One thing that describes me 100 % is that I do everything last minute. There are probably two reasons for that. First of all, my time management could use some improvement; second, nothing motivates me more than a deadline.
It applies to almost everything I do: from university tasks to simple things like leaving the house on time. I end up stressed and running like a crazy person, but, funnily enough, I always make it. As every rule has an exception, one time I didn’t.
It was December 2016 and I had a ticket for the 4:20 pm bus that would take me home for Christmas. That year I had classes until only few days before my family would come for the festive dinner, so I was already going rather late to help with all the cooking and cleaning. Another important point in my story is that I live in Vienna which is more than 700 km away from my home town, Warsaw, and international buses don’t leave every hour.
I packed my huge suitcase, filled the present bags and took some bags more to bring the cookies I made and some other sweets home. I left my dorm room a little bit later than I should have, but there was still a chance I would make it.
It was 4:18 when the subway finally arrived at the Stadion station. I jumped out of the wagon and ran as fast as I could – which wasn’t very fast because of all the luggage I was carrying. I ran down the stairs and straight to the bus stop that was just around the corner. It was 4:19 and I slowed down a little, breathing heavily and smiling. There was still a minute left.
How surprised was I as I discovered that my bus wasn’t there! I looked left and right, even asked the driver of the only bus standing there whether it wasn’t my bus, just with a name badge of a different company. Obviously, it wasn’t. I went up to the information desk and asked about my bus.
-Oh yeah, it left 5 minutes ago.
I started panicking. Of course, I could go on the next day, but it would mean one day less for all the Christmas preparation and, as we all know, this time of the year every minute counts.
I came up to the driver I had talked to earlier. He was an older Slovak gentleman and didn’t speak any English, but as our languages are similar, we managed to communicate. He was going through Bratislava to Brno and told me to get on his bus; I could try to still catch mine in Bratislava and if this wouldn’t work, I could go to Brno where another bus to Warsaw would be leaving that day. Sounded like a good idea, I just wasn’t sure I understood him right. There may be many “false friends” between Polish and Slovak I have no idea about – I was worried I would end up stranded in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, his young colleague emerged from the bus and confirmed the plan in English. I decided to go. To be honest, I wasn’t too excited about going to other cities and waiting for buses I didn’t know for sure were coming; that’s why in case I wouldn’t catch my bus, I would have returned to Vienna and taken another one on the next day.
I sat down on the assigned seat and called the bus company which of course denied that their bus had left earlier than it should have.
-Okay, by now it doesn’t really matter – I rolled my eyes and went straight to the point. A further discussion would have been a waste of time. – I’m on my way to Bratislava right now and will try to catch this bus. What time does it leave Bratislava?
This time wasn’t optimal. The bus I was on was arriving in Bratislava at 5:40… at another bus stop that was at least 10 minutes away – if there’s no traffic. The customer service lady agreed to wait for me max. 5 minutes. I shared this information with the driver’s assistant and he promised me that he would do his best to help me catch that bus.
I thanked him and sat back on my seat. It was probably one of the longest hours of my life – looking out of the window, checking the time every couple of seconds, thinking whether I would make it and if not, how to proceed next.
We arrived in Bratislava and I jumped out of the bus. The helpful assistant had organized a taxi for me which was already waiting at the bus stop and didn’t want any payment for the bus ride; I thanked him with all the words that came to my mind at that moment and with the cake I had in one of the bags. He was surprised, and was trying to give it back to me saying that it had been his pleasure, but there was no time for such dances of politeness. I ran to the taxi, jumped in and told the driver to go as fast as he can to the bus station.
It was 5:42.
Unfortunately, it was no movie, so he wasn’t fast and furious. Real life pursuit drivers go as fast as the speed limits and the traffic allows. My fingers were tapping nervously on my knee, my eyes watching the numbers change on the display. The time refused to stop while my heart was about to do just that.
It was 5:50 and we were still on the way.
I closed my eyes.
It’s done. It’s over. I tried my best and failed.
I felt like all the stress was leaving my body making space for sad acceptance.
We arrived at 5:52. I paid, took all my luggage and started running. I didn’t really think I would find my bus still waiting for me, but in case it would… I ran, breathing heavily, coughing because of the cold air entering and leaving my lungs fast and feeling like my arms were about to fall off because of all the weight I made them carry. I wasn’t fit enough to run in these conditions, so pretty soon it became more of a sad, tired trot that was getting slower and slower.
Shortly, my bus started emerging from behind another bus. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I smiled as widely as my tiredness let me and started walking. No need to kill myself over these last meters when the driver is obviously waiting for me, right?
Well, I was almost there when the bus started moving. The adrenalin kicked in: I screamed “Nooo!”, waved my arms desperately and started running again. The driver saw me, did some angry gestures and stopped the bus. As I got in, we got into a short argument on why I was late and why he had left early, but honestly, I didn’t care. I made it and was going to be home on time.
Also, my coughing fit didn’t let me talk much.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from this story, it’s that schedules may be only approximate sometimes, vehicles do leave without you and that there are people willing to help when you least expect it.
I hope you all leave early enough and get home on time; in the end, what is more valuable than spending time with your loved ones?