I was very much looking forward to coming back to the UK this summer. Not only was I excited to see all my friends back home (Let's face it, Azerbaijan is not really home anymore. After so many years, England feels like home now.) but also I was looking forward to a normal life. Life where you know what to expect, where to find things in shops or whom to call when you need something. Life where things happen as expected.
It is about simple pleasures. Things I never appreciated before. Like people you deal with on the daily basis that are not all Filipino. And no, I am not being racist. I don't really have a problem with Filipino people. It is just something you notice when you have lived in Doha for a while, and then come out of it. You realise that there are actually all sorts of other nationalities who can be waitresses, hairdressers and shopping assistants. You might even!!! sometimes get English people in servicing positions. Let me tell you it is very refreshing.
The very first amazing thing happened to me even before I arrived to Heathrow. I made a call from Doha to a mini cab company in my home village in Herts. The English woman on the phone understood everything I said straight away. She asked useful, direct, relevant questions. Like the ages of my kids and the number of suitcases. It was all so professional and quick that I thought to myself something would go wrong. But nope. As i came out and walked over to the information desk, there he was, my man, holding a little white board, with my name spelled correctly. Waiting for me. Not late, not lost, not waiting somewhere else. Wow, I thought to myself. How great is it to be back! To the land of people who understand you, where everything works and gets done!
After a week of catching up with dearest friends and eating an awful lot of salami and other wonderful pork related products, I was ready to take a train to North Wales, to stay with my in laws.
I called the same mini cab company and booked my car.
And then it started. Since i was determined to catch my train, and the cab was late, I decided, as I struggled to squeeze my two year old toddler into what was supposed to be a rear-facing baby seat, that there was no time to argue with the clueless driver that I had specifically requested a car seat for an older child.
The traffic was as bad as in Doha, and I started to feel the old, familiar stress of living in the UK slowly creeping back on me. Yet, I continued clinging to my illusion of the civilised world i returned to.
Surprisingly, we got to Euston in plenty of time and, remembering being told at my previous summer trip that there was nobody available at the train station to help unless I were disabled, I looked for, and managed to find myself a trolley. Pleased with my quick thinking, I made my way towards the station entrance, which as it soon transpired, was upstairs. I stared at the escalator and the steps. It is okay, I thought, glancing around. There will be a lift. What about the disabled
persons? I am in London after all, everything is about the disabled persons here.
But not this time. The lifts were, of course, there but, OUT OF ORDER. There was no point getting angry, as there was nobody there to get angry with. Nobody I could ask how the hell I was supposed to get the trolley up to the station now. Not even a bloody telephone.
And that is when, right there, standing at the bottom of the long steep staircase with two small children, a pushchair, two large heavy suitcases, a Khaleeji family toddler backpack, and no working lifts, I felt properly at home. That is when I got reminded of the civilised ways in which this country used to drive me crazy.
Yet, the best experience was my conversation with the O2 customer service. We cant talk to you, the young girl explained in her perfect English. You are not the account holder. Yes, I know, I said. But we have always had both mobile phones registered in my husband's name. By always, I mean about
twelve years. I know the password, I said. I have been through this before. I am sorry, the rules have changed, the girl said. I can only speak to the account holder now. But he is abroad! You do realise, I said, that I have been doing this for years? I pay you every month from my bank account. You can easily check that. Moreover, your enhanced security system is stupid. You can only tell I am not my husband over the phone. But, what if I used the online chat you so badly want everyone to use instead of calling you? With all the passwords and all the details, I could easily be Mr T.
Thank you, Mrs B. she said angrily. I will now make a note on your file that you are planning to do this!!!
I am not planning to do anything, I thought. I just wish I could stick your head in a public toilet.
Fuming, my face red with frustration, I hung up after half an hour of pointless arguements. I guess, the time has come to say goodbye to O2 now. It is one thing to deal with annoying things in the country you live in now, but to deal with stupidity in two countries is just way too much. Thankfully, my father in law was waiting for me in the living room with a tall glass of G&T. I took a sip and looked out to the green trees outside. Oh, it is good to be back. And to O2 customer service- FUCK YOU. And you, Euston station.