all the way – and hope that the person working at the left luggage would still be there.

I dashed into the station and to the left luggage – no, no! I could see the closed gate! – but no, it was only closed half-way, and there was light coming out from under it! I dove underneath and popped my head up above the counter. The man working there looked at me with mild surprise.

“I – need – my – luggage,” I gasped out.

“Do you see it?” he asked.

“Yes – it’s – right – there,” I said, pointing.

“You do know we close at this time,” he said, pointing to the sign that said they closed at 22:45.

“Yes! – why – do you think – I nearly – killed myself – running?”

He just gave me my luggage after that, and I thanked him very much, and went out. And then had to walk all the way back to the rail station, where I could get the train to Gatwick airport.

Victoria Rail Station was ridiculously crowded with people walking in all directions very quickly, which seems to be usual for it. You can’t stand still unless you stand against something stationary or you’ll get run over.

I was going to buy a ticket at the computer kiosk, but I wasn’t certain which train I was supposed to be getting, so I went to the normal ticket counter instead.

The man there said that there were two different trains to Gatwick, the express and the normal one. The normal one took 20 minutes longer and was about £7 cheaper, so I decided to take that one since there was one leaving in ten minutes. So I got my ticket and walked quickly – well, as quickly as I could with all my luggage – to the platform.

The train doors hadn’t opened yet, so I waited in line with the others until they finally did. There weren’t any window seats left, so I sat next to a young man who had that modern-day hippie look. I had no energy to make conversation, and he didn’t say anything, except “excuse me, this is my stop” when he had to get off. And then I sat in the seat by myself. And was greatly entertained by two English men having a spirited argument about cricket.

When we arrived at the airport, I followed a lot of signs and arrows and went down a long ramp and finally arrived, at what felt like a very late hour, at the stop for the hotel shuttle. And waited in the dim depths of the bottom of a parking garage for it to come. Fortunately, it came after about fifteen minutes. A man who was also getting on helped me load my suitcase, and I crashed into a seat.

It wasn’t a very long ride to the hotel, which was good because I might have fallen asleep.

The hotel was quite posh. I checked in and went up the elevator to my room, and with great relief set down my stuff. It was past midnight, and I was hungry. I looked at the room service menu. Eeesh. Too expensive. So I went on a quest for a vending machine. It said that there was a soda machine on the second floor, so I went there in hopes of finding a snack machine as well. When I was waiting for the elevator I heard a voice that made me jump – but it was just the elevator saying “doors opening” before the doors opened.

There was no snack machine with the soda machine, so I went down to the lobby and walked up to where a middle-aged grey haired man was at a window. When I got up to the window I realized that the sign said something about rental cars and things like that, but I decided to ask him anyway.

“Hello. Do you know whether there’s a snack machine somewhere in this building?” He said that there wasn’t, but there was a gas station right across the street.

Walking to a gas station alone, past midnight, just didn’t seem like the best idea to me…

Then he asked me what I wanted. I told him a snicker’s or milky way or something. I needed something with some nutritional value, but that was easy to describe…

“What if they don’t have snickers or milky way? Then what do you want?”

“Anything with nuts in it.”

“Okay.” And I gave him £1.50, and he vanished, and reappeared a short time later – I think he must have gone to the gas station! – with a candy bar and my change.

“Here, they didn’t have snickers or milky way – is this all right?” I took it and examined it – it was a “Picnic” candy bar – chocolate with raisins and peanuts!

“It’s perfect,” I said happily. “Thank you so much!” We bid each other good night, and I went back up the lift – reminding myself not to be scared silly by it talking – to my room.

I ate my candy bar, took a shower, and went to bed, setting my phone alarm for 5:30am the next morning. I planned to catch the 6:05 (or 6:25 if I missed that) shuttle to the airport. My flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00.


Shan said...

I seriously can't wait to read about your adventures on the way home. LOL

Sounds like the concert was fun and I am really glad that you got to go meet Jan and Jack. :)