Misunderstandings are a common devise of comedy writers. A characters says something that is misinterpreted by another and a comedy of errors ensues. (Pun most definitely intended). When misunderstandings happen in real life, however, they are usually funny only after some time has passed. Beyond misunderstandings, it has often been stated that, "comedy is tragedy plus time".
What I have to recount here Dear Reader is in the vein of misunderstanding not tragedy. It only took about a day before I was able to tell this story with a smile, instead of a grimace. And so I begin.
It was a dark and stormy night. Kidding! Actually, it was early one morning, on an English train platform awaiting the train to Cardiff, when the conditions were ripe for this particular personal blunder. I was travelling alone with my daughter who was five at the time, to meet the rest of the family who were already in Wales. We'd flown all night from Vancouver. After listening to the carefully scripted, new age, useless, children's sleep-inducing meditation once, my daughter handed me her ipod and turned instead to the personal screen in front of her. She proceeded to watch the movie Bolt four times through before we landed at Gatwick airport. She fell asleep 20 minutes before we landed. Let's just say we were both very tired when we arrived.
We hopped our train at the airport and finally made it to our last stop before Wales, where we had about a 45 minute wait. Fortunately, we were travelling relatively light. But after the five year old fell asleep on my lap in one of those heavy deep sleeps that adds some mysterious physical weight to a child, that meant I was on my own to manoeuvre a suitcase on wheels, two small daypacks and the child herself slumped heavily on my hip and shoulder. There would be no waking her up.
As I sat on a bench waiting for our train, my first mistake in my weariness was not noticing we were waiting on a first class bench. Dear Reader I can assure you we were not travelling first class. Trying to stay awake so we didn't miss our damn train, I engaged in the people-watching that is ever rewarding at places of public transit. At this particular platform, I soon noticed a small group of people gathered who seemed to think themselves rather important. They just had an air about them.
I should back up. First I noticed the English bobbies. A couple of police officers appeared and circled around two women who, strangely, did not have any luggage. Why were the police here I wondered. Why did these women not have any luggage? One of them merely clutched a plastic bottle of water.
Feeling cranky I began to weave uncharitable stories about these women in my mind. They did pace about that platform as though they owned it. Who did they think they were? Royalty? They seemed to think they were going to be first on the train. First! Can you imagine? When I'd been waiting there before them with my sleeping child.
I noticed that one of the belt loops on the dress of the woman with the water bottle, had come undone and was hanging off at her side uselessly. (I want to state for the record that the belt loop looked as though it had popped off due personal negligence, not because of any weight gain.) That's when I realized this red headed woman looked familiar. I actually couldn't remember her name in my weariness, but I did place her. She was famous all right but that did not mean she was getting on that train before me. I needed to get on that train first. The sooner I got on that train, the sooner I got to Auntie Megan's house, a cup of tea and good long nap.
The train thundered into the station grandly as they do. I staggered to standing with my hundred plus pounds of child and baggage, and positioned myself on the platform near the famous woman and her entourage. I did not at this time bud in front of her mind you, I just stood closely. I silently let her know I knew what her game was and she was not going to win.
Passengers got off. That's when I made my move. I gave the famous woman a scowl that said, no nannies or handlers here sweetheart. I'm doing this on my own. Now move aside! I'm not exaggerating when I say the famous woman and her people did move aside. I must have looked half-crazed, determined to get on the train first with my heavy load. I would have moved aside too. (You know what train stations are like for crazy people.) I heaved myself, my daughter and our luggage up, onto the train step. One more step and we were on board. We were on the train! I half-heartedly glanced back to see my platform mates were getting ready to board, now that the coast was clear.
The problem that soon became apparent was that we were on the wrong car. Once you get up in the train, there are signs posted everywhere. THIS IS FIRST CLASS. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A FIRST CLASS TICKET YOU CAN'T SIT HERE. MOVE ALONG TO THE BACK OF THE TRAIN PLEASE. The signs may not say exactly that, but that is what I recall.
Gritting my teeth, my head and shoulders slumped under the physical and emotional weight of my baggage and my blunder, I slowly made the walk of shame to the economy cars. When we arrived in Cardiff, our happy family was glad to see us but they were more excited that Sarah, the Duchess of York, had gotten off the train before us. Had we seen her? Did we know she was on the same train? As we made our way past the TV and newspaper crews, all I could grumble was, "Yeah, I saw her."