If I’ve learned nothing else in life, it’s not to tempt the universe. When you blithely write blog posts which start, “today couldn’t have been a great deal more frustrating and stressful if it tried” the universe, with it’s great sense of irony and sarcasm, will instantly say, “wanna bet?”
And so, just after I’d posted yesterday’s blog, all hell broke loose…
I’d popped to Old Street to do a quick errand, found a parking space just off Great Eastern Street, and, after returning to the car at about 11pm, sat for a few minutes writing my blog. Blog duly posted, the battery went on my phone, before I could text Nathan to say I was on my way home, or place the blog on my Facebook feed.
Imagine my horror, therefore, when I tried to turn the car’s engine, and realised that it wasn’t just the phone’s battery that had died. The car had broken down. Entirely…
I sat there for a moment trying to work out what on earth to do. As I got out of the car, all of its alarms started sounding. I walked down the street and realised my only option was to find a phone box and try to call Nathan to see if he could call the AA on my behalf. I didn’t even know if phone boxes existed any more, but found one fairly speedily. It was horribly mucky inside and smelt of pee. The receiver was sticky for some reason, and, as a little knife-in-the-back message from the universe, an advert in the phone booth said just four words: “no more flat batteries…” So, so ironic. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any money with me and the phone refused to accept my credit card, so I had to phone the operator, old school style, and reverse the charges! Thank God, something in the back of my mind told me to dial 100.
Old Street on a Friday night is a hideous place to be. It’s full of drunk, edgy people and rather dodgy-looking fellas who all seem to want either a fight, or to rob you.
Nathan had the devil’s own job with AA, who kept him waiting for twenty minutes and then told him they couldn’t help him unless they could talk to me in person, which, for a man in a phone box, unable to do anything other than make reverse-charge phone calls, seemed a like an odd request. Eventually, after many arguments and much swearing, he was forced to phone back and pretend to be me.
By the time he got through it was about 11pm, and the AA said there might be a waiting time of up to three hours. Meanwhile, I was standing outside the phone box waiting for Nathan to call back, being hassled by pretty much every drunk person who passed.
When Nathan finally called back and told me the grim news about the wait, I decided to take myself to Brick Lane to find some money and buy a bagel, which I thought it might be nice to sit and eat in the car whilst doing some work. I walked all the way to Spitalfields because I knew there was a Barclays Bank there. When I got there, I discovered it had closed down. In the end I paid through the nose to get money out from a cash dispenser in some dodgy convenience store, where the local youth kept pushing into the queue in front of me. I didn’t say anything for fear of being stabbed. Brick Lane at that time of night is a somewhat frightening place to be, filled with people tripping out on drugs, drunken city workers, hassling Bengali curry house workers and angry homeless people. It really was like some sort of nightmare.
When I finally got back to the car, with my cup of tea and bagel, I discovered that some sort of electrical fault meant that I couldn’t actually sit inside the car without the alarm permanently going off, which brought unwanted attention from every passing piss-head, all of whom felt the need to bang on the window; “are you breaking into that car, mate? Good for you…” “Your alarm’s going off…” In the end I was forced to leave the car and sit in a wee-stained doorway reading a copy of The Sun which had been left there underneath a McDonald’s wrapper. And there I sat, like the central character in a 1950s Kitchen Sink drama, for about an hour, wishing I were anywhere else.
The AA man arrived at 1am, mercifully earlier than expected, and it turned out that the car’s battery was entirely knackered, but he was able to sell me a new one and fit it, and within half an hour I was on my way home. Relieved, but knackered, vowing never to tempt the universe like that again!