At a family lunch on Sunday, my Grandma gave me the following advice:
Grandma: "Always remember what G.K. Chesterton said."
Tamar: "... Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese?"
Grandma: "No dear. An adventure is only an inconvenience, rightly considered".
I wish I'd known this the night before, when I returned to my car after a comedy gig to discover it had been locked in the NCP overnight. I was hours from home, and there were no hotel rooms available in the whole city because the entirety of the North-East had descended upon Chester for a wild weekend at the races. I felt like Matt Damon on Mars: alone, in a hostile environment, with a worryingly low water supply.
It was not the situation itself that got to me the most, so much as it was the 'CLOSES AT 23.00' sign hanging above the entrance of the car park in plain sight. An inconvenience may be an adventure in disguise, but an inconvenience that is entirely your own fault, is unbearable. And more painful than actually having to sit through a Matt Damon film.
The last time I got stranded was in 2005. After a night of ice-skating (what all the cool kids did on a Friday), my friend and I foolishly lost track of time whilst flirting with some boys (sitting in silence and listening to them talk about play station), and as a result we missed the last train home. But thankfully, we were 15. Which meant that we were officially someone else's problem. So we did what you always do in this situation - what we had learned in supermarkets as children - that you must find the person in charge, and cry at them until they help you find your Mum. And so it was, in the time of Adidas jumpers, dropping your Ts and Kevin Little, that we ended up getting a VIP lift home in a police car, feeling like gangsters, and consequently learned absolutely nothing about being responsible for our own actions.
The problem is, that when you are 25, the police are no longer legally obliged to drive you home to your parents: as was evidenced when a drunk man in Chester asked a policeman for a lift home and received the response, "this van only goes one way, son. I can take you there if you like?" I was about to ask if this place had blankets, when the policeman's 'don't waste my time' face made me hastily edit my approach. "I'm very sorry to bother you, Sir, but I've done something really stupid".
What did I expect him to say?: "Well, we're quite busy with all the murders, but we can't have you being stranded!"
Yes. That is what I secretly hoped he would say.
What he actually said, was more along the lines of, "Police officers can't just go around ordering car park owners to give stranded women back their Clios. Especially when everything is so clearly signposted." And somewhere out there was a great sigh for the death of chivalry.
But this policeman was something he did not need to be: he was kind. And whilst he couldn't break the bars down, he and his partner drove me round Chester and tried to find me a place to stay. Thus I spent an hour on Saturday night in the back of a riot van, chatting with this fella about his job, his home and his five kids. I think we became firm friends: at least, he felt close enough to tell me an especially memorable anecdote about how his wife got so cross with him when their fifth child came along that she sent him straight for a vasectomy. But first, she put Immac on his balls, and left it on too long on purpose. She was a firm believer in the penal code.
Despite his niceness, I was still proverbially screwed. It was more expensive to stay in Chester, in the few remaining premium rooms, than to call out the car park attendant. So it was a blessing that just when things were at their bleakest, and the possibility of bankruptcy, or worse, a night in the 24 hour McDonalds, was looming threateningly on the horizon, I finally managed to get hold of someone from the gig. This person also went out of their way to help me, found me a place to stay for free, and invited me to a local bar with her friends for a relief-filled boogy. Turns out I had more friends than I thought I did, this far from home.
So Grandma was right. It ended up being one of the best spontaneous nights I've had out in ages, complete with gin, the greatest local gay bar, and a lasting mental image of the "shiniest red plums you've ever seen". And what I learned from this whole ordeal (apart from to read signs) was:
1) If you do get stranded, it will probably be fine. It's the North, not Neptune. And with Facebook nowadays, it's surprisingly easy to find a non-psycho semi-stranger's sofa to stay on.
2) Even if something is definitely your own fault, and you deserve to suffer fully for your stupidity, you can still be pleasantly surprised by the kindness of strangers.
3) Lastly, and arguably most valuably, I learned that most men do not know how long you are supposed to leave hair removal cream on for.
So go forth, and find ways to use this to your advantage.