I’m not what you’d call a “Details Person.” Being a traveller, you’d think it’d be the opposite- that I’d be all documents folder this and estimated arrival time that. But it’s the absolute contrary. There are some things that you can only learn after being abandoned at a Vietnamese/Laoatian border control office after a goat has pooped in your mouth, and one of those things is that seldom does life on the road ever go to plan.
So I don’t really plan.
(Guess where this story is going.)
I was off work on Friday, so Friday morning I slept in, had a lazy Skype date over breakfast with South Africa, and pissed about the apartment moving shoes and mixing pancake batter and positioning myself in various positions around the flat, book in hand, intellectual gaze just so. You know- in case the film crew of my life were taping at that moment and I risked a double chin on the show reel of my existence.
As it got to about one in the afternoon I thought, hmmmm, I’m going to Milan in about twenty minutes. I should pack. When I went backpacking to India my boyfriend at the time said, ‘Okay, I think we’ll head off to the airport in about five, that cool?’ and I replied, ‘Sure. Let me just go see what I’m taking.’
To reiterate: NOT A DETAILS PERSON.
When I don’t have a lot of time I do things like spend seven minutes hunting out an Italian plug-adaptor for my hair straighteners, but not, for example, transferring the telephone numbers of the friend I’m meeting in Milan from my email to my phone, or checking to see if my friend has messaged the address of my final destination, as she’d promised to.
I did, however, make sure that I was wearing very nice knickers.
I was totally chill about this until, at the airport, with four minutes to go until the gate closed, I realised I was going to get off the plane and not know what to do next. I don’t have a smart phone with Internet, and Italy doesn’t generally have wifi in public, so with three minutes until departure I was crouched by the door to the plane, balancing my laptop on my knee, using airport Internet whilst I could to Skype the only number I had for my friend- an American cell phone number- and kind of freaking out when she didn’t pick up even though it was ringing out AND WHAT THE FUCK MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE PLANNED THIS BETTER.
Alma had mentioned the name of the metro stop in a Skype message last week, so I checked my chat history to at least get that. That would be a small victory. From there, I'd probably remember from last time where to go. But my Skype message history was gone- OF COURSE IT WAS- and the name of the metro stop I was to go to gone with it. Any small clue as to how to navigate my way across the city was totally unavailable.
By the time I landed in Milan and took the hour-long coach ride to the centre, I was shitting metaphorical bricks. Alma hadn’t called me, as my voicemails had requested, and Alma always fucking calls. Alma is responsible. If Alma tells you she’ll meet you at the bakery at two fifteen, the second coming of Christ could signal apocalypse now and Alma will still text at ten past the hour to let you know that she is early, and waiting with a brioche.
I did the only thing I could think of: text everyone at home who might give a shit, demanding they access my Facebook for me and report back as to what Alma had said.
Are you awake? I NEED HELP. Am stranded in Milan- can you log into my fb and see if Alma Rada has sent an address? Password is vagina xx
My password isn’t really vagina.
ANYWAY then I had a barrage of texts from friends WHO WEREN’T GIVING ME THE ANSWER I WAS LOOKING FOR because no, she hadn’t emailed. Also, I could hear their judgement. Dear my friends: thanks for loving me in spite of my fucktard-ness. Also number two: shut up.
I didn’t know what to do. At midnight, in the dark, and the cold, with tears stinging in my eyes, I literally just stood on a street corner for the longest thirty-three minutes of my life WILLING my phone to ring. Like, holding it in front of my face and saying over and over again DEAR UNIVERSE. I WILL LEARN HOW TO PLAN THINGS IN ADVANCE IF YOU GRANT ME JUST ONE PHONE CALL FROM ALMA TO TELL ME WHERE TO GO.
Her phone had died and, as she’d been in transit herself, she couldn’t charge it. I told her I thought she had died. She’d just arrived at the apartment herself, she said. The kettle was on, and she explained to me that mercury was still in retrograde- we’d been fighting a losing battle all along. It was always going to be like this. The planet of communication in reverse meant crossed wires were inevitable.
BECAUSE OF COURSE MERCURY IN RETROGRADE WAS THE REASON I HAD THE MOST STRESSFUL SIX HOURS OF MY LIFE.
Not my fault at all.
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