A little less than one year ago, England was snowed on. It was just a few inches but it was the most that had been seen here in 18 years. Because it’s so rare, they have no plows. The transportation systems freaked out.
We were on our way home from Paris (where the morning snow had given our boys their first shared snowball fight). The Eurostar handled the weather fine. But then we had to get another train, from King’s Cross in London, back to Cambridge. It had been hours since a Cambridge train had come through, and the commuters waiting with us multiplied.
King’s Cross station is a dreadful place to wait. First of all, the ladies bathroom is down a long flight of concrete steps, which I have unfortunately experienced with heavy suitcases. That’s ridiculous for a station that routinely expects international travelers to be mixed in with the daily commuters. (And what do wheelchair users do? And can I do it too??) Then, at the bottom of those stairs, you’re expected to pay for the privilege of a toilet. Wait–there’s more! It requires exact change!! Argh!
King’s Cross is dreadful also because they keep the assigned platforms secret until the trains are ready to board. It would by MUCH nicer to calmly find one’s platform ahead of time, and first-come-first-served would be fair. Win-win. But no. King’s Cross keeps everyone waiting in a common area, and then flashes the assigned platform at the last minute. The crowd surges toward it, and only the unencumbered are fast enough to get their choice of seats. In this case, to get seats at all. We had both children and luggage; there was no chance.
We’re not fussy. We hadn’t had seats on the Cambridge/London train on our way to Paris either. We’d been fine rocking and balancing in the little standing-room-only luggage area between cars, and the kids happily sat on the floor. But on that snow day on the way home, the floor would be covered by a deep, dirty slush from the feet of those who were faster than we. We couldn’t let the boys sit. How the three year old was going to balance in that I had no idea.
We got to the train, predictably among the stragglers, and tried to find a reasonable place to put ourselves. I’m amazed and humbled to report that several strangers made sacrifices to give us all seats. We weren’t together, but we were in the same car. My husband stayed with the little one. A few rows away, I sat behind our older boy. Our bags were stashed willy-nilly. The aisles filled with standing passengers. It was only one hour to Cambridge.
About halfway along the journey, our then seven-year-old popped his head over the back of the seat in front of me. Blood splashed from his mouth and his little red-smeared hand showed me the cause, pinched between his fingers: he’d lost a tooth, in the most dramatic and grisly fashion possible.
The coats of innocent commuters pressed close on both sides of him. I was happy for him, but keen not to repay the kindness of strangers with blood streaks on their clothes. I had no access to our bags, and felt like one of those heroines who resorts to tearing off strips of petticoat in an emergency. But, I had no petticoat.
I had a half-eaten bagel.
I used that bagel to wipe and soak up as much blood as I could, and get him clean enough to not be a danger to the clothes of those around him. I stashed the tooth in my jeans pocket, and kept my tone upbeat: “Isn’t this fun! I’m so proud you lost your tooth! Please don’t touch me with your bloody fingers! Nooooo! Don’t touch me!! Don’t touch anything!!!”
We got home, got him cleaned up, and happily built snowmen even though it was already getting dark out.