18 August 2011

Before and After: A Story of Two Journeys

Several years ago, I had to go to London for something involving immigration. I walked to the train station, got on the train and travelled two hours during the morning commute. I'm far enough from London that I had a seat, but all the seats were filled up during the first half hour of the journey. When I arrived in London, I got lost a few times before I found the office where I was going. Once there, I had to wait in a queue of about an hour to get in, then, once in, sit and wait for my name to be called. By the time my name was called, it had been four or five hours since I'd left home. I had come prepared with loads of paperwork, but once in the office, they asked me for a document I didn't have with me. Without it, the appointment couldn't continue. I was disappointed, of course, but not overly so. "Can I come back tomorrow?" I asked. "Oh certainly," I was told. And so, except for the part where I got lost, I did the whole thing again.

 Here's a journey I took a few weeks ago, for comparison:

I knew I needed to go to the post office on Thursday, so on Wednesday, I rested the entire day in preparation. On Thursday, I prepared for the journey in stages. I checked that everything I needed to take was in my bag - cash for the taxi, debit card, mobile phone, parcel to mail, keys. Took a break and rested. Had some breakfast. Rested. Got partly dressed. Rested. Finished dressing. You get the idea. When I was finally ready to go, I called the taxi, put the dog in her kennel, and headed outside to wait. (I could wait inside, and the taxi driver would come ring the bell, but that always makes the dog go crazy to hear the bell when she's already in her kennel, so I go outside. I hope that won't be one of the compromises I end up having to make one day.) Since I knew I'd have to wait in a queue, I took my walker so I could sit down. I had to pull it up three steps to get to the back gate. The front gate has a dozen steps, so taking the walker that way is impossible. The taxi trip was fast. The journey is one that a healthy person could walk in about a half hour. The driver helped me with the walker, putting it in and out of the boot. This is something that would be impossible for me to do. Once at the post office, the queue wasn't very long - maybe 5 minutes at longest. There's a busier one in the center of town where I've experienced wait times of twenty minutes or more. Even so, five minutes means I needed to sit and rest, which was the main reason I took the walker. When I was finished, I called for a taxi to return home. Getting the walker down those few steps at the end was harder than moving it up at the beginning, simply because I was so tired. I went inside, tended to the dog, and then collapsed in the bed where I slept for a good three hours out of sheer exhaustion. If someone had told me I'd have to go back out to the post office the next day, I wouldn't have laughed at them. Laughing would have required too much energy. The journey had taken just over a half hour.

Now I recall that trip to London with something between awe and bitterness. It's as if I once swam the English Channel, or climbed Everest, and then breezily decided to repeat the experience the next day.

And... well... this is where a conclusion would go, but I don't have one. There was a time when I took trips to London. Now I do not. And life goes on.

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