When I boarded the Megabus to London, there was only one thing I knew for sure: I did not have sleeping arrangements for that night. But I wasn’t worried. The bus ride was 6 hours long and I had been in contact with a Couchsurfing host who just had to e-mail me back with his address and when to meet him. Six hours should be enough, right? Of course. So, Aleah and I boarded the Megabus at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station, and I promptly fell asleep in my seat.
Here’s the thing about Megabus (or at least Megabus in the UK), the seats are comfy, the ride is soothing (not too bumpy), and there is Wifi. When I first boarded the bus, I thought, “Oh, wifi, that will be nice.” I didn’t know that, within 4 hours, it would be the last line of defense between me and homelessness.
We boarded the bus at 3 pm (or 15:00, if you’re European—or just anywhere else in the world), and at 6 pm, I woke up.
“How long have I been out?” I asked Aleah, who was now 2/3 of her way through the first installment of Game of Thrones.
“Three hours. Has the Couchsurfing host responded?” I hadn’t checked. But after I refreshed my e-mail (which I could do, thank god, because there was wifi on the bus!!!) I realized he hadn’t. Well, we still had three hours before we got to London. There was still time. I went back to sleep.
I woke up again and we were parked at a rest stop. I GoogleMapped where we were and how much time we had before we arrived in London town, and we had an hour and a half. I refreshed my e-mail—still no response. I felt a slight tingle in my chest. This might not be good.
“I didn’t get a response, Aleah.”
“Let’s look for cheap hostels?” I asked.
25 minutes passed and we finally summed up the courage to look each other in the eye and see the same realization reflected in both our countenances: all the hostels we’d looked at were booked. An hour left before we arrived in London.
“I’m gonna call a travel agency and get to the bottom of this—there can’t be nothing available,” I said, and, thanks to Google and wifi on the Megabus, I found a toll free number to call.
I consulted GoogleMaps again, and at the pace we were traveling on the Megabus (we weren’t necessarily hurtling down the highway, perse), we had 50 minutes left before we arrived in London. But it was at that point that it hit me: we had 50 minutes until we were officially homeless. That Megabus was the only home we had at that point, and time was running out.
5 minutes later, I found—from the TripAdvisor lady—that all the hostels were booked solid, and the only option we had was a €500 ($650)/night room in King’s Cross Hotel. That wasn’t happening. What were we going to do?
“My Dad stays in Marriotts all the time—maybe he’s racked up enough Marriott points for us to stay somewhere for the night—ask her if there are any Marriott openings,” Aleah said.
Apparently, the TripAdvisor lady could only tell me about hostels and Bed & Breakfasts, so I called the first Marriott I found in London. No vacancies. Apparently, that very night, the Marriott had had an event specifically for all their most valuable and reliable customers, so it was booked solid—just for that night. Just our luck.
“Can you speak to the vacancies for any of the other Marriotts in London?” I asked her.
“No, Mum, I’m sorry, you’ll have to coll them ool,” she said in her annoying accent. **Disclaimer: I find British accents beautiful, I was just under a bit of stress then and remember everything with a shadow.**
I relayed the news to Aleah. “Let me e-mail my Dad. He’ll know what to do,” she said. I looked at my watch. 40 minutes until we’re homeless. 40 minutes until we have to find a gaunt, Fagin-esque man to take us under his wing and teach us how to steal handkercheifs from the pretty people living in town houses and walk-ups. “What if he doesn’t respond in time?” I asked Aleah. “Well,” she said, “Let’s just hope he does.”
With 35 minutes left before we had no home to call our own, my life became an ugly loop of me refreshing my e-mail, the Hostels World homepage and Twitter (though, admittedly, the latter was my in hopes of finding funny one-liners from comedians to brighten the mood). My life was Megabus wifi.
Finally, with 22 minutes until landing, we get an e-mail from Aleah’s Dad: “Checking now. Are you on wifi?”
Yes. Yes, we were on wifi. Thank you, Megabus.
A back and forth saga lasted for those last, tense, nail-biting 22 minutes, waiting to hear what happened with Dan (Aleah’s dad) and the Marriott.
And I swear to you—this is not added for dramatic effect, but the moment the bus parked at Victoria Station, we received a forwarded confirmation e-mail from Dan with the address and phone number of the room he’d booked for us (free of charge!) at the Marriott with the Marriott points he’d racked up from years of traveling with them.
Aleah and I disembarked from the bus with a home to go to. Unfortunately, though, it was on the other side of the city, so, with all our luggage in tow, we walked 2.5 miles across London—through a Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park, past gypsies and their children soliciting us for funds we didn’t have on Edgware Road, past a film set we’d hoped was for the
Can you tell what these guys are filming?
gripping TV series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, negotiating intersections with people driving on the wrong sides of cars driving on the wrong sides of the road.
Finally, though, we reached the check-in desk at the London Marriott Hotel in Grosvernor Square. A much better sleeping option than an overnight chair on the Tube Train. And, a much better life precedent than an evening spent homeless in London. At least now, I don’t have to worry about any of the chapters of my life’s story being titled, “EMILIA WALKS TO LONDON. SHE ENCOUNTERS ON THE ROAD A STRANGE SORTOF YOUNG GENTLEMAN,” or “EMILIA BECOMES BETTER ACQUAINTED WITH THE CHARACTERS OF HER NEW ASSOCIATES; AND PURCHASES EXPERIENCE AT A HIGH PRICE. BEING A SHORT, BUT VERY IMPORTANT CHAPTER, IN THIS HISTORY.”