One of the reasons I was excited about traveling to England last month was because it was the first time in years I’d be in a foreign country where I could actually speak the language. How relaxing! On Day One, I was reminded how being fluent didn’t mean being attentive. I could blame jet lag, but my friends would know better.The trip went like this: By plane from Durham, NC, to Atlanta to Munich to Manchester, England. By train: Manchester to Newcastle, a three-hour ride. About halfway through the trip I got up to use the loo. It was an automated tubular contraption, much like the one pictured here, but in this case tucked inside the hallway area between the conductor and the first car. I pushed the “open” button and the door slid open on its track, much like an elevator. Inside, I pushed the “close” and it closed.
As I was doing my business, I was shocked to hear the whir of the door as it slowly slid opened. While quickly but only partly pulling up my pants, I instinctively stood and reached to close the door, which was as ineffective as reaching for an automated car window on its way down.
I looked up to find an elderly woman watching me, while the male ticket taker had been polite enough to turn away.
“I’m so sorry, love, I guess you didn’t lock it, did you?” she said.
I guess I didn’t, did I?
I mumbled something while I found and stabbed at the “close” button, which, it turned out, was right next to the “lock” button.
“Leave it to the Yank,” I said with a red-faced smile as I exited.