I remember in July 2010 sprinting through King’s Cross station – with Mariacristina not far behind me – and reaching our train to Edinburgh for my sister’s wedding just as the conductor was walking towards us down the platform slamming the doors shut. We had no plan B, so had we arrived a few seconds later we’d have been facing the enormous cost of two last-minute tickets for the next train; after all, you don’t miss your sister’s wedding just because you missed the train. Out of breath but relieved, we promised each other not to end up in such a situation again.
Unsurprisingly, we’ve not managed to keep that promise, and although we’ve never faced as costly a mistake as missing that train would have been, we’ve found ourselves running for public transport on more occasions than I’d like to remember. Most of the time, it really hasn’t mattered; avoiding the very start of a party or missing the adverts before a film at the cinema can turn out to be a blessing. Recently we even managed to get to a friend’s birthday party at ten to midnight, just in time to wish her happy birthday on the right day – it was doubly worth it as it turned out she was also celebrating having got engaged that day. We had some catching up to do on the drinking front, though, as everyone else had been at it for hours.
I’m generally very laid-back, but when it comes to organising travel I become unexpectedly inflexible, and fret far too much about being late. Perhaps it’s my desire for things to be right and to work the way I expect them to; as a result, I build in time for potential delays, work out exactly when the best time to leave is and harass Mariacristina as she’s getting ready, constantly reminding her how soon we need to go. I’ve got used to her Neapolitan attitude to time-keeping, though, so am now in the habit of naming the time of the train before the one we need to catch, for example, though even that’s been counter-productive – even if I forget to tell her the time of an earlier train, she now invariably assumes there’s another later one we can get instead.
Once we’re on the road, I’m constantly recalculating times and connections in my head (and on my phone) if we face delays or – more commonly – are running late through our own fault. Even if it doesn’t really matter when we arrive, I’m obsessive about knowing what time we will be able to catch the next bus and what time it well get us to our destination, despite the fact that often we’d probably get there at exactly the same time if we just took it as it came.
What really frustrates me, though, is when the ‘5min delay’ sign on the train platform changes to the vague ‘Delayed’, or when we’re waiting at a bus stop and there is no indication at all of when the next bus is likely to arrive. Even if it’s ‘Cancelled’, then at least you know it’s not worth waiting and that you need to make new plans, but ‘Delayed’ might just provide enough hope to stop you risking another slower or more complicated route.
So I’m pleased that I know that on Thursday I’m going to go and talk to a consultant about some of the options for the next stage of my treatment, because even though it’s the best part of a week away (and I’d have hoped to have been going home by then), it’s a definite date on which to focus and to look forward to. When I have no idea when or if a train is going to arrive, or I’m asking every day about whether my neutrophils have come up, with no idea of when they might do so, the wait looms large in front of me. With no defined time or date, my hopes are diminished in the stretch towards infinity.
Previously, it was doubly frustrating not to know when I would be able to go home as well as not to know what the next stage would be. I still don’t either, and I’d have preferred to have not had those blasts lingering, but at least I know I just need to get through the days until I see the consultant before we can make a definite decision on what to do next.
So, to over-egg the metaphor: our original bus may have failed to get us to where we had hoped, but there are a couple of other buses that we can take, and best of all we know when they’ll be arriving so we can decide which one to hop on. Our journey to Transplantville has got more complicated and we’re running a bit late, but we’ll get there in the end!