I like to think of myself as a skilled and seasoned traveler... But then there are days like Monday.
So, I'm not carrying much to the States. I mean, for me. I'm not carrying much for myself to the States from Tanzania but I've got some gifts and some requested items and, oh yea, 2 months worth of school books for Heather. Those things are in The Monster Bag. And The Monster Bag is ok because it has wheels and a sturdy handle. The Monster Bag is ok in most situations.
But Monday was not one of those situations. The tricky thing about Monday was that I needed to catch a train to Guildford for meetings. Easy enough. That's why I'm here in the UK for 3 nights before getting to LA. So, the train... Anna, my long-time friend who goes beyond the call of years of friendship by repeatedly meeting me at Terminal 5 before dawn when I randomly fly in to London, dropped me at the station and mentioned that I might want to take the creaky elevator up since I had my little backpack, my little wheelie bag AND The Monster Bag with me.
I rolled up to the counter and confidently asked for a one way ticket to Guildford then confidently handed the nice man my card for the 6 pounds 20 pence ticket. No dice. His machine didn't like my card. I gave him my back-up card. No dice. His machine didn't take to that one either. Now, I knew that I had about 10 English pounds in my purse. I had carefully packed a five pound note and a handful of pound coins that were left from other trips. I knew they were there--but where?
The problem was that I had four currencies in my purse and, while I had tried to sort them into separate compartments, the creeping panic of standing at the ticket counter with rejected cards and no clear option if I couldn't find the right currency, conspired together to conceal what I needed to find. I tried to look very calm and together as I pulled out wads of Tanzanian shillings, Kenyan shillings, US dollars and clusters of receipts in each of the same. But that five pound note was nowhere to be found.
With a skillfully played air of nonchalance, I dug to the bottom of my bag and found English coins that just covered the price of the ticket. OK, yea,Ticket Guy did have to reject a few African coins from the mix, but I managed to finally get it all paid for. I think he was just so relieved that he didn't have to turn me away, but he did say, "Sorry! The lift is out of order, luv," when I inquired about the elevator.
Out of order. I looked to the first flight of steps to the landing, not even daring to take in the second set immediately beyond. I pulled in my core muscles, flimsy as they are, and began the shuttling of bags. I tried to look relaxed and not like I was gasping for air as I wheeled them through the elevated hallway to the descending stairs. I suffered the humiliation of Monster Bag getting caught behind me in the electric gate you have to clear before going down to the platform, but I handled it nicely.
The shuttling down to platform 4 was simple, just embarrassing. I mean, really, it IS embarrassing to look as if you're traveling with a heap-load of obviously non-essential personal stuff. I dream of looking suave with one slim little bag trailing behind me. (Do keep dreaming, dear.) I hoisted the bags onto the train and dropped heavily into my seat. The five pound note appeared immediately when I opened my purse just moments later.
Getting off at Guildford was hassle-free and I blessed the station for being all one level. But that was the last of level ground for me. I now had to hike to Ian's house and leave the bags in his guest room before our meetings began. Fortunately for me, I had a date with the lovely Andrea Percy and her youthful vigor came in very handy as we trudged up the rather steep hill to the Nicholson home. I'm telling you, leaving the weight of that Monster Bag behind me felt like forgiveness! I felt FREEEEEEEEEEEE as we walked away to catch up over some mid-morning tea.
Yes, I dream of being cool as a cucumber when I cross the globe, or the city, for that matter. But on Monday I was just as tired and hot and winded as every other pleb on the planet.
All I know is that these last 3 days of meetings and friendship have been worth every flustered and decidedly uncool moment along the way.