“Hello? Yes, uh, I’m a student from your tour group.”
I frown, thinking. Stupid body and its unquenchable thirst for water… I walk into a nearby shop. It’s one of the small ones against the outer wall of one of the circular rooms in the tube. Nobody’s inside but the clerk, and it still feels crowded. Sometimes I feel like an American.
“Sorry, but have you got change for a ten-pound note?”
I frown and half-turn, the merchandise catching my eye.
“Do you have change if I buy something?”
I glance at the rack and grab something edible. He gives me a handful of change and mutters something about being sorry. I don’t catch it because I’m striding out. I glance at the tube exits and pick the one that seems most familiar. I end up in Piccadilly Circus, which was quite familiar because I was fortunately there last night. I look around for the nearest bright red phone box. I would use a Tardis-colored booth but they don’t seem to exist in London- all the boxes are red. (This fact is the saddest thing my mom will learn from this trip.) Near a statue of three rearing horses with water eternally spitting out of their mouths I find two phone booths back to back.
I enter, read the instructions, and proceed to waste the next twenty minutes dialing and redialing. See, I copied down our guide’s phone number (unlike everyone else bar two) when she announced it to the group, but she gave us fourteen digits. In the US, phone numbers have at most ten. So (after figuring out how to operate the dang thing) I try the full number. No luck. I take the first number off. No luck. I take the next number, and then the next, until I get to six digits which can’t possibly hold all the numbers of just people in London. I eventually call the operator and ask what I’m doing wrong, I’m using a London phone box, I’m not from here, I’m a bloody stupid foreigner, god help me, or rather you, please, and she informs me that I need to put a zero before the fifth digit. Okay, fair enough. I figured it’d be something like that.
“Hello? Yes, I’m a student from your tour group.”
“Yeah, when you stopped in the tube to get tickets for the play, I wandered off to find somewhere to fill my water bottle. I came back and you were gone. Yeah- and hey, that was really my fault. Sure, I’ll wait for you here. See ya.”