After I thanked the staff member for his help, I began walking in the direction he’d been gesturing towards, as I constructed some sort of plan to get the duffel back.
I figured my best bet was going back to the train station in the hopes I’d find the driver there, but how do I get back there? Another cab? There was none in sight. I momentarily considered Uber, before I recalled how tragically it failed me at the bus station — let alone the fact that my phone was dead.
As I walked past PATS Field and marvelled at the marquee, one thing became painfully clear: whatever I settled on doing to remedy my situation, I could not put up with these bags any longer. I thought that maybe if my accommodation’s close by, I might be able to leave the bags in my room as I go hunt for my duffel.
It was also around this point I realised I was hopelessly lost and had no idea where I was heading, so I asked the first person I saw for directions. He introduced himself as SJ and was more than willing to help.
In fact, he helped me with the smaller of my two bags and dropped me off at the back of the main registration line — NB: SJ turned out to be my flatmate, and not just my flatmate, but my literal next-door neighbour: small world.
Anyway, now at the registration line, I’d formulated a sort-of plan: I’d store my bags somewhere (I still hadn’t figured this out), then find someone willing to call an Uber to the station for me, where I’d find the driver and ask him to check if my bag was still in the back.
No worries, I just needed to hope I’d find someone willing to pay for a stranger’s taxi, and hope that the driver was at the station, and hope that he hadn’t cleared out his car for his next passenger. I realised there was quite a lot of luck required, making it less of a plan and more of a gigantic gamble.
Visibly distressed, I inadvertently attracted the attention of a Student Ambassador, Isabelle, who asked me to ensure I had my passport ready to complete the process. In hindsight, if she had remained closer to the front of the line, her day wouldn’t have taken the turn it did.
But hey, I was presented with an opportunity to burden someone else with my troubles, so I explained everything to her. The lost keys, the RailAir problem, the tube journey, the train, the taxi and my misplaced documents.
“Oh wow. Crazy first day, huh?” she replied. I then told her my ‘plan’ and asked if she’d be willing to call an Uber before she remarked “You don’t really need an Uber, town’s just a few minutes down the road.”. I stared at her blankly.
She explained the painfully simple path between Stag Hill and the train station that I could have taken if I chose to figure my way to campus, instead of paying £10 for the taxi and putting myself in this situation.
Once I’d laughed the chagrin off, I asked if she knew a place I could store my bags as I went on my expedition, and she let me keep them in a “restricted access” section of the Uni Hall.
She graciously offered to guide me to the perimeter road that would make it a straight shot for the train station and engaged me in light conversation the whole way there, before plotting out the route one more time and bidding me good luck.
Getting to the train station was irritatingly simple, but the entire way there I was praying that I’d find the driver and that this journey could finally come to an end. Once I got to the taxi depot at the station, it immediately became clear that I’d exhausted my luck for the day: the driver was nowhere to be seen.
I had a niggling feeling this would happen, so I immediately began scanning the area for faces from earlier on. I recognised a gentleman that was right behind us when we pulled out, and I asked if he knew the driver I left with. After jogging his memory of my laughably large suitcase, he worryingly remarked that the driver hadn’t returned after dropping me off.
That was perhaps the worst answer I could’ve hoped to hear. If he’d taken another passenger, I could just wait for him to return and (again) hope the duffel was still there. But if he hadn’t come back, then he probably chose another taxi depot elsewhere in Guildford, making my search significantly more difficult.