OK, picture the scene.
It’s the middle of rush hour on a Tuesday evening in Waterloo station. Our heroine has been on the road for the better part of the last five days, with only a brief stop at home last night to repack. Just now, she is in the last stages of her journey to the Bournemouth. She made it across London in good time to get her connection. She even had time to buy dinner. Now, she hops onto the train and gets comfortable – novel, iPod, sandwich, decent cup of tea. What more does a girl need? She makes a quick call to her mum and gives her a progress report.
Yes, she’s fine.
And has food.
And will call from the hotel.
And then she swears and hangs up and, after a frantic internal debate, grabs everything except the tea and runs off the train.
You see, I had done exactly the thing that everyone had spent weeks warning me not to do and had abandoned my poster – the one I was going to Bournemouth to present – somewhere in Waterloo.
She runs down the platform in entirely the wrong direction for this time of day, bag flapping, arms flying, commuters being knocked every which way. She is briefly flummoxed by the technicalities of a ticket barrier. She elbows her way across the main concourse to one of the many food places, where there is no evidence of any poster having been left. At this point, she is well on her way to having some sort of cardiac event. A minute of blind panic until she remembers that that might be because she didn’t buy anything there. Cue a second round of elbowing and swearing, and, lying abandoned on the floor by Upper Crust, a poster tube. Hurrah! And without bothering to check that this is indeed her poster and not the poster of someone off to a biotechnology conference, she’s running back down the platform and jumping onto the miraculously not yet gone train and retrieving her tea and collapsing into a seat.
It was my poster. I did make sure to check that before I got to Bournemouth. If it had all gone horribly wrong, I am thankful that my friends know me well enough to have insisted that I take a digital backup.
Our heroine remembers that she may have been rather abrupt about the hanging up of the phone and fishes it out to discover three missed calls. Her mother is in Newcastle, doubtless thinking that the train has crashed or been set on fire or taken hostage.
“Hi,” she says, and when the shrieks of what the hell happened have faded to a dull roar: “So, I may have been a bit of an idiot.”