A couple of months ago, we decided to go and play badminton. We had never imagined that it would end up being one of the most eventful evenings. An anecdote that I’ll end up telling most of my friends.
Though I’m a blogger, I am not that playful with words. So I asked my friend Hassan, who is a budding writer, to narrate the event in a better way. So here’s a guest blog from Hassan who decided to call it “A series of unfortunate events, the sequel”
It was the 1st of December. A normal day. Just as any other with all the hustle and bustle from the numerous deadlines from Research Methodology and Embedded Design Project. The sun was as elusive as it could get in a winter morning in Stockholm. The streets were still covered with slippery ice that threatened every being that dared touch the ground to be thrown flat on their backs. The decorations for Christmas were visible throughout the streets and people could be seen walking briskly towards shelter to get out of the freezing cold. A normal day. Nothing out of the ordinary. Except it was not.
I went over to the university to have a meeting with the rest of my project members where we were to give the impossible another shot; studying. After some hours of hard work and honest reflecting, we came to the conclusion that it was, indeed, impossible. And so, naturally, we decided to give up and ‘leave’ to fight another day. We were confident of our survival instincts. So, with a sense of accomplishment, I trudged back home, completely unaware of what was lying in wait for me; a trap set up by the most heinous of people; friends. You see, from where I come from, you need to ‘pay tribute’ to your friends for anything happening to you that can even remotely be considered ‘not bad’. That includes recovering from constipation. In their defense, however, what happened to me was slightly better than that; I had just landed a master’s thesis position at Ericsson. And my friends had taken it upon themselves to remind me what the penalty was for that crime. So, there I was, sitting with my flock, trying to decide on a venue which, I daresay, was not a trivial task; one of us was a vegetarian and two would only eat halal meat. So, in the end, we decided to book a badminton court and sweat for three hours. Totally not random.
So we started looking up our choices. There was one racket hall in Kista, where we live. However, there was no court available for booking at that time. There were two other options; Frescatihallen and Sundbyberghallen, the former being farther of the two. Since the universe had a special plan for us, we chose Frescatihallen. We needed around forty-five minutes to get there. It was a quarter to nineteen and our booking was for twenty. We had seventy-five minutes to get there. Plenty of time. We had the ultimate plan. What could go wrong?
“What do we do about rackets?”, said, Abu Darda.
We did not have any equipment for the sport. No one was to blame. It is only natural that one does not fret the small details.
“Let’s go buy them at Stadium.”, said Aditya.
Another stroke of genius. Like I said, we were feeling spontaneous.
So, it was decided. Abhineet would go to his apartment to change, I and Aditya would buy rackets and shuttlecocks, and Abu Darda would occupy the bathroom. Our teamwork was impeccable. So, that is exactly what we did. We were to re-group at the Metro station. We had one hour left. Plenty of time. What could go wrong?
After coming back from the store, Aditya and I came back to get Abu Darda. We were going to meet Abhineet at the metro station. We locked our apartment and walked across the hall to one end of the building, opened the door, stepped into a second hall with two elevators. I pressed the button for one of them. We waited. A light chime indicated that the elevator was on our floor. The doors opened. It was empty. Abu Darda and I stepped in.
In that instant, we saw the first sign of a greater force at play. For some weird reason, Aditya got a surge of an adrenaline rush. That or it could have something to do with all those chickens we cooked without defrosting them. Either way what transpired next was not part of the plan. He jumped into the elevator. Ronaldo style. Like the way, the guy jumps after scoring a goal. The elevator lurched and sunk half a foot. And stopped. The door was already closed. The expression on Aditya’s face went from ‘see what I did there’ to ‘wait a minute’ to ‘oh shit’ faster than you could say ‘oh snap’. We were stuck. Abu Darda and I had a poker face. How do you react to that? I mean why!!! The predicament took a couple of moments to settle in. After some minutes of analyzing the chemical reaction that set off inside Aditya’s brain, we decided to do something about the situation. I pressed the alarm button to signal our distress to an operator. It took us a short while to get in touch with one. The guy told us, to our great horror, that it would take about forty-five minutes before someone would be able to get us out. It was ten over nineteen. We were not going to make it in time. So reluctantly, I called the sporting hall and canceled our booking. Now that we had plenty of time to kill, Abu Darda proposed that we indulge in some constructive activity. So we decided to sit down and play ‘Chirya Uri’. It’s a local game that requires the participants to touch the ground with a finger and raise it only if the name of a flying bird is called by one of the participants. In case the rule is violated, that participant tries to anticipate and dodge a slap on their hands. Elegant right! So time trickled by as we engaged ourselves in a furious game of wits and the door finally opened to an irritated and rather confused technician; apparently playing games in a stuck elevator is not normal.
So we came back to our apartment and thought about giving up on the night. However, Aditya had different plans.
‘Lets go to Sundbyberghallen’, said Aditya.
He was not going to let a measly broken elevator destroy the night. That was enough to get us going again. We booked a hall for twenty-one, informed Abhineet about the change in the plan and arrived at the Metro station at five to twenty. Smooth and swift adaptation to the situation. Like I said, we were good!!!
After going through the ordeal in the elevator, we were super pumped. The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory, and victory was in sight. Or so we thought. The pool of cool water in the sweltering desert of deprivation was nothing more than an illusion, a mirage. We arrived at the hall to the incoherent stuttering of the hall manager who was trying to make sense of a situation so absurd we could not believe our luck. He had somehow managed to book us for the next week instead by mistake. This was the last straw. It felt like the universe was playing a joke on us. Resigned, we slumped down on the sofas in the reception and stared at each other with blank faces. Looking at our despondent demeanor, the manager tried to soften the blow and offered us free coffee. So, as we sat there and sipped the warm, bitter concoction, Aditya’s brain fired again. I started seeing a pattern at this point.
‘We will play today or die trying. We are going to Frescatihallen. We can get the last slot of the day at twenty-one’, said Aditya.
The time was twenty past twenty. There was a bus leaving at half past twenty that would take us to our destination exactly at twenty-one. We still had hope. So we ran pell-mell to the bus stop. We arrived there in the nick of time. We were busy high-fiving and complementing each other for getting the situation under control when Abhineet pointed out an ominous sign.
‘Guys. The road is blocked for construction’, said Abhineet.
There were big blockades on the road leading to the bus stop. It felt like time froze as we saw the bus turn and skip the stop we were standing on. And as the sound comes back on the first clash between two armies, we were jolted awake by the horn of the bus.
‘RUUUUUUUN’, said I.
I shouted and ran after the bus. I could hear Aditya close behind and thought the rest were following suit. We ran after the bus and picked shortcuts in between by looking at the indicator light on the back of the bus. We were not going to let it go after getting so close. Never. We ran and ran like mad people until we finally arrived at the next stop just a couple of moments before the bus. I turned around with a triumphant smile on my face only to find Aditya slowing to a jog. Abhineet and Abu Darda had fallen in the battle. And so, yet again, we looked on helplessly as the bus departed right in front of us, mocking us. Abhineet and Abu Darda trudged towards us as if they had given up on life. But for Aditya, now it was a matter of honor.
‘We are going to that hall if it is the last thing we ever do’, said Aditya.
‘Dude let it go, this obviously is not working. It’s already ten to twenty-one’, said I.
‘My thirst is not going to be quenched until I have savored the smell of sweat on the wooden floor. I’ll call an Uber and pay for the expenses but there is no way in hell we are missing the game’, said Aditya.
‘No need to go all Shakespeare on us. You got us at the free ride already’, said Abu Darda.
For a bunch of free-loaders, a free ride is music to the ears. So naturally, we shamelessly agreed. The Uber arrived at two minutes to twenty-one. We jumped in and burnt rubber to get to the destination at nine minutes past twenty-one. We checked in, ran to the changing room, changed and were on the court in five minutes. We had forty-five minutes left.
Finally, we were on the court. A victory does not come sweeter than this and we enjoyed it in its full glory. However, that part was quite uneventful from the reader’s point of view. Basking in the light of our fine adventure, we played like there was no tomorrow. So much so that we forgot the time limit and kept on playing for another hour. Not until the clock struck twenty-three did we realize that we were way past our allotted time. So as a law abiding citizen, we went over to the receptionist and told her that we wanted to pay for the extra time.
‘I have closed the counter for today. You get to have that slot on the house’, said the receptionist.
Finally, Something going our way. It felt like the tide was finally in our favor. As if the universe wanted to reward us for our perseverance. I haven’t been more wrong. It was just the quiet before a storm.
We packed up and left the hall. We arrived home at midnight thinking of the extraordinary day and how all of it could have been real. We split up and headed to our respective apartments. Chattering about the proceedings, Aditya reached inside his pocket for the key to the apartment to find nothing there.
‘Do you have the key?’, said Aditya.
I replied in negative. The first real signs of anxiety crossed Aditya’s face. He called the rest of the group. Same reply. Now the uneasiness was apparent. Not only were we locked out of our apartment, this also meant that he was in danger of getting a hefty fine.
‘We are going back!’, said Aditya.
‘What? Dude where are you going to look? Even if you do scour the entire route we took, everything is covered with snow?’, said I.
‘I don’t have a choice’, said Aditya.
So we went back to the metro station. We were tired from all the excitement and exercise. I was dreading the long and tedious task up ahead when suddenly it occurred to me how common it is to lose something while sitting in a car. It was worth a try. We called the Uber driver and asked if we might have dropped the key in his car.
‘Yes man. I called after you guys when you got off but you didn’t listen. You were in such a hurry’, said the driver in a heavy African accent.
That came as such a big relief, I can hardly put it into words. The driver was busy at that moment and said that he can come later in the night to hand it over. So we went over and waited in our friends’ apartment. After an hours wait, the guy finally arrived. We paid a few hundred kroner for his troubles, another big dent to our ego and, not to mention, wallet. But we found solace in the thought that it was just a small percentage of what would have been a much heavier blow.
With that, we were finally able to get into our apartment where warm beds were waiting to comfort us and tell us that the series of unfortunate events had come to an end. And so guys, that was one of the most eventful days of my life. The day I lived a movie.