There is truth in popular admonitions. Admonitions like the Boy Scout motto, which is a primary life-rule of all the Tarboxes I know -- be prepared. Being prepared is one of the best ways I know to keep the ever-rising panic I live with day-in and day-out at bay. There are times though, when despite a person’s best efforts, being prepared isn’t a possibility; there are times when no amount of preparation does the job.
Tal and I were simply not prepared for yesterday and today. The hot water heater is off at the breaker box and there is no water going to the washing machine at all. The mail and the newspaper are on temporary stop. Whitby and Belle are being well cared for and, more importantly, loved in our absence. We packed light and efficiently. We left home with both the passports and the living will in our possession. We'd even watched the video about parking on the Charlotte-Douglas Airport web site!
But, we were not prepared … for the three hour drive to Charlotte plus the three hour wait in the airport plus the eight hour flight plus the two hour train trip to Canterbury. All without sleep.
Ideally, the sleep part shouldn’t have been an issue. It was a night flight, departing Charlotte at 7:55 – right on time. And, that flawless departure was followed by a flawless flight. Avoiding storms on the east coast at Philadelphia and New York we stayed to the west, heading east only after we’d passed Albany. Dinner (such as it was, but we count ourselves lucky that the effort was even made) was served and cleared before 9:00. After deciphering the mysteries of the monitor in the back of the seat in front of me I watched – fascinated, horrified, inspired – The Kite Runnerbefore settling in for the night.
But, sleep would not come. The film didn’t help. Neither did into-the-future thoughts about getting our luggage, finding the train, winding our way through Canterbury dragging all our stuff behind us, suitcases, camera bag and computer. There was not one thing I could do about any of those worries at that moment and in that place – I was in an Airbus A333 at 37,000 feet, for Pete’s sake! So, taking to heart one of my favorite lines from the evening office in The Book of Common Prayer – asleep we may rest in peace and awake we may watch with Christ, I watched. Fact was the night didn’t last very long; there was orange on the distant horizon for hours. I watched both the slow coming of the dawn, as the stars faded and the light rose, and the sudden burst of the sunrise.
The wait for our luggage was considerable. Getting the train involved a spirited conversation with an agent, not only about the train system but the US economy and presidential election, as well. The train itself was on time and clean and the English countryside seductively charming. The route for the walk from the train station was clear and the hotel was precisely where it was supposed to be.
But, we were not prepared for exhaustion to overtake us. Determined to stay up through the day so as to reset our internal clocks, we unpacked, put our feet up (Tal with a beer and me with orange juice, compliments of the B&B) for an hour, and went out. The tourist information office changed currency for us (now, that was a shock) and gave us instruction on getting to the University of Kent (the location of the Lambeth Conference). That done, however, we could no longer cope. The thought of getting ourselves to the bus station for the 2.5 mile trip was too much, not to mention, once there, determining which bus to board. The thought of talking to people was too much. The prospect of taking on the interested tourist role was too much. So, we settled for two chairs and a table outside a bar on High Street where we watched the throngs of people moving past and ate supper, realizing we’d not eaten since the meal on the plane by then some 18+ hours earlier.
It is not yet 8:00. We are ready for bed, being lulled into relaxing by soft rain, the gusty breeze from the open window and the distant sonorous sounds of an approaching thunderstorm.
I’ll start over being prepared tomorrow.