Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The London Chronicles : Part 2


Before commencing, I'd like to respond to a gracious visitor's remark regarding the previous entry. Indeed, I think it's quite an odd comment for a piece of writing obviously not meant for fictional purposes. Other people might like to re-construct their own experiences in re-telling a memoir to make it non-linear, I found it defies the purpose in the first place.

OK, I'm continuing. Naturally, one would seek the authorities in such situations. But wait, mana pegawai ni? Initially, I didn't see anyone that look like airport officers or anything of that sort walking about. You know, those guys wearing fluorescent jackets. Then I saw one, a friendly-looking lanky guy with very fair skin, bespectacled, somehow reminded me of a thinner and taller Robin Williams.

"Excuse me, I was looking for my luggage, and it wasn't on the belt, and it wasn't anywhere on the floor, and I want to find someone from the authorities that I can ask about this situation?"
"Oh sure. You can ask me." The guy smiled and I took an instant liking to him. Meanwhile, another bewildered-looking guy could be heard grumbling audibly, half-addressing the officer.
"I have lost my luggage."
"You have lost your luggage? That is soo usual." I couldn't help chuckling at the officer's little joke.

He asked me for the tag that labelled my luggage, and I was inherently, utterly grateful that I didn't misplace it or dismiss it as something insignificant. Honestly, selama ini I tak pernah tahu the actual reason they gave us that piece of sticknote to paste on our tickets and tell us "it's for you to find your luggage". I always thought it pointless and useless since obviously I can recognize my luggage and my luggage never failed to come out of the belt. Alhamdulillah, rupanya Allah nak tunjuk jugak gunanya label tu and never regard even seemingly small things are significant. Just don't be too ignorant to find out.

After checking the whereabouts of my dear-dear-missed baggage in 'the system' as he called it, the officer told me that it's going to arrive tomorrow morning. Thankful as I was, a certain amount of uneasiness still crept inside. How on earth am I going to retrieve my bag? Surely I don't have to spend the night in London Heathrow, curled somewhere like a homeless? (Although admittedly, it is indeed 'very safe' there, nobody's likely to kidnap you, or 'be ungentlemanly to a lady - get the meaning?', or rob you or any such evils, especially if you settle down in full view of as many people as possible.)

Teringat how I had slept in KLIA's surau after a late-night arrival from Manchester 2 1/2 months before, tunggu pagi, praying fervently that I'll see the morning alive and intact, hugging my backpack - a security measure - and resting my poor head on my folded-up International Baccalaureate pink-and-grey sweater.

Alhamdulillah, I need not resort to any extreme measures. The amiable officer assured me that Heathrow Airport would make sure the luggage reached where I'm staying. Well, they really are going to deliver it right to my doorstep! All I needed to do was fill a form, stating my contact number and the address where I wanted the luggage delivered. I also needed to give description of how my bag looks like. Soft material, upright, green in colour. A funny incident happened at the next counter, a lady - presumably in a similar predicament - couldn't believe this service of Heathrow's.

"Can I help you?"
"My bag is missing."
"Which airline are you flying with?"
"OK, if it hasn't arrived, we'll send it to you when it got here."
"Are you serious?"
"Yes, we'll deliver it to you."
"But.. are you serious?"
"Yes, we are, we'll send it to you."
"Well.. uh.. ARE YOU SERIOUS?"

I don't think she's jesting. She looked pretty serious, and quite stressed out.

The officer I mentioned was extremely helpful. Very nice. Serioussly. At first, he said that spending the night in Heathrow is quite safe. But upon learning that I'm intent upon returning to Manchester, he advised me on choosing whether to take a train or a bus home. He even went to print out the bus timetables for that night and offered his opinion which trip is most convenient for me to take.

(After the word 'inshAllah' slipped his tongue, I was quite surprised and strived to peek at his name-tag, convinced that this is a fellow Muslim. And truly, he is. His name is AbdulFatah Sagher. May Allah bless him and his family and everyone that he loves!)

When I asked him about prayer times and prayer rooms, he took the trouble to go into his office-room again and printed out the list of prayer times from Islamic Finder for the whole month of August, and gave me explicit directions to the nearest prayer room and the easiest way to make wudhu' (by using the disabled toilet, though how easy is this compared to the conventional way of using the 'normal' sinks, I didn't know, for I didn't try.)

I have a strong feeling that in addition to his natural good-natured personality, he was further encouraged to be super-nice when dealing with a fellow young Muslimah who is traveling alone with a backpack, and with a 'missing' baggage at that. The Muslim brotherhood thing, plus some gentlemanly chivalry, and professional courteousness. =)

Following the signs - going through passages that I perceive to be as berbelit-belit as a rabbit warren - finally I got into an elevator that says "To Central Bus Station and The Chapel." Good, I thought. Boleh la solat kat chapel, for the directions to the prayer rooms given by Brother AbdulFatah just now was totally muddled in my mind by now. I bought a National Express coach ticket for Manchester Central bus station, departure at 11.35 p.m. and scheduled to arrive at 4.20 a.m., costing me a horrendous, tremendous, notorious, 36.50 pounds.

It was about 8.50 p.m., I think. The next mission is to find the chapel. The signs are always there, and the people who would gladly impart instructions to find the place. After something like a kilometre and half an hour of walking, I found the chapel outside Terminal Two building, across the street, beside a dark park. Alamak, 'dodgy'nya tempat ni. Selamat ke? And God settled the 'problem'. The chapel was locked. Memang tak boleh guna pun. The notice on the door said something like,

"The chapel is closed at 4.00 p.m. on Friday. If you come here and found it locked, there is another prayer room at Terminal 3 Arrivals."

Lah terminal 3 pulaaak. Solat tepi jalan kang...

Another half-hour of searching for Terminal 3, Arrivals. Before I found the room, another - embarrassing - incident happened. Prior to this, I had simply wiped my wetted hand over my socks. Suddenly as I was renewing my wudhu' in a ladies' room I found, I felt some not-very-explicable qualms that led me to take off my socks - look left,right, OK takde orang - and washed my right foot in the sink. Living in the UK really loosened your joints, you get to lift your feet into the sink up to - and perhaps more than - five times per day.

Then I kantoi.

"Hey, you can't wash your feet in the sink! It's only to wash hands..." a cleaner girl spotted me, red-handed (or should I say red-footed?)
Awkwardly, I tried to negotiate.
"I'm very sorry, but I really need to wash my feet..."
Dalam hati: Alamak... habiss.. why oh why did I want to wash them in the first place tadi?
"No, you cannot wash your feet."
"I only have one more foot to wash. Please..?"
"But you can't!"
"OK, I'll do it another way then."

Don't cringe. I believe I'm not the first to do this, neither will I be the last. I went to the nearest cubicle, peeked into the clean and spotless toilet bowl, lifted my left foot into the bowl and pulled the flush. Mission accomplished. But the cleaner girl, I'm perfectly sure, was not too happy, not at all.

O Allah, forgive me if I had caused fitnah to Islam. =|

Well, I found the prayer room, a multi-faith prayer room with sejadahs arranged facing the qiblah, and a rack with holy books that I noticed are mainly from Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Alhamdulillah.

After finishing my 'divine business' in Terminal 3, I set out to find the Central Bus Station, asking for direction from several not-very-friendly cops along the way. (Honestly, I was half-convinced that they were suspicious of me - a young Muslim girl wearing black coat and black scarf, carrying a backpack, walking alone at night at a pretty deserted road. But the rational part of my brain tells me I'm being overly dramatic.) I fell asleep several times during the 1 1/2 hour wait for the coach at the Station - I'm dreadfully tired, famished, travel-worn - but I finally reached Manchester Central in the end.

After praying Subuh on the floor beside a not-yet-open food shop in the bus station building (I noticed workers starting to switch on lights and preparing to open the shop as I was finishing prayers, and I noticed fishy looks towards me later, but oh who cares haha. Sape suruh tak provide praying rooms?), I settled on a chair, reading my notes, waiting for my friend to fetch me. She arrived at about seven, taking me to her house in Rusholme. My first impression of Manchester,

"I think it is supposed to be summer?" ..through chattering teeth.
"It's like, one warm day for every 3-4 cold rainy days..."
Global warming? Climate change?

Alhamdulillah I'm safe and sound. Aha, my luggage arrived on the afternoon of the 19th. =)



Kaki Bangku said...

When I saw the word "Chronicles" in the title I expected some didactic divine-providential biblical-narrative type of story (ie. Israelite book of chronicles, The Chronicles of Narnia etc). Of course I could have taken "Chronicles" in its literal sense as something chronological/linear, but that would be a gross insult to your literary credentials.

Apa-apa lah...

Ku Keng said...

A bottle of mineral bottle (2.5l) always come handy for washing the legs. Normally I would wash them at the toilet bowl after washing the other parts at the sink.
Nobody would complain.

Taufik said...

Apa-apa je lah bangku...

Macam-macam betul =0