In 24 hours I will be on a bus headed from Oxford to Heathrow. I hope. Of all the legs of the trip home, this is the part I’ve been most anxious about.
What if … the bus zooms past me at the bus stop? What if it doesn’t stop at my stop anymore? What if the bus stops but the driver cuts off boarding at me, because they are only allowing 10 people on the bus v. the usual 50? What if the service is cancelled completely? They did that with the route to Gatwick airport. I have a return ticket from my last flight—but should I buy a new one online so I can reserve a seat? Service is down from every 20 minutes to every two hours. If I miss the bus, the next one wouldn’t get me to Heathrow until 20 minutes before my flight takes off. A taxi would cost about $100.
I suffered heart-thumping anxiety for years, now have been anxiety free for a decade except for the occasional work deadline. Now it’s back, in a milder form. It’s a bit annoying, but given the state of global affairs, it would be kind of weird if I wasn’t anxious.
I have learned to Just Deal With Things that induce anxiety. So I called the bus company. The customer service guy, Josh, answered after two rings and assured me that ridership was so low I would have no problem getting a seat on the bus, at my stop, and I could use the ticket I already had.
He sounded bored. I think he would have been happy to chat for a while.
I felt reassured for about an hour, then the What Ifs started up again. What if he didn’t like my American accent so he purposely gave me the wrong information? What if he was new and didn’t really know the right answers? What if they changed everything right after I called?
I waited a few days, feeling dumb for continuing to worry, then emailed the bus company with the same questions. Josh replied almost immediately with the same answers. Oh no, how embarrassing! Did he know it was me? Did he wonder why I was asking the same questions again? I usually thank customer service people, but I didn’t this time because I would have felt compelled to explain why I didn’t trust his answers the first time.
This second set of answers—maybe because they were in writing—erased the anxiety.
I may sound loopy but there it is.
My last day in Oxford. I am doing laundry, cleaning the house and the chicken run, and fiddling around with packing. I will go for a long walk later. Where should I go? Into the city to gaze at the medieval colleges? Along the Thames Path to see the waterfowl and other ramblers and the canal boats? Up to Iffley lock and the church where I have watched the seasons change and enjoyed so many quiet moments?
This was my last view of Scotland last week. Friend and driver Bob stopped the vehicle so I could hop out and take a snap.
I visited Iffley Church the next day. The churchyard was strewn with wildflowers and an English robin perched on a headstone.
The next day I walked for hours through town, taking photos or just appreciating things I’d never noticed because I was trying not to bump into the 5,000 other people on the sidewalk.
Will I ever return? The longing to live here forever see-saws with the excitement of the return journey and arriving home after four and a half months in the UK.
I gave the garden a good pruning, then sat and read the Sunday Times Rich List. I should have gone into online gambling or started a hedge fund. But then, I probably wouldn’t spend much time relaxing in a garden.
Here is a good question from HSBC.
I was born in New York, grew up in Minnesota, and feel at home in England—and most everywhere else I’ve sojourned.
Once I am on the bus, I will exhale and feel at home.