Wednesday, November 28, 2007

London: Tuesday/Wednesday -- Departure and Arrival

(As many of you know, I opted out of Thanksgiving proper to spend a thankful time with my Very Best Friend at his place in North London. Now that I'm back, the pressure is on to tell the story...)

My flight left from O'Hare, officially the busiest airport in the world. To get to O'Hare, one must drive along Rt 90, which is part of a network of local highways that has traffic problems that have been officially declared worse than those of Los Angeles.

You with me so far?

Now, one can also take the Blue Line to O'Hare, but that takes forever and is awful. On the advice of a co-worker, I'd booked a taxi service to take me out. My flight left on Tuesday evening; I booked the car on Saturday.

I took Tuesday off, which allowed me to get all the pet supplies I'd need for the pet sitter, wash all of the clothes I was taking to London and pack them in the basement laundry room (Sven is allergic to cats), bunch the bunny greens for each feeding, check in online, make sure all emergency numbers were disbursed to my Inner Circle, clean the dishes, and pack my bags.

I was, for the first time, prepared. So prepared that I had 90 minutes before the taxi arrived. So I sat in the kitchen and began to crochet a scarf.

4:30 rolled around; I was expecting the taxi at any time, so I called to get the ETA.

"Ma'am, we have no record of you."

"I booked this on Saturday."

"I'm sorry, ma'am; I don't see you in here."


"Can you send someone anyway?"

"I'm sorry ma'am; we're an hour behind right now."


"I'm sorry ma'am." Her tone indicated that what she felt was not sorrow but complete disinterest.

I froze. My mind raced through the options: bitch her out but good; flag down a neighborhood taxi, which would invariably be driven by an East African who does not understand that we do not find haggling or price-changing fun; try to make it by train - impossible ---

Wait. I have a car.

"Goodbye," I said flatly, hanging up (and making a mental note to get a retro phone with an actual cradle so that I could slam the receiver down at times like these).

Cut to me running to where my car was parked on the next block, racing to my place, loading my bags, and tearing off to O'Hare - or, rather, trying to; it was now 4:40, the airport is about 15 miles from my house, my flight left at 6:50, and according to the online instructions, I had to be there to check my bags no later than 5:50, and traffic was heavy. I screamed behind my wheel the entire way there, praying that 90 would not be a parking lot. I hit every red light. Every one. I screamed "GO!" at a Mexican family undecided about whether to cross the street; I cursed out an old man who felt it necessary to bring his car to a complete stop at each speed bump going down the street.

I made it to O'Hare by 5:35 and found an Economy parking lot by the airport shuttle train, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island. I took my ticket and grew increasingly hysterical as I went down row after row with no parking spaces to be seen. I finally found a spot near the fence and ran across the lot with my bags. On the way I saw a woman in her Jeep, squinting down the rows.

"BY THE FENCE! SPOTS BY THE FENCE!" I screamed out as I ran by her, dragging my bucking wheelie by one hand, huge duffle bag over my opposite shoulder, day pack slung across my chest, panting and practically bent over from the enormous stitch in my side.

Cut to me just making it to check in, mercifully getting through Security despite being past the deadline, and onto the plane.

I spent the flight chatting with a very nice girl originally from Ireland but now living in Minnesota. the plane was nearly empty, so I jumped into the row behind ours so we'd each have two entire seats to catch some sleep in. I don't sleep well on planes, and the fact that I only had two seats made it tough: I was right by the bathroom so hanging my feet out wasn't an option.

At Heathrow, I collected my bags and approached Passport Control.

"And what is the purpose of your visit?" the woman at the desk asked.

"Pure pleasure," I replied.

"Have you been to Britain before?" (it was my first trip on the new passport.)

"Oh yes. Many times. In fact, I was married in Britain. Got divorced at home, though."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Was he a Brit? I hope you don't dislike us after that."

"No, he wasn't a Brit. I'd probably still be married to him if he were. I love this country."

Aaaaand I was in.

Came through the doors, and there was Sven (!! :-) We took the express train to Paddington and caught a Taxi. (As an aside, what I love about London taxis is that, besides speaking fluent English, the drivers have to spend years acquiring The Knowledge - that is, a complete knowledge of every street in London. They literally know how to get everywhere; it's all in their head.) So we got in and Sven gave his street and offered the neighborhood, and the driver took us there. Not once did he have to ask us for directions. At one point, traffic was stalled because of something or other. When he dropped us off at Sven's, he actually apologized for the delay, as if it had been his fault.

We dropped my bags off, I freshened up, and Sven showed me around his neighborhood. He lives in Kentish town, right by Camden. Lots of shops and street bustle, which I quite liked. We had lunch at R.E.D., a nice airy place, and were waited on by a waiter whose combination of good looks and being French assured us that he would be a pompous ass.

We were not disappointed. Upon discovering that I was American, he proceeded to explain that Americans have "too many walls."

I blinked at him. "Are you suggesting we should be more promiscuous?"

Being pompous and French he didn't realize I was making fun of him. They're like that.

A quick stop at Sainsbury's to pick up groceries - and Hob Nobs!!!! (I'd brought Sven and Andrew some fancy coca mixes from Whole Foods; had I been wearing my glasses I could have read that they are an English brand that you can get at every Sainsbury's, Tesco, and corner shop in London.)

Back to Sven's to relax, then a quick bus ride to Andrew's flat, where I finally got to meet the famous Andrew, who is just as wonderful and adorable in person as I'd expected. I got a tour of his large and comfy flat (including the capri-style drapes), then we went across the street to gorge on Ethiopian food. I was very jet-lagged and actually fell asleep while sitting at the table, so we called it a night and headed back to Sven's adorable little studio.

Tomorrow: Day 2!


Anonymous said...

yay, a post about your trip. Unfortunately I don't have time to read it now. All I saw was "are you with me so far?" so I know that this should be a good one.
k in boston

Andrew said...

Awww ... you are too sweet!! I enjoyed meeting you too and can't wait for you to come and play again.

Looking forward to reading day 2!

SP said...

Oh, so THAT's what you were doing at the Ethiopian restaurant. I thought you were having a seizure or something, but obviously was too polite to say anything.

That was NOT pretty to look at.

JC said...

Really, I was just bored with your story.