I desperately asked the gentleman if he had any way of contacting the driver and explained that I left something crucially important in the back of his car. He shook his head but, almost as if inspiring me not to lose faith, he told me that the driver’s brother had his own taxi parked a little further down the line.
My world instantly got lighter: the clouds parted, and the sun shone a little brighter, hitting my face elegantly, reminding me of equatorial warmth … Okay maybe not, but this was the first bright spot I’d had in this search, and my heart genuinely felt a lot lighter as we approached the driver’s brother.
Acting almost as my spokesman, the gentleman explained my situation to the brother, who then called the driver and after a brief conversation, revealed that he’d gone home for the day. Without hesitation, I asked the brother if he could take me to the driver’s house to collect the duffel.
He gave me a concerned look, stating that their home was up in Wokingham and warned that it would be a £40 trip each way at least. My frugality buckled at the prospect of ending this quest, and I hopped in the back of the brother’s car, Woking-bound.
The entire way there and back, the brother gave me a paternal lecture on how I should learn from this experience and that I needed to be far more careful; with each message I agreed in defeated shame.
I knew we’d arrived the instant we pulled into a neighbourhood and spotted the driver’s car; the council cab’s teal colour scheme stood out amongst a row of black, white and grey cars.
The driver emerged from the house, and I’ve never been so relieved to see a stranger before. And in his hands, in all its glory, was the duffel – the driver grabbed it when he checked the car after we called. He handed it to me with a gentle smile, accompanied with a “You’re really lucky, eh?”.
I wrapped my arms around the duffel, thankful that it had made its way back to me. This duffel, that almost drove my heart into my stomach; this duffel, that forced me to venture from Guildford to Woking within my first 6 hours of being in England; this duffel, was finally back with me.
And safely secured in its outer pockets: my passport and permit documents, unperturbed from when I’d last placed them there all the way back in Heathrow.
Heathrow. That felt like aeons ago. It made me consider just how loaded my first few hours in Britain had been, whether this was some omen for what my time at Uni would be, and whether my wee heart could take much more of this (thankfully, life at Surrey is far more tranquil than those few hours).
It also made me appreciate just how helpful and amiable the people I’d encountered throughout this hectic journey had been: The customs officer, the TFL employee, the taxi driver and his brother, the staff member, SJ and Isabelle — I was overcome with immense gratitude, and a slight smile cracked over my face.
We finally made it back to Stag Hill and, to top it all off, the driver’s brother knocked my extreme £83 bill to just £55, adjudging that the stress was probably punishment enough. One last gesture of kindness that affirmed to me that I had chosen a fantastic place to call my home away from home for the next 4 years.
I found Isabelle and thanked her profusely for her help, before asking her for one last favour — “How do I get to Manor Park?”. Sparing me the directions and burden of having to drag those bags all the way there, she showed me to the nearest bus station and told me it was my best bet. I thanked her for everything once more, hauled my bags onto the bus and took a deep, refreshing breath of relaxed air.
A few more pleasant interactions later, I had my room key in hand and a map guiding me to my accommodation. At long last, I was now standing inside my room.
Before I could call it a day, I grabbed a pen from my backpack, placed it precisely over the zipper of my suitcase and used my other hand to bash the pen through, completely bypassing the padlock and granting access to my belongings. “Really? It’s that easy? What’s the point then?” I giggled to myself.
As I unpacked my luggage, I relived the “highlights” of my journey from Nairobi to Manor Park, before being overcome with laughter as I practiced retelling a carefully edited version of the story to my parents. “Oh my days, what a trip!” I exclaimed as I finally collapsed into my bed, bringing my journey to its long overdue conclusion. A rather positive ending, all things considered.