Wednesday, April 14, 2010

L for Lost in London

It was my last day in London, and the only day I had free to do a little bit of sightseeing. Not that I hadn’t managed to soak in the atmosphere of the place – when you travelled as much as I did on business, you learnt the art of waking up early and taking walks around the neighbourhood. But there was still so much I wanted to “see” and experience; I virtually wanted to cram a lifetime of books into a single day.
In my hurry to be out and about, I transfer the notebook where I had written down the address of the place I was staying from my bag to my rucksack. I realised my mistake before I had gone too far, but didn’t want to waste precious time going back to fetch it. After all, how hard could it be to get back? All I had to do was to retrace the route from the Underground station. I looked around for landmarks- there didn’t seem to be too many of them, but wasn’t one grey stone church at the corner where the lane intersected the main Finchley Road enough to find my way back? I made a mental note of the nearest underground station before hopping onto a bus that would take me to Baker Street.
Nine hours later, the one thing I did not want to do was head back. My head was full of dizzying experiences – Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, coffee at St. Pauls’, 10 Downing Street, 222-B Baker Street, Abbey Road, Picadelly Circus, Buckingham Palace. PG Wodehouse, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and assorted other favourites were creating kaleidoscopic patterns in my brain. But it was getting dark, and a light drizzle had started so, very reluctantly, I took the train to Finchley Road.
I always prided myself on my sense of direction, and had no reason to doubt that I had taken the right exit to get out of the station. I crossed the road and started walking in the direction where I knew the church should be. But the church wasn’t where I thought it should be. Maybe I had misjudged the distance – not something I would normally do, but things do look different in the dark than in bright sunlight. I kept walking. Double the distance, but still not church. Triple the distance, and still no church.
I knew I was lost. Perhaps I should ask someone for directions? But there didn’t seem to be anyone about. I thought back and realised that I hadn’t seen a single person ever since I realised I was lost. To a person from India, it was inexplicable that you could be in the middle of a capital city and not see a single soul, but that was the way it was.
The drizzle turned into rain. I got soaked to the skin (who in their right minds carries an umbrella with them in November?). I started shivering. I nearly started crying. My adventure was fast turning into a nightmare. I knew nobody in the city (I had moved into the empty house of a colleague for one night only because I didn’t have hotel reservation for the last day), it was a Sunday so I couldn’t try the Indian Embassy, and I had a flight to catch in less than 10 hours. I could hail a cab- if London cabs were as good as they were supposed to be, they should be able to find the place even without an address- but there were none to be seen. I could see myself wandering around the city forever, not being able to get back to the life I had left behind. While London was definitely the city I would most have loved moving to, I didn’t particularly want to spend a lifetime wandering on the streets of the city, looking for an address I couldn’t remember.
I stubbed my toe on the pavement and burst into tears. I stumbled around for what seemed like hours (my watch later told me it was barely 15 minutes). The city that had filled me with so much joy just a couple of hours back had turned black, bleak and cold. Then suddenly, I saw a mirage- a neon lit “Dominos Pizza” sign. I rushed towards it – “Delivery in 30 minutes or your money back” – if they couldn’t tell me how to get to where I wanted to go, nobody could.
“I need to get to Fincley Lane”, I stammered.
“You are a long way from that, love”, I was told. “That’s at the other end of the city.”
“Finchley Way, then, or maybe Finchley Row. I know it is Finchley something”, I was getting desperate.
“Are you sure you can’t remember anything about the place”, he asked politely.
“Well, there was a grey church where the road intersected Finchley Road”, I told him desperately. “But you could see an Underground Station from there, and I have been walking hours after getting off at Finchley Road…” I rambled on, and completely missed seeing his face suddenly light up.
“It is the Swizz Cottage station that you want”, he said. “There is a church diagonally opposite, which may be the one you want.”
He gave me precise instructions, and within ten minutes, I was back in the room warming my toes in front of the radiator.
Where I would have been if not for Dominos Pizza, I don’t even want to think about. Maybe I would have stumbled on and eventually found the place. Or maybe I would have continued walking on the streets till eternity.
After that incident, I’ve never stepped out without my address. Though it is nice being Found, I can think of few things worse than getting lost.


Lisa said...

No kidding - being lost is awful and especially in a big, strange city. Bless your heart - I'm glad you made it back to your room so quickly. Thank goodness for Domino's Pizza even though I don't order from them. :)

Debra Harris-Johnson said...

Very nice to meet another Day Dreamer. Glad you were found and I found your blog, thanks to our "alphabet" challenge. Enjoyed the visit will be back soon.

"Dream Weaver"

Marjorie said...

What an adventure! It's strange that something I thought was so very American saved and Indian lost on the streets of London in England.

Al said...

Thank goodness you aren't still wandering the streets of London for all eternity. If that have happened we wouldn't have this most entertaining blog to read!


Publish or Perish


Not a pleasant expereience getting lost especially in a strange place.
Pleased all trned out ok in the end.


The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Wow! What an adventure. I too would have burst into tears. You poor thing. London is an amazing city, but yes, definitely a maze! Gald your safely home sweet home. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Yikes! That would be scary - so glad you found Dominoes!! :)

Mason Canyon said...

You definitely had an adventure. It's amazing how something is wonderful can turn terrible in a few seconds and then good again. Glad you found your way back safely.

Thoughts in Progress

Watery Tart said...

Okay, so I'm a freak, but I sort of LOVE to get lost and then figure out where I am. I DO ask directions if I get too muddled, but I love that wandering 'nobody knows where I am' thing--in Chicago a few weeks ago I felt it...

(and I want to know how long on your meandering you spent trying to figure out WHICH book store and record store had the Leaky Cauldron between them)

I'm glad you managed to find the Dominoes!

Jaydee Morgan said...

I can't imagine being lost in a strange city. My mind would be going crazy. Thank goodness for helpful pizza guys!

arlee bird said...

I'm sure that can be a pretty scary experience. I don't ever recall being lost to that extent, but my times of getting lost temporarily have been frustrating and worrisome. Fortunately for you and me, it eventually got resolved.
Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

Debra She Who Seeks said...

It's always scary to be lost, isn't it? That Dominos pizza guy was your guardian angel in disguise!

Beth said...

That is probably one of the most horrible feelings ever! I was quite sure all would end well since you were writing the tale but I was still leaning towards the screen in breathless anticipation to see what would happen next! Glad Dominos was able to direct you homeward! (Did you grab a pizza to go?)

Hannah Stoneham said...

London always rains on you at bad moments - I am sorry but thank goodness for the domino pizza man.... Other people who always know the city are the newspaper venders...

Glad that you otherwise enjoyed your stay!


Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

London is one of my favorite cities and I have been lost there many times, so I can identify with your mis-adventure. Fortunately, I found the city is full of wonderful people who are willing to go out of their way to help - like the Domino pizza guy.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've been to London several times and it's easy to get lost. I'd jump back on the Tubes and it would eventually carry me to someplace familiar.

Grammy said...

I have never been to London, but it sounds like an amazing adventure! So glad you found a friendly Dominoes man who could help you find your way! You were certainly brave!

Ellie said...

I was in London, when I was 17, school trip!
I can so relate; we were told to always have a partner if we went out. I so wanted to go to a local grocery store and buy tea, candy and cookies, local favs. I wanted these as
souvenirs, besides the other items I had purchased. No one would go with me. I had seen this store close to the hotel, when we were on our outings. I decided to go alone; I was scared. Scared I would get caught, scared I would get lost. I managed to find some of the best gifts, tins with tea, Jackson's of Picadilly, biscuit type cookies and unique candy bars. I talked to the locals and they recommended their favs. When I returned I was caught; I explained I had needed a personal item. My roommates were gone and I had to go. I was warned not to do it again. Later, my roommates saw my stash and they were jealous. We were paired up in 3's. It is easy to get lost; I'm so happy you kept your wits and asked! (Jackson is my maiden name, so my tea tins, were a treasure to take home).

Anonymous said...

What an adventure... and a bit of a nightmare!

I often get lost in the woods.. I enjoy it unless I really do start thinking I'm very very lost.

Not enough hours! said...

@ Lisa - I never particularly liked that pizza, but it looks (and tastes) quite different these days :-)

@ Debra - glad to find a kindred soul

@ Marjorie - put that way, it is amazing, isn't it?

@ Al - you may have been reading even more exciting stories from the other world!

@ Yvonne - yes, it was rather scary.

@ TAA - and serves me right for being so stupid

@ Jemi - yes, what would we do without it?

@ Mason - true. One minute I was walking on air, the next minute I was contemplating turning into a ghost

@ Tami - that was before I read my first Harry Potter book :-(
I normally like wandering around, which perhaps is why I got lost in the first place

@ Jaydee - thank god for helpful people.

@ Lee - it can be really scary, can't it? If I had the address, I may have worried less.

@ Debra - yes he was.

@ Beth - I didn't,but have remained loyal to them since

@ Hannah - I'll keep that in mind for next time ;-)

@ Jane - in retrospect, what I find quite amazing is that I never once worried that I may be mugged or killed or anything similar.

@ Alex - would you believe it if I tell you the source of my problem was because I got the tube station wrong!

@ Ruby - only reaffirmed my faith in human beings

@ Ellie - that is quite an adventure. And I bet your friends were jealous

@ Fiona - getting lost is nice, if you don't get very lost.

dipali said...

How utterly terrifying:(
Being lost but knowing where to go isn't too bad, but your kind of lost is scary:(

Jamie Gibbs said...

I had a similar thing happen the first time I went to London, but luckily I didn't experience the emptiness that you saw, that would have freaked me out. Glad to hear that you found your way okay in the end :D

Not enough hours! said...

@ Dipali - I enjoy getting lost, as long as I know where I eventually need to get back to. This was the only time it was scary.

@ Jamie - wonder if there is something about London that makes you get lost? Glad you found your way back too.


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