It was Ellie’s second Sunday in London and were still setting up our place so we were out running errands all day. The plan, in our typical style, was ambitious and barely achievable. An hour or so on the bus from Shoreditch to Tesco Extra on Colney Hatch; then Dunham in the Friern Barnet Retail Park to return the voile curtains we got the previous week which so didn’t fit our windows; and then IKEA Wembley to get some curtains that will actually do the job.
The last bit was the most significant one. There are many positives to living in London, however, having an office building across your bedroom certainly isn’t one of them. For the past couple of weeks we’ve constantly held the blackout curtains down due to the lack of an alternative. After all, we didn’t want to waive our panties in people’s faces while they’re working. Unfortunately though, the darkness in the room has been overwhelming, so we had to sort this out and we only had one day off of work this week.
Weather seemed absolutely gorgeous in the morning. Despite the bright sun, however, a cold wind would creep in around you every now and then having you freeze like a snowman in Borovets, Bulgaria.
After getting well shaken on the 43 (my not-so-favorite always cold) bus for a little over an hour we were done with Tesco and Dunham pretty quick. It was 3pm when we were ready to hop on 232 bus and head off to Ikea to finalise everything. Sadly, 232 was not ready for us.
According to its timetable the bus was meant to arrive at 15:20 with another one following at 15:40. Problem was that after barely 15 minutes on the bus stop my entire body felt frozen with my hands long ago having lost any sensitivity. Ellie wasn’t any better. There was no sign of 232 or any other bus and the wind was getting even more fierce. Just then I remembered that there’s an app on my phone that has been pretty accurate in predicting the arrival of the next bus. With all the excitement I could possibly have I removed my gloves (didn’t enjoy that bit) only to load the app and learn the devastating news. The bus wasn’t coming for another 30 minutes.
I guess we were either too cold or too brainless by then… Neither one of us even considered the idea of giving up and simply going somewhere warm. “I wonder if hitchhiking is a thing here,” Ellie said, “since Google Maps offers it as an option.” Next thing you know I’ve raised my hand and I’m hoping. Thinking about it now it was not a smart thing to do – after all, how could any of the drivers even know where we’re headed to. But at the time, cold and determined, nothing else seemed more logical.
Ten minutes later we were both devastated. There wasn’t a single sign that any of the cars is going to stop and the app had stopped on “232 coming in 28 minutes”. Even the car which seemed to have broken down on the side of the road didn’t make it more appealing to drivers to stop. “It’s got to be the police car”, we thought, blaming it on the officers helping the woman in that car. There had to be a reason cars kept passing us by.
“Dude,” I turned to Ellie in panic “do you think hitch hiking is even legal around here?” We looked at each other realising that we could just be standing there, a few meters away from the police car trying to brake the UK law. And since neither of us was willing to take her gloves off and ask Google I simply headed to the police vehicle to ask the ones that should know best. If I’m about to break the law, I thought, might as well know that I’m doing it.
“Excuse me,” I started as the car window came down, “is hitchhiking legal in the UK?“. “It is” said the police officer with a smile, “but no one will stop on a speed road. You need to be on a side road for that“. “Damn it!” I couldn’t help myself blurting in the cold air, “We’re just trying to get to IKEA and the freaking bus is taking forever!” Literally devastated I returned to Ellie and broke the news to her. The app was stuck on 15 minutes and we felt we were about to die.
To our surprise only a couple of minutes later the police officer that had answered my question was coming our way. “You do know that IKEA is only open until 5 today, right?” he said as he came closer. I remember looking into his eyes, shaking but not blinking and saying: “We need curtains.” with the determination of a crazy person. I was too cold to realise that we’re just plain stupid.
He looked at us, shaked his head as if he wanted to say “You’re out of your minds” and instead said: “Follow me“. We limped behind him towards the car almost incapable of acting normal. Were they going to allow us to sit in the car until the bus came?
He opened the back door of the car and we sat in. Happiness – this is what I felt and I do realise it sounds like an exaggeration but there’s no way in the world I can explain how exactly cold we were. Both Ellie and I were lightly dressed for this wind and while we had left the house on about 10 degrees Celsius earlier it was around 4 at the time. The wind made it feel as if it was -4.
It is an understatement to say that we were pleasantly surprised when the police officers told us that they’ll drop us off at IKEA. Both exhilarated and extremely thankful Ellie and I pulled out our biggest smiles ever. “We can’t just look at the two of you freezing to death out there,” they said, “it would be disregarding our duty to care and protect.“
We’ve had plenty of pleasant experiences in London. Being a nice human being is still in fashion in this country and certainly one of the reasons we’re falling more and more in love with the place and its people. Yet this one experience beats it all.
No, the Metropolitan Police is not a taxi service and should by no means be treated this way. But there are some real fine humans woking there and I have to admit that this one simple act of kindness completely made our day and perhaps – a month, or maybe even more as it literally brought back daylight in our lives :).
If there’s anything Ellie and I regret is totally forgetting to ask about their names. So, dear police officers, if you are reading this please do get in touch. We can at least cook you a typical Bulgarian meal and prep you for the holiday you mentioned you’ll be having in Bulgaria this summer. THANK YOU, for being such absolute sweethearts and for the great sense of humour you both had!