The thing I love most about London (apart from the weather of course) is that the place is full of people from all over the world complete with their own stories and life experiences. I have met so many interesting people by just smiling and starting a conversation. I’m not one of those creepy people that persist on talking when the other person is not receptive. I back off, I promise. Most of these people I’ve never seen again, but a few have become good friends. Here is the story of how I met Alex, a guy on the six thirty National Express from Bristol to London.
Back Story: One of my besties lives in Bristol and I was going up to celebrate her birthday. I had already taken her to see Carrie Hope Fletcher in Les Miserable (who is doing a second season as Eponine in the West End by the way. I urge you to go and see it if you haven’t already) earlier in the month, but I wanted to spend her actual birthday with her. I left on a coach back home to London, that’s where my story starts.
Running late, I grabbed a quick burrito from Mission Burrito, (veggie, extra cheese, guacamole and sour cream) and very tired from a lovely day sipping bubbles Under the Stars. I hurriedly said good-bye to my friend and the rest of the party who dropped me back to the coach station (thank you guys). I was the last one to board the coach and dragged myself to the back of the bus with the only free seat next to the toilet. Nice, I thought. As I go to take my seat, I took a glance at the person I would be sharing my personal space with for the next few hours.
Now, let me describe him. He was tall, dark hair, black rimmed glasses, well-built, slightly tanned, barefoot, good-looking and from Australia. The journey won’t be so bad I thought. I’ve got myself some eye candy. To paraphrase a line from ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green: a non-hot boy sits next to you and it is, at best, awkward… But a hot boy . . . well.” So I sit down, slightly adjust myself and out of nowhere, I hear someone say “great seats we have, next to the toilet.” I turned around and said “yeah, my fault for leaving it too late.” Hot Guy smiled and put his headphones in. That was the end of that interaction. Or so I thought.
The coach driver started the health and safety presentation and made a few jokes about being late and not turning the air con on. I muttered, mostly to myself, “any way to make the day go faster”. The guy next to me said “yeah, I used to make stuff up all the time when I did coach transfers in Italy. It was great.” “Sounds like fun” I said, still listening to the driver. When the coach started driving off, I decided to unwrap my burrito and apologised to Hot Guy for the smell, he didn’t mind and proceeded to put his ear phones back in and slept.
For an hour or so, I plugged in to my iPad and put on my favourite playlist and got on with writing. Sometimes, you have to steal all the moments you can to write when you’re freelance and have a full-time job. After a while, I was bored and started to read. There was a seat between Hot Guy and myself so I used it to my full advantage and settled myself so I was more comfortable, almost taking up two seats.
I realised, in between turning pages, Hot Guy’s head became a doggy on a dashboard and with an hour left on our journey he woke up and asked if his head was rolling around all the time. I lied. I told him only occasionally, and not to worry about it. I went on to tell him I managed a 14 hour coach journey to Amsterdam and I probably did the same, it’s bound to happen.
I asked Hot Guy about traveling and whether he was coming or going or staying. I found out he was staying with a friend near Highbury and Islington in London, sleeping on a kitchen floor, and only staying for a few more days. I learned Hot Guy was traveling the world, and while he had only toured Europe in the past year, he was planning on heading East to Asia. I wasn’t jealous at that point, not at all, no way, not me. What is this jealousy you speak of? *Cough*
I spoke about China, the trains, the students, the atmosphere, the break in and how there was trouble in a communist paradise. Hot Guy seemed shocked at my account of China; he thought everything was orderly, proper and submissive to hierarchy. Hot Guy was wrong, but I reassured him the bad ass China was only 15% of the picture.
Hot Guy asked me about Bristol and I briefly told him about my friend’s birthday and only going for a few hours. Hot Guy told me he was from Brisbane and managed to get leave for a year or two from work and hasn’t decided whether he wants to go back just yet. For the rest of the journey we spoke about travelling and work, discussed tips on traveling alone and on the cheap. It was one of the most interesting coach journeys I’ve ever had- and I’ve had a few in my time.
As we started to pull in to Victoria I realised I did not know his name. We stood up to go and said “It was great talking to you, I don’t think I caught your name.” “Alex”, he said, laughing. “Nathalie, it was nice to meet you.” I said, smiling.
We walked to Victoria tube station together and carried on our conversation. We talked about Alex’ trip to Iceland, volunteering and convincing middle aged women there was such a thing as grass boarding- you had to trade in your snow board for a grass board when you got to the greener, less snowy part of the mountain. Alex’ stories made me laugh and if I wrote all of them, they’d fill a novel.
As Alex and I approached the ticket gate for the Victoria Line, we said goodbye and wished each other luck in our future adventures. Alex beeped his way through the barriers and I walked towards the District Line, which would take me home. We never saw each other again.
Although the chances of Alex and I ever meeting again is as likely as having an entire week of sunshine in London, it doesn’t matter. That day on that coach, two human beings from opposite sides of the world made a connection. Not a romantic or awkward or rushed connection but a human connection. The kind of connection that inspires one to do something and go places or make a difference in the world, and that connection was made on the way to London, along with millions of other potential connections everyday in this great and wonderful city.
The point of telling the story is to show how easy it is to make a connection with others and how important it is to not stay too long in our own little bubble.Life is too short to be scared to strike up a conversation with someone. That one little word ‘Hi” is filled with so much potential, it almost screams to be spoken.
If you’re reading Alex, I hope you’re well. If we’re ever in the same country, we should hang out sometime.
Tell us about your random connections below and how it affected you. Did you meet your partner? Your best friend? Did they inspire you to do something great? Or was it just that one time? I’d love to know your experiences.
Over and Out!