This was all because of an unfortunate experience I’d had on my first visit to this country, several years before. I was on an infamous Heathrow layover that lasted from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to see this famed and historic city, so when I arrived in Heathrow, I made my way through the immigration queue and figured out how to get a train into central London. The memory still pains me to this day, so I won’t get into the details. The summary version is this: While I arrived in the city with no problems, I could not figure out how to get back to Heathrow. I couldn’t find anyone to ask, and the people who I did ask were entirely rude and unhelpful. Even though I started trying with plenty of time to spare, by the time I finally arrived back at the airport, my luggage had been offloaded from theplane and I was forced to pay a hefty fee to reschedule my flight. I spent the night in the airport, exhausted and ashamed. And, of course, by the time I arrived at my final destination, Heathrow had lost my luggage.
It took me a long time after that to get over my fear of London.
And now I live here. It doesn’t scare me the way it used to, and this is the right place for me to be at this point in my life, so here I am.
So… yesterday I was walking somewhere. My destination doesn’t matter, the point is that I HAD a destination. And between being late and wanting some exercise – and having adapted to the local customs – I was walking FAST.
Then a middle-aged Asian man stopped me on the street and asked me where High Street Kensington was. This was near Westminster Bridge, which means, if you know London, he was not particularly close to High Street Kensington. I estimated he had about an hour to walk, or he could catch the Tube, which I recommended.
He didn’t seem to believe me, after all he’d already been walking for a while and felt like he was nearby.
I felt bad – this was reminding me a bit of my own experience of London on that fateful day many years ago. But while he was processing this information, I either had to abandon him on the street to keep up my marching pace, or I had to stop. Actually, for about a hundred metres, I managed to convince him to walk with me, but he soon tired of that idea.
And so I left him behind to his fate of being lost in London surrounded by unfriendly people, one of whom I may have been.
Woe to me for knowing my way around, knowing what it feels like to not know my way around, and still walking as fast as I could.