My mood was elevated by the pleasant interaction I had with the immigrations officer checking my papers: he just happened to have a personal relationship with Surrey, and comically told me to be sure I always leave my room with the windows locked, lest I want to return to a giant red balloon exclaiming “You could have been robbed!” courtesy of the security team.
My humorous mood soured almost immediately when I saw the state my bags had been reduced to thanks to the airline’s manhandling of luggage in transit. I wish I was overreacting: Both were hideously oil-stained and now fraying, one was missing its brand badge and the other was hit, dropped, crushed or otherwise struck so viciously in one spot that the handle was permanently jammed in, so it couldn’t extend upwards anymore.
“Great!” I sarcastically whispered to myself. Luckily, the airport’s luggage trolleys were nearby, and I figured I could use one until I got to the bus station. Upon reaching said station, I recalled that pre-departure, I was told “RailAir” was the only company that offered direct service from Heathrow to Guildford, so I scanned the terminal for anything with “RailAir” written on it.
Nothing. No ticket office, no signage, not even an advert. There were booths for every other bus company except RailAir, and announcements were being made about buses departing for everywhere except Guildford.
Cue the slight panic.
“Okay, alright. That’s fine. Lemme just see the arrival instructions in the Surrey Welcome Week arrival pack. I’m pretty sure there was a link to RailAir’s website anyway, I could probably just buy the tickets there. Safe.” I reassured myself. Sure enough, the link took you to RailAir’s booking terminal, so I typed in today’s date (Tuesday, September 20th) for results.
“There are no tickets matching your criteria.” the website spat back at me.
Cue the debilitating anxiety.
Turns out, you’ve got to buy your ticket at least two days in advance of your travel date, meaning that if you checked on Tuesday, the earliest tickets you could purchase were for Thursday. (Actually, it was a bug that was fixed a few days later – you can totally buy a same day ticket, but it just so happened that the day I tried, it said “no way”).
I lifted my index finger to my lip in a manner suggesting I was in “sophisticated contemplation” to hide the fact that I was in crisis mode and had completely lost it inside.
I thought Uber would be my best bet for a direct trip, so I opened the app only for it to suddenly crash. I tried again, and again, and on the 4th go it finally let me enter destinations before stymieing me and rejecting my inputs with an “Uber is not available in your region” message; I probably should have known that my Nairobi-calibrated Uber app wouldn’t function properly (or at all) in London. With that, my options were now alarmingly few.
The way I saw it, I could either spend 48 hours in Heathrow bus station waiting for bus service on Thursday; or I could try my already-sour luck, and manoeuvre through the vexatiously complicated London underground with two near-immobile heaps of luggage as a naïve foreigner and make my way to Guildford…
Thursday bus service it was.