Life or Something Like It

Dear girls who wear your classy business suits with sneakers and backpacks, then change into sexy heels as the tube reaches your stop.

I am one of you now.

I don’t know how it happened, really. I used to laugh at you, my fashionable superior laugh, as your feet were resting in ugly worn out sport shoes, and mine were looking their sexiest in fabulous leather court pumps. I used to feel sorry for you, dragging along those horribly stuffed laptop backpacks of yours, like you were on a run from some deadly natural disaster, and not just on your way to your windowless, air conditioned, perfectly comfortable offices. Poor girlies, I thought, they’re not cut out for a 21st century career woman’s life. But I was. Oh, if only you’d seen me then. I was the career woman you see in movies. Not a speck of dust, not a blister. Everything in its perfectly defined, tasteful place.

I am now so far from this 24/7 fashion aware version of myself, that I often doubt it’s ever been part of me to begin with.

This weekend I bought a new backpack. Since I’ve had to accept that I was not the image-of-perfection career woman, but more like the backpack-sneakers-no-hairstyle-to-speak-of career woman, I decided I’d at least do it in style. So I am now the proud owner of color coordinated backpack and sneakers. Stuffed in my super duper backpack, I’ve got the day’s pair of fabulous shoes, which I change into before the bus reaches my stop in the morning. There’s a bunch of us on the bus who do it, and we share kind, understanding smiles with each other, delicately forcing our blister prone feet into their blister causing sexy shoes. It’s a sad life.

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I would have posted a photo of my soon to be famous backpack and sneakers combo, but they’re not the sexiest of things and I’d rather have you think of me as the super duper image of seduction I’m working oh so very hard to portray on this blog.

Bloody Men and How This Post isn’t Really About Them

This is how things work in this little world of mine. I wake up, zombie around the flat for a while, realise I’m late, can’t find my keys, turn the place upside down looking for them, curse, they’re in my hand/pocket/some backpack compartment I didn’t know I had, run out the door and towards the bus stop, all the while obsessively trying to reassure myself I didn’t leave the stove on and I locked, checked and double checked the door. I know, it’s quite the wondrous existence.

But don’t jump to conclusions, things actually get better once I get on the bus. Because this 13 minute daily bus trip to work is what I fashionably like to call me time. There are no distractions, there are no checkboxes to check or questions to answer. I can just chill. Headphones on, I take out my Kindle, or my super duper Facebook friendly phone, and spend the time reading or diligently tapping Like buttons. It’s heaven. Or it used to be. Because for some reason, my daily 13 minutes of happiness obviously disturbed a very fragile planetary balance, and needed to be eliminated as soon and as bluntly as possible.

The problem is other people. They couldn’t care less about my 13 minute bubble. They’d rather make friends instead.

At first there was this Romanian dude, who thought that since we were the only two Romanians in the company, we had to chit chat all day long, every day, me time included. It worked for a total of an hour or two, during which time we managed to touch upon all our common colleagues and their dirty secrets, Romanian politics and of course, the weather. Then we discovered we had very little in common, and I thought I’d be back to Facebooking on the bus in no time. Oh, how wrong I was! Instead, we continuously spend my me time struggling to find superficial things to talk about. After way too many British weather centred conversations, I started taking the earlier bus. Sneaky, huh?

But do you think this meant I was finally back to my 13 minutes of zen? Nope. Now there’s this man who one morning saw me reading a Romanian book, and started telling me this story about how he’s married to a Romanian lady, and has a Romanian babysitter (who happens to share my first name, oh, the irony!), and a couple of bilingual kids who sound like spoiled bilingual brats to me. But anyway. Now my priceless me time is devoted to helping him with his Romanian pronunciation. It seems to make him happy and I, I’ve forgotten what happiness feels like anyway.

Today was wonderful. Neither of my talkative trip buddies were on the bus. Secretly hoping they’re now taking the later bus together, practicing their Romanian gossiping happily ever after, I breathed in. I was way too zen to read, listen to music or even Facebook. Instead, I looked out the window. It was raining so hard, it felt like we were hopelessly trying to escape from an end-of-the-world-monsoon. I wasn’t afraid, I didn’t have any backup plans. In fact, all I could think about was this funny little poem by Wendy Cope. It’s got very little to do with my life nowadays, but it’s not always been a stranger to me, and it’s one of the few ones I still know by heart, even now, when I seem to have lost control over my time, insides and everything else I used to take for granted.

Bloody men are like bloody buses
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.
You look at them flashing their indicators,
Offering you a ride.
You’re trying to read the destinations,
You haven’t much time to decide.
If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.

Wendy Cope, Bloody Men

Morning Buses and Other Tragedies

Say what you will about me, one thing is certain: I am lucky beyond belief. It’s just how it is. I have had, ever since I can remember, things magically going my way. I’ve never lost both socks in a pair. I’ve never found money in the street when I didn’t need it. I’ve never met a Hollywood superstar when I was having a bad hair day. The glass has always been half full. And what more to convince you of my never ending good karma than this: the company I work for has a free employee shuttle service.

After years and years of exciting early mornings on the London Underground network, this shuttle service thing pretty much closed the deal for me. They could pay me in marmite jars as far as I cared, I’d be traveling to work in style. Take that, TFL! Signal failures, mind-the-gap, please-stand-back-from-the-yellow-line, thanks but no thanks. My time was finally coming and I’d be speeding towards it in a complimentary high class shuttle, sipping pink champagne and laughing my polite sexy laugh among my kind of people. They’d call us the Shuttlers’ Assembly and they’d make TV movies about our amazing wee hours adventures.

Now, for me to reach the shuttle stop in the morning, I have to walk for about 15 minutes through this web of narrow streets where I never run into anyone. You’d think this fits my antisocial inclinations perfectly, and you’d normally be right, except these streets are plain scary. They have trees on both sides and in those trees, you’d assume, there are all kinds of pretty little birds singing their lives away in their pretty little nests. Wrong.

All the birds are dead.

Each morning without fail I stumble upon one or two dead birds on the sidewalk on my way to work. I know, I know, they probably get plastered from all the cider bottles people leave on the side of the road by the pub, then fall from the branches and die their shameful drunken deaths in public, looked down on by the sober segment of the local feathered community. Or it could be a sign that the umpteenth end of the world is coming. Either way, I am terrified, and the only thing keeping me going is the promise of yet another a breathtaking shuttle trip to the office.

I never ever would have imagined it, but I must admit there’s a couple of problems with the marvellous complimentary shuttle. All those dead birds were probably just a sign of more bad things to come.

You’re going to laugh, it’s fine. And I know I’ve probably painted this picture of myself as a super muscular amazon chick kicking my problems away left and right, but reality is that I’m a short skinny 16-year-old-looking person who can’t manage to open the shuttle door by herself every morning. Imagine this: the shuttle pulls over at my stop, then for what seems like forever I yank the door like a maniac, fidgeting with the handle, twitching nervously and making desperate signs through the window at the driver, who I’m sure is the very incarnation of evil, as my ridiculous torment seems to be the highlight of his day.

When he finally deigns to give me a hand with the darn door, I’ll have burnt at least 12000 calories, I’m as red as a beet, and my fellow shuttlers can’t help giggling as I make my way to my seat. Oh, and there’s no pink champagne.