I sat down in the rickety-rackety old bus heading towards Delhi. Those buses are the cheapest way to travel, not to mention the dirtiest —windows are open, dust floods in, people get travel sick and dangle their heads out the window to vomit… vomit streaks down the outside and the repugnant smells seep back in. But Delhi trips are a necessity and must be done. This time, I was on a mission to get my new passport. I planned to spend the night in a cheap hotel near the railway station, rest and freshen-up, go to the American Embassy in the morning and jump straight back on a bus home. That was the plan, I expected.
Arriving in Delhi dirty and travel weary, I made my way to the hotel which was the usual grovel with the dirty (previously white) sheets. But its restaurant made it popular; a wide variety of continental and Indian menus and bakery items for all meals. I had my shower, went to bed, and went for breakfast. I gobbled it down in record time and was soon heading towards the embassy to get my work done ASAP.
The waiting lines were as usual, but kept moving. I fumbled along with the formalities and forms to fill, proceeding from one booth to another, gradually making my way to the last and final booth where my passport would be waiting for me. And lo and behold, as I stepped up to the counter and gave my number and name, the shining new passport was unveiled. At last, the work was done. I reached in my purse for the payment and pushed the exact amount needed towards the clerk.
My husband had given me American dollars to pay for the passport, so I was flabbergasted when the clerk refused good American dollars and stated, “We only accept rupees.” Why hadn’t I gotten that right? WASN’T THIS THE AMERICAN EMBASSY? Of course, without internet, without phones, it wasn’t as easy to communicate. I pressed and pleaded; couldn’t I pay in dollars? The answer was still “no.” I DID have enough to pay in rupees, but after that I’d be virtually penniless, nothing for bus fare. I’d gotten that far in the embassy, and assuredly didn’t want to go through it all a second time, the ride to Delhi was anywhere from 7-9 hours long, hotel stays with dirty white sheets, it was too tiring to even think of doing it all again. I paid in rupees and received my gorgeous passport. In confused frustration I left the building. At that point my thoughts went blank, until…
…I walked outside. Once I outside, I thought, now what? I had no idea. At that time, there were no mobile phones, only pay phone booths, which were beneficial if the person you were trying to contact had a phone. We had no phone at home, so contacting my husband was out of the question. There was nothing left to do but cry, which I proceeded to do.
It was not a good day. Stuck in Delhi, a city I didn’t know and didn’t like, with no place to go and almost no money. Suddenly, I remembered a friend who ran an organization downtown. I had my tiny phone number/address book with me. I found a public phone booth and phoned him. Speaking through muffled snuffles, I let him know my situation. In a soothing manner, as though talking to a child, he questioned, where are you? He suggested I wait for him inside a nearby restaurant. Adding, order yourself some food, I will pay.
You might be able to guess the end of the story. His organization had a guest room, and I gratefully enjoyed a free room with a good meal that night, slept in a bed with clean (white) sheets, had breakfast in the morning and to top it off, was given bus fare home.
All that drama was a lesson; a cleansing of my insignificant worries and distrust, like sleeping once again in clean white sheets. Misfortune comes and it’s easy to fall apart and focus on “poor me.” We trot right into a little pity party and burst into tears… (or is it only me?), or just become engrossed in worrying. I’m so glad, none of those are actually helpful, because they aren’t a particularly good alternative to bad luck.
I stalwart lead forth on a quest,
On my sheets at home I had slept,
Undeterred from my stance
A new passport I grasped
And stood in the street and wept.
- Be a good Samaritan, you may need one
- Relax, stop worrying, hakuna-matata
- Choose clean sheets
And then the BIG question looms:
Is it luck or is someone
bigger than us
out there in control?
4 replies on “Clean Sheets”
Oh, I can taste and smell it all! The parade outside in the street-incredible colors and sights & sounds. NEVER boring, always exhausting. My embassy story starts at 5am on a dark morning in Mussoorie. We had to get to the Embassy before it closed at noon. After a flat tire, a taxi getting lost, we got there at 12.o5. I burst into tears and the sweet MP at the door let me in! I noticed people were staring and when I went to the loo, realized that, dressing in the dark, I had put on my tailor made churidars on inside out. The tailor had lest generous amounts of fabric, incase my calves grew, and they added a chic but jagged frill down my legs.
Yvonne, your comment is way toò classicly you. Can you please write the next story for me?
Love love love
Passports are a particularly ripe field for God’s grace. What with the necessity engendered by having them stolen, lost, or renewed, where else could we go.