It’s five a.m. We’ve shown our tickets four times throughout the night already. Going to Krakow? Yes. Krakow? Yes.
“Where are you going?” Krakow.
“No, now you’re going to Warsaw. You were supposed to change trains at the last station.”
I’m half asleep. Warsaw – that’s the capital of Russia, right?
“Will I be able to go back to Krakow?” That was a dumb question.
Warsaw it is. Why the heck not.
First step in missing your train connection: not knowing you had a connection to make.
Fact: my Eurail pass? Not valid in Poland whatsoever. I was chancing in the first place the last map half-centimeter of my overnight journey from Vienna to Krakow, hoping it would go unnoticed. But here I was, now crossing the country.
Three hours later, broken Steve, tired me and my backpack were in the capital of Poland. It was 7:20a.m. We could have caught the 8:16 to Krakow, but I hadn’t had plans to come to Warsaw, why not stay a few hours.
Well, a few reasons. One, the information lady didn’t speak English, didn’t have maps, and couldn’t tell me where lockers were. All my stuff left the train station with me, in search of McDonald’s, Starbucks, anywhere with wifi I could Lonely Planet research this city.
Fast forward twenty minutes, because that’s how long it took to find the giant gold M.
Teenage boy at register: “Your card is declined.”
“It’s not signed.”
Oh, lord. Can I borrow a pen then? I’ll sign it now.
Commence search for pen.
The next three minutes were possibly the most exasperating of this entire trip. Or, my entire life. You know when a pen refuses to work on certain surfaces? Say, an unsigned plastic debit card that’s been in use for four years?
I sign, invisibly. Sign again, invisibly. Look up at kid. He looks at me, looks back down at card.
Oh freaking goodness gracious. Sign, invisibly. Look up at kid. He looks at me, looks back down at card.
I snap. “It’s a debit card, can’t I just enter my pin?” I’m buying a croissant and coffee. It’s the equivalent of two dollars, all so I can bum wifi.
He begrudgingly let me sign the receipt. Thanks a bunch, friend.
And so I look this city up, I post Steve’s eulogy, written at three a.m., probably as I was missing my stop.
And then I wandered out. Tired, not all that inclined to explore. But in need of ditching Steve. Believe me, if I could have given him a proper funeral, burial, cremation, I would have. This weird friend has become an icon of this trip, a constant, a quirky connection to home, a fun story.
He couldn’t go in just any dumpster.
…Not that there was a dumpster anywhere to be found.
We wander the streets of Warsaw. I imagine the poetic end of our chapter if I left him on a park bench, in a telephone booth, at a seat in a coffee shop. There for someone’s taking, fixing, a new life, a new chapter.
I then realize I’m a disheveled mess carrying a massive backpack, wearing shower sandals, and an abandoned Steve in any of those places looks like the definition of “suspicious package.”
And I would never get to Krakow, nor would anyone else, because mass transit would shut down due to a terror alert in the capital.
So I walk, and walk, and stop at TKMaxx (no typo there) to find new shoes. I didn’t. And walk, and walk. I feel an immense responsibility, not only to Steve, but to myself and his intended owner to leave him in a proper place of rest, a place to spend his afterlife somewhere we’d spend time in our real lives.
I think I succeeded.
I caught the 12:50 train to Krakow. I would have caught 11:58 if I’d had cash on me at the ticket counter at 11:50. Man, that lady hated me.
And as I left behind one love at Coffee Heaven, another was reborn. Thank you super glue.
Until next time… Peace, love and coffee beans.