Monday, June 2, 2008

Can you give me a hand?! :-/

Can you give me a hand?
This is a phrase that I have had to use numerous times. Despite being a fairly well travelled individual, and really knowing better than to load myself down with heavy luggage, I still committed this sin on my recent trip to the UK. Although in my defense, I didn't think it would be as difficult as it was due to the fact that I greatly misunderstood a few key 'luggage' points in regards to my train journey to visit friends Chris and Erica in Chesterfield.

First point where I was way off the mark, the luggage check at the St. Pancras station in London, is for people who are heading to other parts of Europe, not for chicks like myself who are staying within the borders of jolly ol' England. So I am left to drag around 75 lbs of clothes, 40 lbs of which, are really 'just in case' clothes. Just in case I go out for a 'fancy' dinner, or it's really hot or really cold, or in case I decide to enter myself in the cheese rolling competition in Gloucestershire (damn, that's a bit later in the month...I'll miss it again), anyways, you get the idea. So during the 2 1/2 hours that I had to kill at the station, I had the pleasure of dragging around all of my luggage with me. Although my biggest case had wheels and my smaller case was bound to that case in some bizarre tying method that I can only blame on my two years being a Brownie, it was still a massive struggle. I managed to take out a few tables and chairs at various cafe's while searching for a bite to eat, nearly wounded a few people-I say nearly as no blood was drawn and I also had the pleasure of getting the stinkeye from various people when I headed into the handicap washroom...."hey, people, check me out, I'm 5 flippin' feet tall and carrying around over half of my body weight in terribly wrinkled clothes...if that's not a handicap, tell me what is!!!

The second point that I grossly misunderstood was when I asked Chris, where do you put your luggage when you're on the train? See, I really was thinking ahead.
His reply was, "there's a place at the end where the luggage goes".
Great!! I love the luxury part of travel. My thoughts went straight to, a lovely smart dressed porter type of dude, wearing white gloves of course, quickly taking my luggage from me as soon as I was spotted heading in his direction.
"Ms. Melanie, lets me take that for you's". "We can'ts have you's strugglin'". Now, don't ask me why although I'm in London, I envision this porter dude to be straight out of 'Driving Miss Daisy', but never the less, I knew once my porter dude aka my knight in shining armour spotted me, I would be freed of this burden called luggage.
So when approaching the train, I fail to make eye contact with my 'knight', I asked some random 'info' lady, wud up? Where do I put my luggage?? She reply's, "there is a spot at the end of each carriage where you put it". Ex-squeeze me?? Where 'I' put it?!! 'I'? Gone are my grand illusions that I'm boarding the Orient Express and back to the reality that I'm only heading on a 2 hour journey within England. Damn, way to burst my bubble!

So now that I know the real deal, I know I will have to continue to spend the rest of my journey 'helper' spotting.
Looking for just the right person to ask, usually a male, the beefier the better, as I needed to make sure they'd be able to pick up my case, someone who looks friendly and I would try to ask someone who was at least getting off at the same stop as me.
I had become fairly good at this, as I had already taken, one car journey, one train journey and one taxi journey just to get to St. Pancras.

First step, look Second step, make sure your cute 'Canada' luggage tags are clearly can anyone say no to a Canadian? Third step, ask nicely and if necessary, beg.
"Excuse me, do you think that you could give me a hand with my bags"? It was strictly the getting them on and off of the train that was hard, so I wasn't really asking for too much, and I'm happy to report everyone I asked, happily helped me. I think one or two may have strained a muscle, but so did I, so it's not like I didn't understand their pain.

Having a good time in Chesterfield for 5 days, the struggle with my luggage is almost a distant memory, aside from the fact that I was popping pills a few times a day as I really did pull a muscle in my neck, but never mind. I know the journey from there to Wales will go much more smoothly, Chris is going to help me on the train there, which means one less time I need to do my pity plea. One less person that I need to harass with my usual, "can you give me a hand please".

My train journey from Chesterfield comes with only 1 change at the Bristol station and then just a short journey from there to Newport, Wales. I now board my last train in Bristol and I'm almost home free. Soon there will be no more begging the public for mercy, I really am, at this point starting to feel a bit like Oliver Twist...."please Sir, more...can you give me more help with my bags"?
Getting quite a 'loser tourist' complex but even that is starting to lift as I'm prepared to enter into my much more familiar 'cool chick travelling solo mode' with me on this one would you?! So as I was saying, almost ready to reclaim my old title of mysterious cool chick, travelling solo....yes I have embellished it a little, I feel after all of my hard work I deserve a bit more to my title. Anyways, as I was saying, last train, time to spot me a helper.

As soon as I board the train, I hear the very familiar Welsh accent everywhere and on the opposite side of the train, to my left one row up from me, I spot 2 gals about 20 years old and I hear them say, "when we get off in Newport....". That's it, they will be the chosen ones, they are young and there is two of them, and they are getting off in Newport. Well spotted Mel!! I've always been know for my keen eye, now I have my help picked out I shall just enjoy the rest of this journey, albeit only a short one.
Listening away to my iPod, clearly in cool mode now, I glance up at my new 'friends', yep the two gals who in about 10 minutes will become my new helpers.
Hmmm?? That's odd, the bigger girl in the aisle seat has pulled her arm out of her sweater sleeve? Weird. I guess she's cold? Ya know, I've done that before, taken my arms out of my sleeves and wrapped them around my body for warmth...I get it. No biggie, no need to panic, I know how to pick good helpers. I have a proven track record. Then I look up to see my other helper girl open a bag of chips and turn to her friend and offer her some. See, I am so smart...these are nice girls, sharing chips, good choice Mel.
The next thing I see is so unbelievable, that I don't know whether to laugh or cry....
the bigger girl...the one who's strength I was really banking on, reaches over to grab a chip from the bag with her left hand. That would be the left hand that is attached to about 6 inches of an arm!!!! Yes, well spotted Mel. The person that I have chosen to help me has no arm on her right side (I guess she's not cold after all) and a 'mini arm' with a hand on her left side.
Egad!!! What are the chances that out of all the people that I could choose, I pick a one-handed girl!! Yes, Mel, that would've been great, I was only minutes from asking this girl, "can you give me a hand"? And yes I know, in theory, she still did have 'a' hand to give, but with that little arm she would've been no help at all.

So now we are fast approaching the station and I decide to go and stand near my bags and see if there is anyone back there to nab. Just my luck, there is one guy back there, staring at my bags. He's holding a dog with a tye-dyed bandana on, which I barely noticed through his dreads. He looks up at me and smiles, revealing about 7 teeth, and says to me, "I wonder who's bloody great bag this is, I hope they get off here, it's on top of all my stuff". 'Stuff', being what looks like a load of old tents and rucksacks made from Mexican blankets. This dude is the most extreme blend of hippie, gypsy, pirate, and vagabond that I've ever seen. So I turn to the new age Jack Sparrow and say, "that bloody great bag is mine.....can you give me a hand"?

So that's how my great train adventure ended, me, Jack Sparrow, his wife (who had even less teeth), and his two purple haired kids,(not sure if they were boys or girls) all struggling together to get my bags of the train for the last time.
Good times, good times!


  1. Haa,, What a story Mel, Sorry for the struggle, but if you were to do an excact copy cat of this in Canada do you think you would be in a similar situation?? I think not,,
    Great story and so true,,

  2. Thanks Carlos. I'm glad you enjoyed the story, I've done a lot of solo travel over the years and have many odd tales to tell. travel stories were already in my head to be a third book!!! Must try to get book one completed first before I move on...but odd situations just seem to find me no matter where I am!! :-) Part of the fun!!