Spilled coffee: unexpected misery and unexpected kindness

Several years ago, I lived for a year in Sheffield, England, doing a graduate study in math. Though I didn’t have my own family in the country, one of my mother’s close friends, whom I call Rosy in this story, and her family lived in London. So, during my time in Sheffield, I often visited them for long holidays. I would take a coach to London Victoria, and from there, take one of the local bus routes to get to their house.

The very first time I made my visit to Rosy’s place was sometime in late October during the Reading Week. The five hours of coach ride was very pleasant. Under the overcast sky, I first indulged in the changing scenery outside, looking over the hilly fields and observing the passing small towns and villages before I fell asleep.

When I woke up, the coach had already entered London. We were surrounded by buildings, and streets were packed with people. Through the window, I also saw many red London buses running about. I felt my back straighten up a little. I was now in London. Now the real challenge should begin.

My biggest worry was how to find the correct bus stop after getting off the coach. From the Victoria Coach Station, I first walked to the Victoria Railway Station since my bus stop among many others was located behind it. To my relief, this part was managed smoothly.

However, once I came out of the Railway Station to find my bus stop, I was faced with an unexpected challenge. At the time, a major construction was going on around the Victoria Station, and because of that, the road structure was not very visible from a pedestrian. Even after looking at the map of all the bus stop locations, I couldn’t figure out which road was which. Moreover, the intersection wasn’t of a regular kind. Several roads were intersected in complicated angles.

After staring at the map for a few minutes, I finally admitted that I would have to walk around and check the three roads that were likely to have my bus stop. I crossed the intersection and walked on each street, looking for the alphabet that represented my bus stop, but I couldn’t find it.

After checking all three, I went back to the map to see if I had picked the wrong roads. But I didn’t find any mistake, so I went off to check the streets all over again. Toward the end of this second cycle, I started feeling tired and miserable. I thought resting at a coffee shop would cheer me up.

Just then, the sign of Pret A Manger, one of my favourite coffee shop chains, came into sight, and I immediately walked in. What I didn’t realize was that this place had no dine-in space. Though disappointed, I still thought a cup of coffee should improve my mood. I bought one and put the coffee cup inside the paper bag of gifts I was carrying in my hand.

When I took a few sips of coffee and started walking outside again, I noticed that it had suddenly become windy. The next moment, the rain started pouring — the last thing I wanted when I was looking for my bus stop!

I started running with my paper bag in hand. Amidst the chaos, I caught the glimpse of a bus with the route number I was looking for.

“Wait for me, wait for me, wait for me!”

I ran after the bus desperately, without an umbrella, with the paper bag of gifts in my hand. When I caught up with the bus, I had found my bus stop, too.

The bus was a brand-new double-decker. Usually, I liked to sit upstairs, but on this day, after all the ordeal, I had no power or enthusiasm left to go upstairs, so I walked to a seat close to the door. The moment I heaved a sigh of relief and sat on the chair, however, the bottom of my wet paper bag opened, emptying all its content onto the floor including my still full coffee. In front of my eyes, the coffee made a big splash on the floor.

Quickly recovering from another shock, I immediately rescued my gifts from the floor, then jumped to pick up the coffee cup. Then I took out all the napkins and tissues I had to clean the floor. The bus was so new and in a pristine condition that I felt bad to have spoiled it.

As I crouched on the floor, feeling miserable and wiping off the floor with tissues, a woman walked over to me and offered me her newspaper.

“Use this.”

When I thanked her, she further said to me,

“You’ve done much more than what most people would do.”

The timing of this kind gesture couldn’t have been more perfect. In that moment, I felt seen along with all the troubles that I had gone through for the past few hours. When I finished cleaning up the floor and sat back in my seat, I was tired but no longer felt miserable.

From there, my trip to Rosy’s house was smooth. As soon as I got off the bus, I threw away the empty coffee cup in the first litter bin I found.

“Bye to the coffee I bought only to spill on the bus!”

Indeed, because of this spilled coffee, that whole journey became doubly unforgettable.