Connection

It’s easy to be anonymous in London. It’s one of the things I like about large cities. I  gravitate towards places where I can hide in plain sight. It creates the illusion of belonging without actually having to interact. The tube is an extension of this anonymity.

People cram into carriages, eyes straight ahead, glued onto the paper or their phone. The only goal is to make it to the final destination without hearing the words, incident on the tracks or signal failure. Commuters don’t really pay much attention to each other, unless it’s to deliver a withering look to someone who stole the seat they had their eye on.

So it shouldn’t have been surprising to me that no one had noticed the woman in front of me was crying. I’d had to double-take to be sure. Her mascara was running, she sniffed and shook emotionally. I felt a twinge in my chest and it grew when I realised the rest of the carriage was oblivious to her.

Most people are generally too busy with their own drama to notice anyone else’s. I don’t think it’s a London thing, just a human thing. I guess getting involved in someone’s sadness is messier than jumping onto the happy bandwagon. Sadness is awkward.

I’ve been on anti-depressants for nine months and am currently weaning myself off them. Having suffered from chronic depression as long as I can remember, I’ve always been strangely proud of the fact I’ve avoided medication for decades. But there comes a point when you can’t get out of bed, or get a job and you decide to take the help. It’s an act of kindness. Maybe that’s why I offered the woman the tissues.

I didn’t want to pry or give her a pep talk. I just wanted to be nice to her. To empathise. I’d been in tears on the tube days before and managed to pass under everyone’s radar, much to my own relief. We’re not meant to be unhappy in public. It’s something kept behind closed doors and smiling faces.

There’s a shame in being sad for some reason. I saw it when she took the tissues and tried to compose herself. I felt it every time I turned down medication. It’s like an admission of failure: I just couldn’t stay happy.

People distance themselves from sadness like it’s contagious. I’ve noticed it with my own depression. It’s feels like I have a shitty superpower that makes me invisible when I’m down. People want to laugh and get their endorphin high. I spent years hiding it and trying to fit in with the rest of the tube.

I told the woman to keep the tissues. This led to a random stranger offering me several packs of Kleenex. It felt like a thank you for my intervention, and a little like handing over a joint to the nearest person in the circle when you can see the 4 0 coming. He didn’t want to be caught holding in the face of a crying woman.

Yeah, sadness is awkward.

 

Advertisements

Social Media Take the Wheel

When you’re in times of trouble, document your rage online.

Daniel was tired. I was tired.

The customer service call was just going round and round in circles. He kept telling me there was nothing he could do. My claim had been rejected. I calmly repeated that by law I was entitled to that refund. The airline had lied.

I’d had a flight cancellation the month before. There’s actually been a surge in cancellations and airlines going bust. Subsequently, consumer rights were being published everywhere.

When my flight from Amsterdam was cancelled at a minutes notice the first thing I’d received was a text from a mate with my rights. The airline gave me a poxy food voucher and the assurance that my hotel and transport would be refunded. My rights would be observed.

As I heard Daniel sigh and repeat once again that there was nothing he could do, I regretted staying so calm. While everyone else grumbled, I remained positive. One jackass in particular, demanded compensation there and then. He practically wanted to be piggy-backed to a hotel and then back to his rescheduled flight.

Clearly that angry little man could see into the future.

A month on my claim had been rejected on the grounds I hadn’t tried hard enough to get help. Unless you’re yelling at someone you’re not trying. I wish I had been as forthright in person as I had been on WhatsApp.

Why is it when you don’t cause trouble people take that as a sign that you’re a pushover? I can be angry. Anyone who knows me knows I got sass coming out…well, my mouth. I just pick my fights.

This was fighting talk.

Providing evidence of something that didn’t happen is like getting home with a new CD and opening it up to find nothing in the case. Vueling was saying I’d already gotten the CD.

This made me want to kerb stomp someone. But before my rage got the better of me, I did what I always do when angry: I took to social media. And that’s when I realised where my evidence was.

I may not have yelled at them to their faces, but I yelled into the void that is the internet. It saved my experience in slideshow mode to be enjoyed as Memories at a later date.

Never before had calling someone fucking useless been so useful. I got to send them every abusive message I’d written on the topic. I even sent them a video. It wasn’t nice.

I just got an email saying they would refund me the total amount.

The next time someone moans about you doing a Facebook you tell them you’re doing the online lord’s work.

Follow me on Instagram to make sure you don’t miss a rant that could potentially be state’s evidence: @BeigeGurl

Itchy feet

Margaret smiled at me. She looked very mum like.  I always run into well meaning mother figures when I’m abroad.

She and I were the only passengers on the airport shuttle into Budapest. We got talking about the plane delay. Complaining is a great way to start a conversation it would seem. We got on the topic of why we were in Hungary. She was there for work. I was there because I could be. I was lucky enough to have friends there, the time, and no responsibilities.

Parliament in the Pest side of Budapest

Parliament in the Pest side of Budapest

“For £500 you could buy a Eurorail pass. Travel around Europe for a month.”

It’s around £500 if you’re 18- 25. If you’re 26 or older, it’s closer to a grand to get a Eurorail pass. It wasn’t a bad idea though. When I got out in district 8, Margret told me to do it while I was still young. I thought about how ‘young’ I was. I was strongly considering it.

It had been four months of applying for jobs I didn’t really want, and getting no where.

One morning I woke up and I contacted my agencies and said I was having a crisis and wouldn’t be available for work until the new year. This may be the only time when I’d have the money to travel and no commitments. When I could take a last minute deal. Buy a cheap ticket and see some more of the world.

I’ve realised I have quite a good network of friends around the world. I’m off to Brazil in November. A weekend in Paris in December. Perhaps Singapore in the new year, or China. I also know a lot of teachers scattered around the world in schools that need an English teacher. Maybe the life of a travelling teacher could be resurrected in Europe or Asia.

My friend Diana was right. I wasn’t fat and toothless. I did have options.

There is a lot to be said for having your gap year in your 30s. On the plus side, I have some money saved. I can do it in a bit more style. Hungary was a whirlwind of G&Ts, steak dinners and strudel. It beat my pizza pie budget when I was in New York.

Foie Gras Fantasy. Not really my cup of tea. Great strudel though. The Strudel House

Foie Gras Fantasy. Not really my cup of tea. Great strudel though. The Strudel House

On the downside, my mum and dad think I’m having a mental breakdown, and my savings are starting to dwindle, while my credit card balance gets bigger. It’s all I want to do though.

I didn’t have a gap year before uni. Well I did, but I was living at a mates house after my dad had kicked me out, working three jobs and desperately trying to lock down a job at Topshop #ambition.  It was hardly ‘See the world before uni’ It was more ‘Prepare yourself for how much your life is going to suck when you have bills to pay and nowhere to live.’

I didn’t save a lot that year. Enough for a ticket to New York. I managed to meet my friends at the end of their travels, listen to their adventures around the world. We all still travel. Alone most of the time, I’ve noticed. We’ve even met up in different countries.

I think it’s something in your blood, wanting to be out there in the world alone, on your own adventure.  Some people can’t live without it.

I like travelling alone. It’s never been something I thought was unusual. I always had a friend to meet somewhere, or I would make friends when I got to where I was going.  I’ve never felt lonely. I’ve felt lonely at parties, in relationships, stuck at home. Traveling is something I’m happy to do by myself. 

The reactions I get when I tell people I’m travelling alone make me smile. The concern, the sympathy. Did I have no friends to go with? Surely I’d enjoy it more with other people? Next time I could ask them to come along.

Being a woman makes it seem dangerous, but it’s just as risky as it is for men. I have been mugged three times, but I’ve made it out unscathed and often with most of my possessions. 

You call that a knife?

You call that a knife?

The first time was at knife point and I was able to talk my way out of it. His pen knife was an embarrassment. I’d rather have been stabbed. The second time I was being an idiot, and wandering around at night with my headphones in. He got my iPod. But only as he ran away after i beat the shit out of him with an umbrella. So British. The last time I was mugged, it was at gun point, so I couldn’t really fight my way out of it. I managed to hold onto my shopping. It was worth more than the crap in my purse. Suckers.

Ok, it may seem uncertain. But it’s no more dangerous than your own back yard. You take the right precautions, you’re careful who you trust, and it all works out, most of the time. Occasionally you get a bit of bad luck, you wander into a bad area, fall asleep on the night bus with your iPod out; or date a man who thinks it’s acceptable to hold your possessions hostage because he’s teaching you a lesson for breaking up with him.

There are risks in everything we do.

Over the years my travels had introduced me to wonderful people, some of whom I’m lucky to still be in touch with. Sometimes you just spend a few nights having a good laugh, going to bars and wandering naked into the ocean. Other times you make travel buddies and end up at reggae festivals, or crossing the border into Panama.

I have had hand made pizza straight out of a make shift oven in a friend’s cave. It even had a door. The cave, not the pizza. 

I’ve soaked in thermal baths under the stars. I’ve hiked up a mountain in Andorra, cooked my own dinner and then hiked down into France for breakfast. There were parties on the beach, night swimming in lagoons, and once I jumped on a motorbike to a ghetto in Belize to shave a man’s beard off.

Dick Fountain. Or a more formal sounding name for this fine monument.

Dick Fountain. Or a more formal sounding name for this fine monument.

Traveling has been good to me.

There was never a trip I regretted. Not even this one back home. It took me to Hungary, a dick fountain, dear friends and the knowledge that Hungarians will not budge in a bar. Soon it will take me to my nap buddy, caipirihnas and samba.

I was told I couldn’t live like this for the rest of my life. Maybe what they meant to say was that they couldn’t live like this for the rest of their life. It’s not for everyone.

If you have a  travel suggestions let me know. I live out of a suitcase.

Rewiring my Radar

Even the dickheads teach you something.

“He fucked her.”

The one thing you have to love about London is that if you dare to converse openly in the street every Tom, Dick and Harry will give you their two pence worth. As Galia and I made our way to Rebel Bingo, I started rehashing the whole did he/didn’t he of my ex’s supposed infidelity, and secret friendship with a girl whom I’d never heard of until last Christmas.

This was random man’s opinion on the debate:

“Who describes his bedroom to a girl via a text message? Take a picture, yeah, send it to her, but who describes it?”

He made a very good point.

“It’s easy love, the simplest answer is most probable.”

Was it more probable a psychopath became obsessed with my ex after staring at him too long?  Did she then lie to her husband (yes husband) about an affair? Did they then conspire to ruin an innocent man’s life?

Or was it more likely he just shagged her, got caught and now regretted it?

“Simplest answer love.”

Camden’s answer to Confucius turned to a cash machine and started to get money out, leaving me and Galia nodding our heads. Why we were nodding I don’t know. I’d never know which story was true.

Why do I keep bothering with dating when my instinct on men is so off?

I once had dinner at a Mexican friend’s house and was discussing yet another failed relationship when her Nana came in. She joined in the conversation with the promise of bestowing her years of experience and wisdom. At the end of my tale of unreturned texts, a terminally ill relative that never died, and crucial gym commitments, I looked to her for her wisdom.  She delicately placed a hand on my shoulder, looked at me consolingly, and said “Mija, pero tienes radar de pendejos.”

When I turned to my friend to ask what she had said, she replied “Nana says you have asshole radar.”

Thanks, Nana.

My love life reads like a a serial killer’s scrap book.

I have been on a one woman mission to perfect the art of reverse man alchemy, where I take a guy that looks golden and turn him into a shit. Complete success has been achieved on more than one occasion. That doesn’t bug me as much as the fact my life has become one big dating anecdote.

The things that I have done, places I have seen and people I have met are the backstory to a failed love life. This realisation has lead me to my new plan: rewiring my radar.

As dumb as I may already sound, I am not so stupid that I am going to sit crying into a tub of ice cream about how unlucky I am. Well, not anymore. I don’t really believe in luck, or karma. Up until now I used to think that I believed in myself, but it was clear to see after months of flailing around struggling to come to terms with a whole new life in London, and a lot of disappointment, I didn’t believe I could make any of it work alone. Me. Who moved to a Mexico alone at 24 with no friends and 100 pairs of knickers because a) why not? and  b) you always need clean underwear.

Those of you that know me, know me as a fearless, loveable idiot who won’t shut up. Those that have known me longer know  might think I’m quite tough and cynical. No one knows you better than yourself though, and after the last dating anecdote I’ve decided to take time off life as I’ve known it.

I have a pathetic amount of money saved and will be funding the ‘having-a-life-and- being-happy-project.’ During this time, I will be going out and about in London. Travelling to a city near you, perhaps. Writing about what I see along the way, the people I meet, and setting my radar to ‘no pendejos’.

If you need a partner in crime, call me. If you want to go somewhere you haven’t been to before, I’m your girl.

It’s been two weeks now, and it’s absolutely terrifying. I have only just stopped waking up with the kind of pain in my chest that makes me have to pat myself down to see if I slept with my bra on.

Still totally worth it.

Wish me luck.