I check the time: it’s 2am.
The phone is plugged into my computer, which is itself plugged into the wall. There is a big daisy-chain of gadgets soaking up as much energy as possible from the unfamiliar wall-sockets, each tethered to the other out of necessity, their individuality limited by the single UK-outlet adapter I brought with me on my short trip to England.
I turn back to the window and gaze out at Tower Bridge. It’s beautifully lit by the just-rising sun peeking over the horizon enough to make me wonder if my phone’s clock is accurate. As I measure the bridge’s aesthetics with my eyes, I assess the situation with my brain.
It’s been a long day. Really long. My flight from London to Keflavík was cancelled because of an ash cloud sputtered into international airspace by an Icelandic volcano, but not before we passengers were told that it would be just fine, don’t worry, you’ll make it back as planned.
A string of disappointments led to standing in a queue 100-people long, waiting for over an hour for some kind of shuttle that would be taking us who-knows-where so that we could leave the airport for the night, allowing the security guards to go get some sleep without having to worry we’ll spend the night stealing Toblerone from the duty-free store.
It was a full-sized bus that picked us up, and with hip-hop-trance music playing in the background, we watched and judged as the bus driver drove for what seemed like hours before pulling into an alleyway, turning around, and plunging forward into the darkness in the opposite direction, obviously uncertain as to where he was going.
At about 12:30am, we pulled along a small side street adjacent to London’s famous Tower Bridge. We started to unload, weary would-be flyers sleepily wobbling out of the club-music-infused bus out into the chilly, dark night. We were all a little concerned that the driver may have finally just given up and decided that this would be a good spot to dump the tourists with little chance of our bodies ever being found, but we were also too tired to care about our potential impending doom.
Thankfully, minutes after arriving, I found myself sitting at a table, eating a hastily prepared (but delicious) buffet dinner in a lovely hotel. I gobbled the meal as quickly as I could and headed downstairs to use the archaic terminal that was the only Internet access point in the building, before fumbling my way to the fourth floor, sliding my keycard into the door, and nearly falling into an enormous (and incredibly comfortable) bed.
I stayed in bed less than a minute, however, as I knew the bus would be coming back to pick us up in just a few hours, and all of my methods of communication, my phone, my computer, my iPod, had run out of juice during the day, leaving me without access to the outside world. I began pulling cords from tiny pockets in my bag and rigging up the most suitable solution I could devise.
And now here I stand, electronics charging, clothing for the ride back to the airport (and hopefully, back to Iceland) laid out, and eyes drooping from the weight of the day and the expected burdens of the coming morning.
But the bridge is beautiful, so I stare out the window for a few more moments, committing the moment to memory and reminding myself that sometimes a single moment, just one mental snapshot commemorating a second in time, can justify a day of exhaustion and mental anguish.
Update: February 10, 2017
Back then, I was using an iPod Touch instead of a phone as I traveled. This was a device that had all the functionality of an iPhone, but cost about half as much, was skinnier, and lacked the SIM-card slot. Which was fine for me, as most of the communicating I did while on the road was via the internet, anyway. I could pick up WiFi signals most places, and I wasn’t going to pay the ridiculous roaming fees that were available, so it worked splendidly for my purposes.
These days, though, there are many other options, including cheap phones and slow-but-free roaming gimmicks side-carted on to US phone plans.