Sunday, 15 April 2012

Stranded



There I was. Stranded at Luton Airport. North and not even London. Doing what I do best. Sitting down with my laptop, drinking a massive franchise coffee, from the well known but unmentionable American coffee shop waiting for something to happen.

Yes. I was stranded.

I paid 40 quid of taxi. Slept for just 3 hours and I was missing my conference. I was not even dress to go on holiday. I was extremely grumpy.

I should had probably checked the flights status at home, but I wouldn´t had made any difference at all. Who would imagine Berlin would go on strike on a Tuesday?  Well, it happened indeed.

Even though this airport was well awake, 05:01 means maybe a couple of hours of sleep for the rest of the country, and at least another 4 to be fully functional and capable of receiving calls. 05:05 and just had a coffee, but the rest of the travellers had already started to enjoy their smelly breakfasts.
05:30 I decided to seat there and go mental while the world wakes up and somebody steals my belonging while I have a nap in about one hour time.

It is funny me, eternally complaining about disruptions and cancellation on the London Underground, but I always end up making it to my destination. No matter how much I hate Northern Line, but I know that it is always there, waiting for me when Victoria, Bakerloo and Jubilee go wrong at the same time. Because s*** happens, and it has happened before. However, there was not Northern Easy Jet line. I just couldn't reach my destination and there was not much I could do about it.

I could not really run away and treat myself with some random quirky street around the City. I was in the middle of nowhere, with my suitcase, two books and two business cards holders that most did not put into use that day.

06:14 and I was surprisingly keeping my cool. I was absolutely knackered, and tiredness had an unusual effect on me. It boosted my sociability. Out of the blue. Good. My newfound chattiness had earnt me a barista friend at Starbucks (yes, second coffee already) and 20% discount in my order. Looks like I can be good at networking after all, but it is a shame I was not practicing it in Berlin.

It took me 3 rounds around the airport to decide about my breakfast. Unavoidably overpriced, I decided to go for a recommended skinny blueberry muffin’ after a negative answer at Costa to my request of scones. I really fancied a scone.

8:01 after a couple of hours of update emails and thousands of thousands of photo editing after, it was time to call the customer services. Very calmly, I informed the telephone operator of the current situation. Looked like all flights to Schoenefeld had been cancelled for that day even though the strike was held just until 12 am. Well, no chance to make it to the conference. Rescheduled for the next morning, same hour, and I realised at that same second: I was in the middle of nowhere, and coming back to London and returning net day would have ended up costing me around 80 more pounds and again less than 3 hours of sleep. Claim! I did it. Got accommodated in Luton town centre and taxis from and to the airport are also agreed.

Sweet. Managed it.

9:34 Made it to the hotel. Advised by the Pakistani taxi driver, I went for a walk around the town centre, The Mall, while the room was being prepared. Luton hotel was fully booked and although I had been awaken for the last 6 hours, the town was still just opening its doors.

The day certainly gifted me with the perfect weather for going for a walk around but unfortunately the location is not helping much. All of a sudden a very strange feeling of homesickness invades me. Suddenly my daily criticized neighborhood back in London doesn’t seem that bad. My hotel telephone and kettle looks like a trip back in time and I can tell there is something wrong. 


On my first walk around the town centre, hunger was knocking on the door, so I decided to go breakfast hunting. A task quite normal and easy to complete in London with a whole rainbow of possibilities got suddenly reduced to bad, worse and non-existant solutions. I just wanted a nice cuppa, probably some poached eggs on toast and the day newspaper. However, all I could find was pretty nasty and greasy 'sausage' vans, dodgy dodgy pubs and not even the local Wetherspoons seemed like a fairly decent option.


A glimpse of hope illuminated me after sighting what it looked like a typical english coffee shop. In the lapse of probably 10 seconds of quick scanning of the situation it is when it hit me. That wasn't either the place for me. A coffee shop in the middle of the covered marked was a very cliché granny place. Indeed, all the customers where couples of lovely grand-nans and grand-pas having their breakfast, and again, it looked to me like carefully studied supporting characters on a very weird movie.


I ran away.


Full of disappointment, I resigned myself to manage the situation acquiring some cold and soul-less sandwich from M&S. And still no decent cup of tea or coffee.


On this peculiar hunt for a decent coffee shop, again, I deeply missed my not-so-nice neighbourhood. No matter how miserable the day could be, I know I could always go to X place round the corner and get myself prepared for the day. But not in this town. This was different, and I was clearly the strange there. Like in a movie, and probably due to my exhaustion, the characters of my film, walking down the street looked grotesque, live-less and dangerous. The worse thing is that considering my fairly amount of experience in different countries, cities and cultures, this place definitely looked one of a kind. And I felt kind of scared.


I decided to go back to my hotel room.


The room was ridiculously small, but the views were great. It certainly felt like being imprison in those hunted castle chamber, at the top of the tower (and considering my current imagination, I probably imagined that the princess was waiting for me downstairs, waiting for me to wave from the window and ready to save me, but unfortunately it got killed by some street gang that was hanging out around the area). After my sad sandwich, I laid dead on the bed, forgetting about all dragons, castles, dodgy sausage vans and the coffee. And the world stopped for two hours.


I woke up disoriented and sort of disappointed to still being there, but my not very favourable awareness of the city had faded away. I made myself decent and hit the streets again to give it a second opportunity and look more carefully.


This time I made it. I found it.


Coffee shop with Wifi.


And there is were it wrote IT. 


But that's another story. 

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