To Find a Place to Be Myself

Manchester/Bath UK Trip Journal Day 1

Chicago, IL Airport

A long layover means many, many journal entries, and I am quite happily ensconced in my hallway, charging my electronic devices.  There are two gentlemen across from me, talking loudly into their respective phones.  One has the phone on speakerphone, so I can hear all parts of his conversation, both sides.  The strangeness of that, the openness of speaking so loudly and so openly in a public space, is almost beyond me.

I am parked by the Flagship Lounge and the Employees’ Break Room (I think, as pilots and flight attendants keep walking in and out of it), and it’s been amusing to examine so many different people coming into this tiny, out of the way area.

I just had two different people come over to share my plug, but they found another one instead of mine.  We all three bemoaned the lack of plugs in Chicago O’Hare.

Another woman just came over to join me and share my plugs.  As I am fully charged on my cell, I happily shared the outlet with her.

Now, our little area of O’Hare is quite cozy and friendly, with many shared outlets and teasing about the lack of outlets in this airport.  Is this an adventure?  Perhaps it is.

I am thinking more about this idea of having An Adventure, and I realize that I have had adventures, however inadvertently.  The last time I went to the UK, when I was in London, I stopped a crime in progress.  I was called by the London Police and thanked for my service to England.  I was!  That was an accidental adventure, and I remember that I fell apart afterwards, so shaken and unhinged by what had happened—and any possible repercussions for stopping criminal activity by the criminals at hand—that I went into a hotel (not my hotel) shaking and almost sobbing to call the Police.  When I got back to my hotel, I completely broke down, unable to calm my nerves about what I had just witnessed.

My response is rather strange in that I am usually fine in an actual crisis, but not before or after.  I will break down before, imagining hypothetical problems that might arise, and all of the awful consequences thereof.  I will break down after, imagining all the hypothetical problems that didn’t arise, and all of the awful consequences I didn’t experience.  But in the actual crisis?  I am calm, cool and collected.  I can be Amy, International Crimefighter.  Amy, Coolheaded and Calm.

So planning to have an adventure is not something I have been prepared to do because it takes me too much energy and worry imagining all that might happen.  But what will happen to me is that I will go to Manchester and do research on my favorite novelist.  I will go to Quarry Bank Mill and stand in rooms from the Industrial Revolution, looking back on history recreated for my educational enjoyment and knowledge.  I will walk in rooms not unlike those Margaret Hale walked in in the pages of North and South, hear the sounds not unlike those she heard, and see the sights not unlike those she saw.  I will experience the Industrial Revolution not unlike Elizabeth Gaskell might have experienced it, in its full glory, except without the hundreds of working-class bodies making it happen.

But my Adventure is not only research based because archives do close, and the end of the day draws near.  There exists the other aspect of adventure, which is experiencing life by one’s self.  That involves so many different, everyday things, like walking to the train station, or eating dinner, or finding a place to have lunch.  Riding on trains and finding where to go.  That is where the adventure begins to frighten me, because there is so much space not to experience, and to experience.

When I was in Manchester last time, in 2011, I tried to eat dinner at a restaurant on a Friday night.  They would not seat me at a table for 1 because they could not afford to lose the business a table for 2 might gain.  Defeated, I stopped at a Marks and Sparks and got a cold sandwich to eat in the privacy of my room, an experience I would repeat over many nights of my stay in Manchester.  Cold sandwiches, in my room, from various places, until the night I ate one that gave me food poisoning and I curled in a ball on my bed, with my computer open to Facebook, trying to find some comfort and company in the friends there.  I had never, not once in my whole life, felt so alone.  I didn’t know it was food poisoning.  It could have been anything, and I remember thinking, “I don’t know how to call a cab.  I don’t know how to find a hospital.  I don’t even know how to wake my Guesthouse host to find out the answer to those questions.”

I woke the next morning, weak but better, able to hold food down and continue my day.  I stopped at a chemist and, in chatting with the pharmacist, told him about my food poisoning experience.  “Don’t eat cold sandwiches,” he said, his tone admonishing.  But what I hear now is, “have an adventure.”

Having an Adventure means no cold sandwiches in my guesthouse room.  It means trying to find a restaurant that will give me a table for one.  It means exploration, traveling through the town of Sale, the city of Manchester, to find a place to be myself.

 

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