Okay no. Not really.
I didn’t spend two nights in an airport’s bus terminal. I was exhausted & wanted nothing more than to collapse into my new bed for the next year, so the tubes would have to do. If only I knew what they had in store for me — I’d have immediately sought out an Airbnb or something near Heathrow and waited out the bus.
Once I got to the little trolley depot before terminal 2, it finally dawned on me how daunting a task this would be. I would have to climb and descend about a dozen flights of stairs with my two battered, unreasonably stuffed suitcases.
A generous TFL employee took considerable time out of his day to explain the lines and connections I’d have to make to get to Waterloo Station and, in turn, Guildford, so directions weren’t an issue; it was the sheer struggle of dragging those bags everywhere with me – and I mean everywhere.
After an arduous hour, I was on a train bound for Guildford. Despite me cursing out my bags for not fitting in the designated luggage areas, the ride was relatively calming, though scheming ways to force my bags open kept my mind occupied.
By the time I got to Guildford, I was too mentally fatigued to bother trying to figure my way to Stag Hill, so I got in the nearest cab. The cab driver (bless him) risked a hernia to haul my two check-ins into his boot, while I collapsed into the back seat with my carry-on luggage, thanking God that I’d even made it this far. “Where to?” he asked while belting up.
“The University of Surrey’s Stag Hill Campus, please.” I unnecessarily stated — given Surrey’s prominence, “Stag Hill” would have sufficed plenty. Regardless, we sped off and at a bend, my carry-on luggage fell neatly into the passenger foothold. “They’re not bothering anyone, I’ll pick them up when we arrive.”, I told myself to justify my laziness.
A few minutes and £10 later, he dropped me off outside the Guildford School of Acting. He hastily hopped out and walked round to collect my check-ins, reminding me to retrieve my carry-on luggage from the floor.
I grabbed my backpack and threw it over my shoulder as I stepped out of the car and closed the door behind me. I claimed my bags, thanked him, bid him a good day, and watched his teal-coloured council cab drive off.
Not knowing where I was or where I should be, I guiltily interrupted a staff member’s lunch and asked for general help. He explained that main registration was taking place in the University Hall, where I “would have to present my passport in order to complete the process”. I nodded as I tightened my right hand’s grip to reassure myself that I had it safely stored away in my duffel.
I was ever so slightly surprised when instead of my duffel’s padded handle, it was my now-dead phone I felt in my hand. So, I grasped my left hand remembering that it was there that I was carrying my duffel. But my left hand was empty.
Growing anxious exponentially, I swung my head back towards my suitcases, hoping to see my duffel resting gracefully atop one of them.
The duffel bag carrying the documents most vital to my life…was gone.
I was petrified. The words simply do not exist to express just how scared I was in that moment.
It took me an eternity (a few seconds) to calm down enough to even figure out where I could have possibly left that bag: “The airport? No, I had it when I was moving through the tu— Oh God, did I leave it in the tubes?!! No, no, no, it was in the seat next to me on the train to Guildford…did I forget to pick it up? I swear I was holding it when I hailed… the cab!”.
My passport, my visa, my residency permit documents – all were in that duffel, nestled neatly in the foothold of that cab I just hopelessly watched speed off.
I didn’t take down its registration, or cab number – I didn’t even catch the driver’s name. Worse yet, my phone was completely dead. The racing thoughts paralysed my mind, I couldn’t even process a word of what the amiable staff-member was saying.
I just had no idea what to do.