Posted by: Michelle | August 4, 2011

Word of the Day: Debacle

After a great weekend with no drama, I should have expected a visit from Murphy. I must admit that he is always lurking in the dark

Bye, bye Brussels!

recess of my mind. I felt a little uneasy when I got to thinking about my decision made upon my arrival in Brussels on Friday that I didn’t need to be at the train station at 4pm for my 4:49 train back to London on Sunday. Or do I? Always one to second guess any decision, I started thinking about my much heavier bag. Then the process of catching the train from Central to Midi, finding Eurostar, printing my ticket, going through passport control, security which inevitably lead to playing the ‘what if?’ game in my head [one of my all time favourites]. What if the train takes longer than I think it should to go between Central and Midi? What if the Eurostar is farther away from the Brussels train than I think? What if I can’t find the ticket machine? What if there is a long line? What if I get held up in immigration [Lord knows, it wouldn’t be the first time]? What if, what if, what if? My mind races and I suddenly find myself wanting to bolt earlier than I first planned. We had wandered back to the Blu Radisson earlier than anticipated and retrieved our luggage. After rearranging mine, I was restless playing the ‘what if’ game. Rachel was a trooper and indulged me by leaving a bit earlier and making sure I made the train to Midi.

As it turns out, I ended up with about 10 minutes to spare but that was okay. The train station wasn’t nearly as exciting as London’s anyway [meaning no good shopping]. There were less passengers this time and boarding the train was easy peasy and my carriage was practically empty [Score!] as the train pulled away at exactly 4:49pm.This time we had two stops in France – Lilles and Calais – and arrived exactly to the minute into St Pancras station. I was in dire need of caffeine so I promptly made my way to the Starbucks inside the station. Although my car was near empty, apparently this wasn’t the case with the rest of the train as I hit a wall of people disembarking. Old and young, big and small, all carrying luggage and in no particular hurry. Apparently, no one had any place to be except me. I still had an hour train ride to Milton Keynes. After my brief pit stop, I figured I would escape the massive crowds by going out a different door that lead to Midland Road. Or so I thought. Par the course, the road was blocked by construction and for use by those who were loading into taxis. There was no way for me to cross the busy road to the sidewalk on the other side. Another warning sign of impending doom yet I forged ahead, going against the flow trying to make my way to the hotel where I left my ‘big’ bag. By now, my ‘little’ bag was quite heavy (full of chocolates and other goodies) and as always my backpack weighed a ton. Once I arrived at the hotel to retrieve my other bag out I wanted to collapse. Somehow I put out of my mind how big and heavy it was and I was feeling pretty puny as cold symptoms were now in full force. Time to suck it up and walk the three blocks to Euston station to catch a train to Milton Keynes. Surely, I can make it three measly blocks. I made it about 10 feet before I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t carry my drink, push my big bag on four wheels and pull my smaller bag on two wheels. Genius that I am, I stopped and finished my coffee. After all, a girl has to have priorities.

After pulling, dragging, lifting, and swearing, I made it into the station.  After deciphering the train schedule on the giant reader board, I discovered there was a direct train to Milton Keynes leaving soon and a few other options that had 8 stops before reaching Milton Keynes. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo, which one do I want to be on? What the heck – I’ll choose the direct one [since it was 7 o’clock and I was fading fast]. Okay, Murphy. I see you decided to make an appearance; the queue to buy a ticket was long. Every person, and I literally mean, EVERY SINGLE PERSON had an issue or needed in-depth directions [and possibly the history behind the destination they chose as every conversation lagged on]. Tap, tap, tap went the foot as I patiently crawled towards the one SINGLE ticket window that was open with Aunt Bea manning the window. She not only had to provide the best customer service ever, she also had to make sure they bought the right ticket, knew exactly where they were going and if they had eaten their vegetables at supper time. But the best part was, when I finally got to the ticket window, I found out I was in the wrong line! By now the direct train was due to leave in 10 minutes [the train was leaving 10 minutes late, a reprieve for me]. Expecting the worst, I rounded the corner to find the right ticket line. Well wonders never cease as there was no line at the right queue. After a delightful chat with the ticket agent who wanted to know why I would on earth I want to go to Milton Keynes [had an eerily similar conversation with the customs agent in Belgium which could only mean I was in for a grand time], he advised that I had eight minutes. Suddenly feeling invigorated, I head off to platform 12 whilst keeping a watchful eye on the clock as I manoeuvred around prams, trolleys, children, and generally everyone going the opposite direction [seriously? Why am I always swimming upstream?]. With five minutes left, I jogged down the ramp to the platform [my two bags had a lot more momentum going downhill than I did]. The train was engine first in the station so I had to make my way down the platform to board. Wait, what? There is first class? Why wasn’t I offered first class? Did I not look like a first class kind of girl? Great, that is three more cars I have to get by. Four minutes and counting. Ah, steerage! Car is full, car is full, I’m starting to panic a bit, car is full, car is full. Shoot, three minutes left! Finally, a car that looks like there are some seats. I throw my small bag onto the train and it looks like it is moving. Nooo….. Can you imagine the train leaving with one bag on it? No wait, the automatic door would close so I’m good. At this point, I’m literally swooning as I attempt to get myself and my baggage aboard. My mind is wandering… Now why didn’t that guy offer me First Class? Then I would have had help with my bags. But no, I had to use what little oomph I had left to heave the 60 pound suitcase of crap onto the train. Okay, mind back to the current situation – get on that train! I managed to lift the case and step on. The door immediately shut behind me and the train slowly pulled away from Euston. My relief was quickly replaced with annoyance. Seriously, where do I stow my stuff? All I see is a toilet. I look into the car and realize that I don’t see any place to store my large, heavy bag but my small one would likely fit on the shelf over the seats. As I stand and try to figure out how to solve my conundrum people are trying to get around me. Fortunately, a kind man indicated I could leave my bag next to him (he was in a fold-down seat reserved for disabled people). I was extremely grateful and headed down the aisle with my smaller bag. Mid-carriage I discovered the baggage storage area where I could stow my smaller bag [thank God as I didn’t think I could lift it over my head] and collapsed into the one and only empty seat.

Finally, I can relax. Or can I? As I look around the crowded train, I start to think about how I would disembark once we arrived in Milton Keynes. Being in the center of the car, I imagined trying to get off quickly with two heavy bags and a backpack. So being the worry wart that I am, this is all I think about. The second the chime indicated our arrival into MK, I jumped up like my hair was on fire, grabbed my small bag and made my way to the end where I had to retrieve the beast wedged under the ledge of the seat. I managed to run over my own foot, twice in fact, and my smaller bag fell over with a loud thud. For the life of me, I could not get my bags in a position where I could manage both of them at the same time as the train was coming to a stop. When I grabbed my small bag upright for the second time, I literally fell over and knocked my big one down. Hello, candid camera! Seriously, I needed help just to get upright because of my heavy backpack wouldn’t allow me to stand. Someone assisted me to my feet [I didn’t know notice who as I was embarrassed but did manage to mumble a heartfelt ‘thanks’]. I was completely at my wits end when I tossed my small bag out the door, followed by my heavy one [which somehow felt a lot lighter, thanks in part to the small burst of anger]. The final straw was losing a shoe in the process of getting off the train. It was on the train. I reached up and snatched and that is when it hit me. No one else got off from my car so I didn’t need to rush at all. Glad I made an ass out of myself for no good reason. Thank you, Murphy. Needless to say I used a car service when it was time to return to Heathrow to catch my flight home.

Sunset over Milton Keynes

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