Lost in London


While London’s tube system is easy to operate during the daytime, a commute at night can be much harder due to lines shutting down. (MIRANDA POWERS/ THE OBSERVER)


Saturday night was a night of firsts for me. I had decided to venture out on my own to meet a fellow Fordham University student visiting London for the weekend. My evening began at 10 p.m. when I said goodbye to my flatmate and she wished me a safe trip. For the first time, I took the tube on my own at night. I felt confident taking the Bakerloo line south from Warwick station to Paddington, just like I did earlier in the week for class Monday through Thursday.

I greeted my friend and her travel partner with hugs at the High Street Kensington station at 10:20 p.m. The three of us excitedly made our way toward Notting Hill to the pub I have dubbed my favorite, The Churchill Arms. I proudly led the way, pointing out shops, now closed, that my classmates and I had noticed earlier in the week. When we arrived, I ordered drinks for our trio, with the familiarity of someone who had been in London for ages and not merely the week I had.

The three of us sat in the dimly lit back room of the pub coated by the smell of cigarettes, beer and Thai food served earlier that day. When the pub was ready to close at 12:15 a.m. we left the comfort of our table and immediately found Londoners who had had far more to drink than us at the door. We took our time walking the rest of the way to the Notting Hill tube station. Once there I lingered with my friends, new and old, who were unwilling to stop telling stories of their adventures abroad that I so envied.

When I finally made my way down the dirty subway stairs, my heart sank at the sight of a closed sign blocking the path to the District Line I would normally take as part of my route back to my flat. With rosy cheeks, I made my way over to the woman working at the station and asked if she knew a way for me to get home. She proceeded to tell me a complicated list of directions that the glass of Pimms I had drank the hour before made difficult to remember. I repeated the phrase “Central Line, Marble Gate, 6” until I made it to the Central Line platform, that was luckily open. I noticed a group of women a few feet away whispering while glaring in my direction. “Look at her,” I imagined them saying. “What’s a girl her age doing at this time of night, especially alone?” I inched further down the platform to escape their judging eyes.

I exited the tube at the Marble Gate station, as instructed, and asked a man working at this station to point me in the direction of the number 6 bus. He was kind enough to walk me up the stairs and halfway up the block until I could see the stop I needed. Ten minutes later when my bus arrived, I stepped on and scanned to find a seat amongst the bus full of Londoners and tourists in their 20s. I sat down in one of the few empty seats next to a girl slightly older than myself and opened google maps on my phone to see when I was getting close to my flat.

From the top of the double-decker bus, I vaguely recognized the Tesco located down the street from my flat earlier than I thought I would. It was like the bus had suddenly started moving twice as fast as it had been. I bolted down the stairs, but arrived seconds too late, watching the doors close in front of me. I saw my flat pass by, then the tube stop and every other familiar landmark. I frantically pressed the red stop button, but the bus did not stop. Twisting and turning down roads I had never traveled on, the bus finally stopped in an entirely unfamiliar area.

I stepped off the bus with tears of frustration in my eyes and spent the next 30 minutes hopelessly trying to find my street. The London streets were unusually bare from the one’s I had wandered hours before. Each person that passed caused my hand to tighten on my bag a bit more, jaw clench and breathing stop.

When I finally made it back to my flat, I wasn’t surprised the time was 2 a.m. With tears in my eyes, I crawled into bed and vowed next time I would have a plan to get home, know the tube schedule or at least bring a friend with me. Turns out, I was not the travelpro I thought I was, but I didn’t need to leave the country to have my own adventure.