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Moose, toilets and COVID, oh my!

How I know that 2020 is truly the worst summer of my life.

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In what shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, this summer has been pretty awful. Everyone I know is saying the same thing: I wish this were over — this is the worst summer of my life. Hearing this made me wonder whether I, with my track record of terrible summers, could possibly say the same.

First in my list of bad summers comes “the moose incident,” which took place during a train ride from Stockholm to Copenhagen that my father insisted we take rather than flying. The first hour and a half of the journey went remarkably well. The air conditioning was blowing cool air onto our faces, we had snacks packed — there was nothing to suggest that the ride would take a different turn. 

Suddenly, there was a sickening crunch from underneath the train, which slowly skidded to a halt. Over the intercom, a man said that we had hit a moose that was trying to cross the train tracks, and unfortunately, the poor animal had been partially wedged into the engine of the train, preventing us from going any further. We waited hours for a rescue vehicle to come pick us up.

It slowly grew claustrophobic in the “grounded” train. The carriage filled with panicked voices overlapping in Danish, Swedish and English. The temperature slowly rose as the air conditioning stuttered and failed. After what felt like an eternity, a second train finally arrived and set up a rescue crew complete with ladders and bridges to help us exit the train. I was forced to confront all of my fears in that moment: ladders, dying moose and train wrecks. 

But all things considered, it still wasn’t the worst experience of my life. It was a brief whirlwind of fear and excitement that made for some great stories. After all, not many people can say they have been in a train accident.

Next on the list of terrible summers comes what is quite possibly one of the most disorienting moments of my life. To set the scene, I had just stayed up all night to catch an early morning flight from my grandparents’ hometown in India to London. My brain was definitely not functioning at its best. I was waiting for my mother in the restroom, yawning heavily as she washed her hands. 

What I didn’t realize, however, was that she had left already, that the door had long slammed behind her. As I approached the door and tried in vain to push it open, I realized that it was jammed, that I was trapped. I kept pushing it, trying to get the door to open. The woman who was slapping an over-wet mop against the cold tile floor was giving me strange looks as I beat the door with my fists. 

At that point, I had resigned myself to a lifetime locked forever in that airport bathroom. I was scoping out the tiled walls and empty paper towel dispenser, getting accustomed to my new home. Thankfully, my future was altered in an act of deus ex machina  —  a group of tourists pushed the door open from the other side. I looked down to see the word “pull” clearly emblazoned on the door. I realized in shame that my plight was entirely self-inflicted. As I said farewell to what I thought would be my new home, the embarrassment remained with me  —  and still does to this day.

Even though I may have thought those events constituted terrible summers in the moment, I don’t believe I would be able to say that those summers were worse than the one we are currently experiencing. I have never felt as uncertain, afraid or generally displeased with my life as I have now, even considering my alternate life in an airport bathroom. 

The fact that this isn’t an isolated incident makes it worse. I might be able to reminisce about my trip to Sweden without immediately remembering the fate of the poor moose. I might be able to remember visiting my family in India without recalling the horror I felt in the cramped airport bathroom. 

But nearly everything I have done this summer has been a reminder of the dire circumstances. Delayed exams, online programs, daily Zoom calls — I could have been hanging out with friends or traveling with my family. This summer has cemented an entirely new category in my mental hierarchy of all things terrible. But like the previous stories, this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. This may unequivocally be the worst summer of my life, but I can hope that it will end soon, and that eventually, I will be able to look back at this and laugh, just like all of the summers before.

Contact Prithi Srinivasan at 22psrinivasan ‘at’ pinewood.edu.

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Prithi Srinivasan is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.