Often when I am feeling a bit crushed and bruised by the world, reminders are sent to me that offer both perspective and a solidarity. These reminders frequently come in very small packages.
Yesterday morning, I left the house all ready to attend the final day of a weekend workshop with an incredible Anusara teacher, Jaye Martin, who traveled all the way from Sarasota, Florida to share his great, big heart and deep passion and knowledge of yoga.
I use a very handy public transit app to time my departure from my apartment to the metro stop that is just a few paces away. Already this weekend, I had received a reminder about the risk involved in being dependent on technology to help get where I need to go. After the Friday evening session, a woman from Croatia who had immigrated to Brussels 12 years ago had offered to drive me home. I was elated! It had been months since I traveled anywhere in a car, and I was tempted by the draw to get home more quickly while avoiding the inevitable question of whether I would make the connection from tram 44 to the 94 without having to wait in between.
Also joining us for this exciting vehicular adventure was a lovely fellow had traveled all the way from Ireland to attend this workshop. We were all set to drive toward Ixelles to bring our new Irish friend to stay with another yogi who had offered to house him for the weekend.
I have a sneaking suspicion that I might have left my phone in the taxi that I took from the airport earlier today, he said.
Shall we try to call your phone?
Ok, although I think the battery might be dead.
Ring ring. He put his head close to his backpack and listened. Nothing.
Do you remember the address where you need to go?
No. It’s on my phone.
I sat there, thinking how much I wanted to just get home. If I leave now, I could still walk and make the 44, I thought, but I felt badly abandoning my friends to their fate in this time of uncertainty sans iPhone.
So, I stayed.
We discussed possible places he could have left his phone and different means of recovering it.
Do you have Find my Phone turned on? I asked.
Is there a lost and found at the airport where the taxi driver might have taken it?
I sighed. It looked like I was going to be in the car for a while. I tried at different intervals to plan my escape, but to on avail. I realized I should just practice gratitude, but my body was crashing from fatigue and hunger.
We finally managed to find the street where our Irish friend was staying, and he assured us he would be able to find the apartment because he remembered the number. Part of me felt like we should stay and help him find the place. Another voice was screaming, you need to eat something before you keel over.
I finally made it home, took a cold shower, and ate dinner. It was glorious!
I was so wired from the evening practice that it was not until after 11pm that my husband and I sat down for our evening meditation. Just as we began, my phone starting ringing.
It was the studio owner.
Do you know what happened to Frank? He is missing!
Shit! Waves of guilt coursed through me. We shouldn’t have left him. I should have brought him home to stay with us.
I brought up Google maps (yes, I recognize that I should not be overly dependent on technology, but it can be super helpful at times) and found the street on the map where we had left him.
When I got off the phone, I turned to my husband.
Am I the worst person in the world for leaving him?
No. He’s an Irish man. I am sure he can take care of himself, my husband assured me.
True. Plus, he has kids. He must be self-sufficient.
We finished our sit and went to bed. I was so wound up I could not sleep. I checked my phone and saw a text from the studio owner.
They found him!
Phew, I texted back.
The Irish fellow told me the next day that he had gone to a hotel, called his wife, who had contact information for the people who had planned to stay with, and he was able to track them down. The husband of the friend who had offered for him to stay with them had been wandering the streets for hours looking for him.
And what of the missing iPhone? It turned out that it had been in a small bag of food he had placed in the refrigerator at the studio earlier in the evening.
Lessons? Write important information on a piece of paper? Don’t rely so much on your phone for survival? Maybe, try to refrain from putting your phone into the fridge?
Now, back to Sunday morning.
My public transit app had informed me that the trams were running when I checked it a half an hour before leaving my house. The night before, the studio owner had texted me that there was a marathon happening al day Sunday. I had checked the transit website and found nothing that said the trams would not be running, so when the app said departure times unavailable when I checked it just before leaving the house, I didn’t really think any of it. This error message came up from the time to time. After all, nothing (not even technology) is perfect.
I hustled to the tram, hoping it wouldn’t arrive and keep going with no one visibly waiting at the stop. Little did I know that my morning adventure was only just beginning.
As I approached the stop, I noticed there was text posted on the little computer screen that typically showed the arrival times for the next two trams. It read (in French) that the tram would not be running from 8h30 until 14h45. I had checked the transit app just before 8h30.
I called the studio owner and got a telephone number for the woman who had given me a ride home Friday night. I called, but it went straight to voicemail. I texted. Nothing.
I walked back home and stood at the steps to the house. As I stood there, wondering what to do next, I saw a little snail very slowly making its way up the white stucco post at the entryway.
I cannot imagine how any snails survive in this city. They had these hopelessly tiny patches of yard to move through with interminably large swaths of concrete between them. I see so many beautiful snails and many more sad, crushed one. It breaks my heart.
I texted my husband that the tram wasn’t running, and then I bent down to take a photo and short video of my beautiful snail friend.
Panic had not completely set in, but I could feel my heart rate rising despite the calming present of the snail. I barely had the patience to take a 22 second video of this slow moving being. How did they get anywhere moving at such a slow pace, I wondered.
Perhaps, I should have been wondering if it was reasonable to have a complete freak out over how to get to a yoga workshop?
My husband responded to my text, Why don’t you come home?
I am home, I texted back. I’m outside. Uh oh, here comes my Shiva energy. Look out, Parvati!
Back upstairs, my husband suggested he could sign me up for a subscription to the city bicycles that people can ride around town without having to buy an expensive bicycle. Reasonable suggestion, right? Plus, he was offering to help and create the subscription for me.
Why don’t we just wait to see I get a call back from the someone who might be able to pick me up, I snapped back at him.
Ok, it’s really easy, though. I just need your STIB card.
I have to go to the bathroom! Plus, I don’t want to spend 32 euros. Man, I was cranky.
I finally acquiesced to the bicycle subscription because there was a promotion to get the first six months free so it only cost 16 euros and the first half hour was free.
Do you think I need my raincoat? I asked.
I think It’s done raining, my husband said.
I picked up my gear, called out I love you, and marched back down the stairs, out the door, and down the hill to Place Wiener to check out a Vill-o bike.
If only this were the end of the story, but sometimes when it rains it pours. Sometimes, when it rains it hails. This morning was turning into a hail kind of day.
I arrived at the Vill-o bike spot, waved my little STIB card over the lock, and nothing happened. I waved my card again, pressed the unlock button, and tried to get the bike out. Still nothing.
What the hell? I thought. This was supposed to be simple. Why can’t anything ever be simple!?!? Man, I was being quite the drama yogi queen this morning.
I texted my husband, You said this was easy. It’s not working, and now it is raining and I am getting soaked.
Confession time. It was lightly drizzling, and I was quite clearly not getting soaked.
How did grounded Parvati respond? As only Parvati would.
Why don’t I bring your raincoat to you and help you figure it out.
I can do it, my text snapped back. I tried the card again. Nothing. I kicked the bike and swore. Shockingly, still nothing.
I looked over and saw a large machine. Maybe, I needed to do something with my transit card there?
I walked over. Yes. I placed the transit card beside the screen. The computer asked for my confirmation. My husband had texted me that the confirmation went through and I should have an email in my inbox. Check.
I took a cursory look over the email. I did not see a 12-digit number.
There’s no 12-digit number in the email, I texted my husband.
Shiva was definitely getting wild.
I could hear a voice in my head, trying to calm me down. This isn’t worth the stress, it said. Certainly not worth getting this worked up over a yoga workshop. Maybe, you should just stay home today.
I called the studio owner and told her I didn’t think I would make it. When I got off the phone, I felt like crying. The thought of sitting at home was so depressing. My mat was already at the studio. My lunch was in the fridge. Most importantly, my heart was there.
I read the email again, this time more slowly, and found the 12-digit number. I went through the process and checked out bike number 1.
I figured it out, I texted my husband.
I went back and placed my card on the little post beside bike number 1. It beeped green two times, and I struggled to get the bike out, finally succeeding.
I got on the bike, wobbled a bit, set off, and then stopped. Flat tire.
Are you kidding me? I only had a few minutes to get to the metro stop where the Croatian woman had offered to pick me up. Shit!
I looked up and saw my husband standing next to me.
It has a flat tire, I said, defeated. Maybe, I can ride it.
You are not riding that bike, he said. He calmly took the bicycle from me, and we walked back to the bike stand. He put dejected bike number 1 back into its slot, and I walked back to the machine and pressed my card next to the little computer screen once more.
Number 9 is ok, my husband called over to me.
I checked out bicycle number 9, walked back placed my card on the screen, heard the double beep, and my husband slid the bicycle out in one smooth gesture.
How did you do that? I asked in disbelief.
Magic, he said.
I do not deserve you, I said. Thank you.
Do you want your raincoat? Bless him; he had brought it with him.
Nah, I think I’m ok now. It really wasn’t pouring before. I was just being dramatic.
You? Dramatic? Never!
Ha! I snorted.
I had already spoken with the Croatian woman, who agreed to meet me at a closer metro stop so I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to catch the other tram, which was impossible at this point. Bless her heart, too, she had checked online to make sure there was a place to return the Vill-o bike at the metro stop. I got on the bicycle, negotiated a bit of wobbling, and was on my way for the second time that morning.
Within a few seconds, I was on the bicycle path that runs between the main road and headed toward the metro stop. There were no cars on the road because the entrances from all side roads had already been blocked off for the marathon. I was alone on the path, light as a bird, a breeze blowing through my frizzy hair. I felt as free as I ever felt. Why hadn’t I gotten a subscription to these bikes sooner? This was heaven on earth!
A few minutes later, I stopped my bicycle across the street from the Vill-o bike station by the metro stop. The crosswalk had been blocked off by caution tape, and there were two policemen standing there, guarding the tape.
I walked over and asked in my kindest, please help me French, Est-ce que je peux remettre le velo la bas? I pointed to the bicycle station.
Oui. The policeman lifted the tape, and I ducked under with the bike. I returned the bicycle. Check. Then, I thought I should probably try to cross the street and walk toward the exit ramp to meet my benefactor.
I ducked under the caution tape and crossed the street on the opposite side from the policemen. I am from Boston, after all, where people cross the street wherever the hell they want, regardless of cars flying by from all directions. The Boston attitude goes something like this: We are pedestrians. They will damn well stop for us or suffer the consequences!
Huh. Maybe, this is where my drama comes from, at least in part. Can I blame Boston?
Across the street, my phone rang. I am by the Loxam station, the voice at the other end said. I looked around and saw that the Loxam station was back on the sie of the street I had just came from. I walked back to the crosswalk. Now, there was a burly, male cop guarding the tape on this side.
Can I cross, I asked?
Non, came the firm, direct reply.
But I need to meet someone who is picking me up in a car across the street.
You can take the metro if you want to cross the street.
Seriously? I was not about to walk to the Demey stop, wait for the metro, and take the metro two minutes to Hermann-Debroux. I had a yoga workshop to get to, damnit!
I shrugged and starting walking toward the next street crossing, thinking I might be able to cross there. I could see a cop with an orange vest on in the distance, no doubt blocking the crosswalk over there as well.
Damn! What was up with the universe? Did the universe not want me to go to yoga?
Halfway between the two cops, I made a mad dash for it and ran across the street without looking to either side.
No yelling, no crops running toward me. This was clearly not the United States. In the US, I don’t think I would have even tried. There would have been cops lining the sidewalk, and they probably would have arrested me.
But this was not the United States, and I was walking toward yoga and freedom!
I called the Croatian woman, and we chatted until I could see her.
Holy hell, I called out to her. I gave her the biggest bear hug I could muster
Side note: I might be small, but I have been told that I give very powerful hugs. My position is: why hug someone if you aren’t going to give it your all? I feel worse when someone gives me a limp hug than if they hadn’t hugged me at all. Why don’t they love me, I instantly wonder? This line of reasoning and instant impression that I am disliked because of something that likely has nothing to do with me is a story for another day, though.
We walked victoriously to her car. I was dripping with sweat.
I feel like I have already had a workout, and we haven’t even started the workshop, I said.
Once in the car, we had to drive one way, which took us away form the studio in Tervuren, so we got off at the nearest exit, turned around, and headed back in the right direction.
We stopped at a red light. As we waited to turn right, I looked up and saw three large snail statues affixed to the building across the street.
I gazed at the slow and patient snails that would never move a centimeter from their static anchor on the side of the building. It was a sign to calm my inner Shiva squirrel.
As we drove toward Tervuren, the gaslight came on in the car.
Nooooooooo! A voice inside me screamed in terror, but my calm Croatian benefactor (who teaches Viniyoga…I should clearly try it because I seriously need to practice my calm) assured me that we were fine.
She parked the car a few blocks from the studio. We got out, walked to the studio, and arrived just as the workshop was starting.