Once upon a time there was a girl who decided to move to London to study. From the moment she began the process of visas and housing and paperwork, everything seemed to be going wrong. Logistically, nothing was going according to plan. So one day, she showed up in London with no home, little money, no bank account, and no idea what her academic year would look like. Despite all this, she was happy. The city charmed her like no other city ever had. She enjoyed the way people went about their days and soon began to sort things out. Even then, things continued to go poorly. She got sick and was taken in an ambulance (rather unnecessarily) to the hospital where she was told she had the flu. She couldn’t even book the same room in a hostel for a solid week so she resorted to moving rooms each night. Still, she was happy. And she found a lovely home in the heart of Notting Hill. This, however, is her tale of one very peculiar day.
Today was my first day of classes. Everything went about as I had expected. Basic introductions were given, classic anthropological films were watched, new friends were made. After classes, a friend and I decided to enjoy the hottest October in London in 100 years and join the crowds of students sitting in the park.
While discussing tolerance and people’s inability to trust others, two young men walked directly up to us. One took a few extra steps and stood behind us waiting for his friend. His friend knelt, holding out a newspaper in one hand placed directly on top of my purse and asked in a low and urgent voice something in another language. Sorry? What was that? Again, the question, spoken as if he needed help. A moment passed and he stood up, looked at his friend and walked away. Still confused, we watched as the pair walked to the exit of the park, then turned to each other and laughed before disappearing. Ten minutes later, I realized he’d taken my iPhone.
Furious, we immediately asked for the nearest police station. No one seemed to know and as time ticked on, we gently reminded the university office staff that they could simply google it. We were given directions and set off. Ten minutes later, we asked again as our directions led us nowhere. No one seemed to know where a police office was. Ten minutes after that, we stumble upon one only to find a paper note taped to the door that read “This office is closed.” Twenty minutes, one tube ride, and several wrong turns more, we find a police station marked by the characteristic Victorian lamp outside the door. “Sorry, you can’t report it without the serial number,” came the response my inquiry. That serial number, however, was not to be found in this country.
Giving up on civilized systems, we hopelessly resorted to vigilante justice. The men who took my phone in the middle of a crowded park were bold. It could easily be assumed they had done it before and would do it again. So off we went, back to the park and to all nearby parks to search for the culprits, refreshing ourselves with self-defense moves on the way, should something drastic happen.
We walked into a park and sat down on the grass only to suddenly realize all the people around us were frozen in mid action. Suddenly we heard, “And go!” and they began to move. Upon closer observation, we realized we had wandered into a film set and sat directly in the line of filming. Oops. We stayed put as it was a park and we looked like extras, but made a mental note that should we find our culprits in this very location, any confrontation would now be on camera.
Then, we spotted him. A guy sitting alone with a black trash bag talking on a black smart phone. Was it him? I honestly wasn’t sure, but he started looking very suspicious of us. We, on the other hand, were looking pretty suspicious ourselves. After thoroughly creeping the guy out, he stood up and began to leave. We followed. He stopped and lingered. We lingered. Then in a moment of desperation, I simply walked up to him and asked, “you look like a friend I met earlier today; were you the one I met in the park?” He was confused and didn’t speak English well but the longer I looked at his face and listened to his voice, I accepted that he was not our guy. “Sorry, you just looked familiar, have a good day!” He left. And so did we. I went home to try and get ahold of the serial number and rethink my London strategy.
While walking home, I began to ponder how really, in the course of the whole day, I had not been very upset. I hadn’t felt that bad about the phone. While lost in my own thoughts, a Sikh man walking the opposite direction down the street suddenly looked at me at said, “you are very lucky. Very very lucky person. But right now, your luck is sleeping.” I stared at him. “I am a palm reader and I can see in your face that you have very much luck, but for four more days your luck is sleeping.” He proceeded to tell me my fortune, all while I stood, silent, watching him. Passersby looked questioningly, as if to ask whether I needed help, if he was bothering me, but I didn’t feel threatened. Suddenly, after the entire day, I began to break down to this man who stopped me in the street to tell me my future. My eyes began to water just the slightest bit and he knew that I was actually listening. Now normally, I am the last person to believe in fortune tellers. I generally reckon that life just happens and we make reasons out of it afterwards. I don’t know if I really believe in destiny, or more in our power to react to things however we choose and that is what shapes our future. Whether this man was right or not, it was the tiny bit of hope that I needed at that very moment and the bizarre factor left me smiling the rest of the way home.
When I got home, I got the serial number and reported the theft. I heard some good news that made my flat just that much nicer. I talked to family and friends I hadn’t heard from in a while. All in all, I’m still happy. London still has a way of charming me and exciting me with its traditions and opportunities. And who knows, maybe in four days, my luck will wake up.