It’s the final day of my tenure in London. I changed my ticket to stay an extra four days because I can’t bear to leave. In reality it’s just a bit sad now that my friends are all gone and in retrospect I should have kept my original fare; I would have been able to hop on the same bus as everyone else that picked us up right outside our flats.
Four days later I’m on my own and I’ve accumulated… more stuff than I thought I had. Clothes mostly, and some ticket stubs and a dish towel with a Tube map that I still have somewhere. I bought one oversized duffel bag and it wasn’t big enough so I went back and the lovely Middle Eastern shop owner gave me an empathetic glance and no questions when he let me exchange it for an even bigger one.
Anyhow, now here I am, taking a cab to the nearest Tube stop, which should be walkable. But I have a huge black rolling suitcase, this duffel bag that could easily fit the bodies of two mortal enemies (maybe three if they’re doing a juice cleanse), and a hiking backpack that may tip me over like a cheap lawn Santa at any moment. So I’m taking a cab to my Tube stop.
I get dropped off on the sidewalk and the driver is a saint who helps me lift the (what I later learn is a 75 pound) duffel bag out of the car’s boot. About 90 seconds later the strap on the duffel breaks. Really my shoulder could have been the first to go so I guess I should be thankful this tale didn’t turn into a love story to the NHS.
Cursing the sky I draaaaag the duffel through the Tube station with one hand, trying to roll the suitcase with the other and reach for my train pass with… well, I must have stopped to search for it at some point. It’s not looking good, guys. It’s looking real bad for your girl.
The way to get to Heathrow Airport is via the Piccadilly Line, which is the track most deeply buried in the Earth. Reaching the platform requires something like a 5-story trip down an elevator and then three flights of stairs. It’s taken me about 6 minutes to get a few hundred feet with this luggage and the remnants of my dignity. Oh, and I’m beginning to sweat like a Fox News anchor during a basic civics test in my unforgiving felt peacoat.
I’m standing at the doors to the lift (the elevator, if you will) and I realize I’m in real trouble here. Like I really don’t know what my game plan is when those silver doors part and I have only a few seconds to get on.
Guys. Then they appeared.
I didn’t know teenage boy scouts were a thing. I guess I thought everyone tapped out in 4th grade. These ones were, I want to say, Portuguese and they wore matching shorts and buttoned up tops with neatly tied scarves and a troupe number stitched onto the chest pocket. They didn’t speak much English but it turns out desperation needs no translation. They flanked me and pointed to my bags. Their eyebrows went up and their arms pantomimed a lifting motion. I nodded.
They carried the duffel from hell and the suitcase into the elevator, and when the doors opened at the bottom floor they just kept carrying them. Dear reader, would you believe they carried them all the way down the stairs until we got to my platform?
I truly don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t arrived from on high and handle my luggage down that cement stairwell. The best I can guess I would have climbed aboard and straight up luged my way down, flight by flight, in a makeshift bobsled of nylon filled with Italian crop tops and shot glasses.
Then these sweet Portuguese boy scouts, quickly earning their “Help a Hapless American” badges one faster than the next, they waited for my train. I don’t think it took very long — but still. The doors opened and they put the bags in the car and then they were gone. This wasn’t even their platform.
Getting the bags off the train at the airport was another debacle and the businessman who aided was less enthusiastic… but the fact that I made it that far was some kind of miracle. The British Airways agent made me move some of the clothes out of the duffel and into the backpack because it was “too heavy for a human to carry.” If only she knew.
Anyway, all of this to say: I don’t know how the world works. But I know that sometimes if you get yourself into the stupidest kind of trouble and you silently pray “Oh, help me, help me,” the universe will send you about six young men in red silk neck scarves and tan scout tops to shoulder some of the burden.
I mean, it’s always worth a try.
Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash