That is five hours of my life that I will never get back, I sigh. What an inconvenience it has been and all because I dropped my phone on one of my walks. It was only a small crack and I thought it was the protective cover that was damaged. It didn’t take long before the whole screen started cracking. The guy at the little phone shop next to Trafalgar Square would have changed it for me in fifteen minutes and at half the price, but I would lose the Apple guarantee. He put a temporary cover for me and advised me to get it sorted ASAP. I realised that I still have a warranty on the protective cover but the small print says that impact damage is not covered. How else was it going to get damaged? The ways they hoodwink you into getting these useless warranties.
“Where are you going to get it fixed and how are you getting there?” Kanthi asks. She disapproved off my National Gallery visit. “All this tube travelling is a mistake”, she says. “At least wear a proper mask”, Sandra adds. I find the surgical face masks suffocating after a while and the FFP3 masks difficult to breath through. From today we need to start wearing masks in shops too.
The tubes are not busy and at Stratford the platforms are pretty empty. The walk to the Mall is a one way system now and quite a bit of a circular trek. The place is teeming. I should have listened to my friends. If I catch the illness, I only have myself to blame. I try to be careful. I am too early and while my time till my allocated slot arrives. I join the queue, have my temperature checked and sanitise my hands. The niceties don’t take long. I need to come back in two hours to collect my phone with a photo ID. I don’t have any with me and this was not mentioned in the information I was sent. My passport or driving licence, she says. Really! I need to go home to get it. I have my hospital ID in my car at the station, that will have to do. I still need to go back to get it.
An hour later I am back. As I leave the station, I feel a plop on my head. I wonder if it is a drop of water and touch it. Bird poo. Couldn’t it have waited for a few more seconds before relieving itself onto me. Now my fingers are dirty as well. Isn’t there a superstition that says if a bird poops on you, it is meant to be lucky or was it unlucky. I certainly don’t feel very lucky at the moment. There is a commotion at the entrance. A guy is shouting and swearing at the top of his voice. I remember disliking the atmosphere around this Mall when I first came here soon after its opening years ago. The rowdy clientele and east end crowds somehow didn’t appeal to me but I keep coming back. I make a beeline for the toilets. Once in I notice that the layout is smaller and different to what I remember from my previous visits. I’m still in a dazed mindset and just want to wash my hands and clean off the mess. And then I notice the urinals from the corner of my eyes. Oh my word, I’m in the men’s. I leave hurriedly. There is no one around, I think. I don’t look. I don’t remember seeing anyone as I walked in. A guy crosses me at the exit. He freezes for a second. I laugh and say, I’m in the wrong place. “Is it me?” he asks looking confused. “No, it’s me, the dopey one” I reply hastily and walk out. I need to get my eyes tested. It is overdue. It seems that when it comes to men’s changing rooms and toilets, I have a blind spot. I am still early to collect my phone. Most of the shops close at 7. For the some that are still open there is not much of a queue to go in. People are being urged to wear masks as they enter the stores. The summer dresses and beachwear on display are all going to be wasted this year. The fitting rooms are all closed and so is the children’s play area. I wonder if the fashion world will stand still for a year and the clothes will be brought back in a years time. Probably not. For a Friday evening the place is only half full.
Finally the time arrives. I get my phone and make my way home. Another tiring day over. I read about patient 31 in South Korea who started the uncontrollable spread of the virus after a church visit when she was unwell. How most people don’t spread the virus but some spread it to a vast number. Being in a shopping mall is different to being in an enclosed space but we all still need to be careful.