I’ve witnessed a great number of travails—losing luggage or passports, getting wallets stolen, having flights delayed and driving for hours in the middle of a snowy night midst the chaos of family and relationship drama, injuries and sicknesses and getting lost. I’ve experienced a couple of these myself, but more often, I’ve been in the position of trying to help a friend, rather than being in trouble myself.
My trip to London was perhaps one of the most troublesome and stressful ones. My friend and I not only almost missed our buses a couple of times, we didn’t have data on our phones—my friend’s phone wasn’t working, and I only had 50MB left for 4 days—and because of a miscommunication, we got separated and I ended up in a completely different section of the airport on the way back to Prague, and very nearly missed my flight as well. But the most stressful experience was something else.
That was the day we went to the Lorde concert. We had a lot of fun, but when we got out from the concert, it was pouring. We only had one umbrella between the two of us, so we squeezed under it, following the crowd of thousands of fans as they streamed out towards the parking lot and the bus stations. Somehow, we ended up at the bus stop one stop away from the venue. There were tons of fans gathered there, shivering in the rain, waiting for the bus to come.
But the road was congested with cars leaving the venue, and bus after bus went by without stopping, because they were already full from the previous stop.
We were hungry, cold, and drained from standing in the concert venue for hours, and we were debating simply giving up and walking back to the town center four stops away when a bus finally stopped in front of our bus stop. Overwhelmed with relief, we squeezed into the bus and got off at the town center, rushing into a McDonald’s to get something to eat. At this point, it was almost midnight, but the McDonald’s was still crowded with people that had also just come from the concert.
While waiting, I quickly grabbed my phone to use the WiFi there to check the route. At the time, the subway was still running, but we would have to catch the last one. I looked up. My friend was still in line. We wouldn’t catch it.
When my friend finally got her meal, we checked again, and the only option left was night buses that required a tons of transfers and would take two hours. So we decided to take an Uber. Everyone was talking about banning Uber in London at the time, but fortunately it was still working that day. My friend tried to hire a car, but her card wouldn’t work. My phone was dying, so I couldn’t use mine. We were really beginning to panic now, but fortunately her other card worked and we were able to hire an Uber. There was no way for the driver to call her, however, because her phone plan wasn’t working in London.
So we ran out into the rain to wait by the side of the street. At this point, we were too far from the McDonald’s to use its Wifi, so I had to turn on my data and let my friend use my hotspot. But the GPS of the car came to our area, and we couldn’t find it for the life of us. Then the driver canceled the trip.
Outraged, my friend called for an Uber again, and it ended up being the same one. Again, we waited as the car circled around, hoping my data wouldn’t run out and my phone wouldn’t die before it got here. Fortunately, we were able to find it this time, and we huddled into the car, blessed warm, finally able to eat our McDonald’s and forget about all the stress about phones and data and credit cards.
We finally reached our Airbnb around 1am in the morning, only to find our host’s bedroom door open, the lights on, with her stuff in a mess, as if she had left in the middle of packing and never come back. What was more concerning was an empty bottle of wine on the kitchen counter along with the pillow on the sofa that seemed to suggest she was trying to stay sober.
But we were leaving early the next morning, and she still wasn’t back by then (a friend even stopped by to check on her in the morning), so we never found out what happened. She did give us a review on the website a few days later, though, so hopefully all is well.