At the train station I bought some food and then helped a pigeon with one leg find his way back outside. When it was closer to boarding time I looked around for my train but could not find it. I asked for assistance and a gentleman told me that my train was not going to Picadilly Station, it was going to Victoria Station. I had no clue where Victoria Station was. I had about 5% battery left on my cell phone and I had left my charger back at our filthy flat. I knew I was about to be lost and alone in Manchester, so I did what I do best and started hyperventilating. I texted Boyfriend and told him that the worst thing in the world was happening and he kept saying “I will meet you at Picadilly. Just get to Picadilly.” And I kept thinking “HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT WITHOUT A MAP I WONT EVEN BE ABLE TO SEE THROUGH ALL OF MY TEARS!”
On the train to Manchester I ate a lot of chocolate out of my bargain chocolate bag which made things a little easier. I wondered what fate would meet me on the other end of that railroad track. As we approached Manchester I started intently scanning the surroundings as we passed a train station in an area I was familiar with. I just kept saying to myself “just pay attention to the directions and walk back that way later.” But we just kept on chugging through the city and I lost all sense of direction. WHAT WILL BECOME OF ME?! I dramatically pondered while eating my Cadbury Twirlz. I was reading the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed so I tried to channel her inner strength. If Cheryl Strayed can lose her mom, divorce her loving husband, kick a drug addiction and then trek through the unforgiving wilderness alone for months, I can get from Victoria Station to Picadilly Station, I hoped. My own Pacific Crest Trail.
When we arrived, I texted Boyfriend to let him know and to also remind him “PHONE ALMOST DEAD. IF YOU DON’T HEAR FROM ME IN 2 HOURS CALL INTERPOL.” I exited the train and walked out of the train station onto the street. There were people selling Pharrell Williams t-shirts and posters everywhere. The merchandise was lined up on blankets on the ground, underneath looming posters of Pharrell. These massive posters hung over my head everywhere. Oh no, I thought, this area of Manchester seems to think Pharrell is some sort of god. This must be a weird neighbourhood! Pharrell is not a god!
I turned a corner, having absolutely no clue which direction I was walking in, and started trying to make my way towards Picadilly Station. I didn’t know which direction I was going, which direction Picadilly was in, or if I was just going to die there on a blanket next to Pharrell memorabilia. I kept walking around in circles, getting more and more frantic each time I passed the same Pharrell posters I had walked by earlier. I was on the verge of a panic attack and each text from Boyfriend asking “where are you?” brought me that much closer. I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM IF I DID THIS WOULDN’T BE A PROBLEM IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT YOU MADE ME COME TO THIS CITY AND I’M GOING TO DIE HERE UNDER A POSTER OF PHARRELL WILLIAMS THAT SAYS “BECAUSE I’M HAPPY.” I DON’T LIKE THIS IRONY, BOYFRIEND. I DON’T LIKE IT AT ALL. THIS IRONY IS MEANT FOR BOOKS OR MOVIES NOT REAL LIFE. I LOVE YOU. TELL MY MOM SHE WAS A GOOD MOM. I’M SORRY FOR ALL OF THE ANNOYING SHIT I’VE DONE TO YOU. I’M SO SORRY. BUT I AM STILL MAD AT YOU FOR THIS. YOU MUST KNOW THAT I DIED PISSED OFF THAT I’M IN MANCHESTER.
Those were the words going through my head as I breathed heavily in and out and wiped tears from my eyes as I wandered the streets of Manchester. I finally found something familiar that felt like home – a Dominos Pizza place. I walked up to two people handing out flyers outside the store and I pleaded with them to help me.
“Are you American or Canadian?” they asked.
“Canadian! Newfoundland! Canada!” I replied.
“Good. We will help you.”
I told them of my plight and the man put his arm on my shoulder and said it will be okay, but I was very far from Picadilly and there was no way I could walk that far. He told me to go back to the train station and try to get a train or a bus to Picadilly. So that’s what I did, after stockpiling some pizza coupons of course. I followed the trail of Pharrell posters back to Victoria Station and I walked back into the building. Except I had no clue how to get to a ticket booth, or how to find someone who worked there. So I walked around in circles again and started freaking out even more. I decided I had to go back outside and get some fresh air before I passed out so I walked back into the street and paced back and forth by a row of taxi cabs, reminding myself to breathe, trying not to scream from panic. About five minutes later I stopped and looked at the row of taxi cabs and I calmly said to myself “you can just get a cab to Picadilly Station. They know how to get there.” And I hopped in a cab and asked the driver to take me there. About four minutes and 3 pounds later I was dropped off at Picadilly and into the arms of my worried boyfriend. I was a little embarrassed that I had a full on crisis about being lost while staring at rows of taxi cabs. The solution was so simple. I blame Pharrell Williams for distracting me. I will not clap my hands, Pharrell. Because I am not happy.
As it turns out, Pharrell Williams was not a Kim Jong Il-ian dictator of a burrough in Manchester. He just had a concert at the stadium next to Victoria Station that night.
So Boyfriend and I rejoiced that Manchester had not claimed my life and we got some fast food and went back to the flat. We had to pack our bags and prepare for our early morning train to London. I was so excited to say goodbye to Manchester and to see the sights of London! I packed most of my things away in my backpack and laid out my clothes for the next morning. All that was left to pack up when I woke up were my toiletries and my massive chocolate bars that were scattered around the room. Boyfriend and I said goodnight and drifted off to sleep around 10 pm. Just after midnight I was woken up by the sound of an alarm. I shook Boyfriend awake and asked him what the alarm was. He told me it sounded like it was coming from outside and not to worry, and then he fell back asleep. I was pretty sure the alarm was coming from inside the apartment so I darted out of bed and directly into full panic mode. “SOMETHING IS WRONG. SOMETHING IS WRONG AND WE ARE GOING TO DIE IN MANCHESTER IN THIS SHITTY FLAT!” I said to Boyfriend, who finally got out of bed to look around. I was determined that our flat was on fire so Boyfriend went into the hallway to find our airbnb host to ask him what the alarm was. He knocked on the door we were certain the host was staying in but two asian girls greeted him. He knocked on the only other bedroom door and some other guy we had never seen before greeted him at that one. He came back to tell me that no one knew what was happening and the host was nowhere to be found. So I picked up my phone and tried calling him. No answer.
I looked out the window and saw other tenants of the apartment building spilling into the street below, so I ran around the room, changing into my clothes and grabbing my backpack and toiletries. I had enough of this apartment building and wanted to leave for good at that moment. We were almost out the bedroom door when I looked back and saw my two giant chocolate bars, one on either side of the room. “Oh no, I only have time to save one!” I realized. So I ran towards the Cadbury bar, grabbed it, and darted out of the flat. We ran down the flights of stairs and into the street with the others. At that point our host had texted me asking what was up, wondering why I called. I told him there was a fire alarm and we had to evacuate. The asshole never once texted back to see if we were okay.
We found out that this sort of thing happens all of the time in this apartment building, so often that the fire trucks didn’t even bother to show up so they just silenced the alarm and told us all to go back to bed, it probably wasn’t a real fire. How reassuring! I hadn’t seen the other guy sharing our flat when Boyfriend was talking to him in the hallway, so when he came up to us outside to ask if we wanted to go back up to his flat to share a beer I was determined that the man was a serial killer. I gave him a 72% likelihood of mass murder. And then Boyfriend told me we were sleeping in the bedroom next to him. So I reluctantly went back into the room, slept for another couple hours with my backpack close by incase I had to leave once more, and luckily awoke in the morning without any first degree burns, smoke inhalation, or being serial killed, and headed to the train station.
Good riddance, Manchester!