|Father, I wish to make a confession.|
|Proceed, my child.|
|I have never wanted to be in London. I have no real desire to spend time here, or to see the sights here.|
|This is most grievious child, for you are already here. Say 10 Hail Mary's for being here and another 10 for flying Virgin Air - that was inappropriate of you.|
Virgin Air likes the colour red, not that you'd suspect it from their name or anything . Inside the plane I sit on my red chair, with my red blanket, my red pillow, beneath the slightly red ceiling, holding my red face towel and red sleep goggles and I am red, inside and outside. I watch the movie Watchmen, finally. It is similar to the novel, but the methodology of Ozymandeous's plane is different and, perhaps more believable. I chuckle for a full minute during one of the most serious scenes, recognising it as a direct lift of Dr. Strangelove - probably the first such reference I've got in a movie. My efforts to the contrary, I fear that few of my friends would make the connection. I sleep fitfully while my neighbor, the robe-wearing man-with-the-red-dot-on-the-center-of-his-forehead, sits, stoically, next to me, seemingly without need of rest. Morning comes, 60% faster than usual (the terminator moves at ~1000MPH and the jet at ~600 (according to a nifty seatback display with real-time updates on the plane's position and speed. I'm glad of it because I don't have to sneak out my GPS to get this information, as is my usual way.), so we collide at 1600MPH). At some indeterminate time the MWTRDOTCOHF opens our window and I am washed with obscenely bright light (the obscenity of light being directly proportional to my lack of sleep) and all hope of sleep evaporates like so much morning dew.
In Heathrow, I shuffle through customs surrounded by the dark specter of swine flu. The customs lady asks me a number of questions. She can't seem to accept that there exist people who will buy plane tickets four days before traveling, have no idea where they're going or staying or for how long, be carrying only a backpack, and have no cash. I consider coughing in her general direction and telling her I've been to Haiti, but resist the urge. The interrogation finally ends and I pass through a hallway, down an esculator, and out into the lobby where I throw back my head and laugh aloud. On either side of me for a distance of nearly a hundred yards, a thick crowd with supportive signs are all looking anxiously in my direction. This is how a cross country race ends, and I do not like to disappoint. I fly through the throng!
I stop by the airport's chapel, a lonely little room with a tile floor, flourescent lights, and some hard wood benches, not unlike a holding cell. A number of mats are shelved against one wall and a genuflecting man in is stationed in one corner. When I leave, he is still at it… Out in the airport, I realize that I still don't know where I'll stay. I wander, aimlessly, in search of a comfy, velvet chair and a power outlet for my drained netbook (which still needs a name - suggestions are welcome). The airport, though, is all mean, cold concrete and scary metal I-beams. Finally, by a rumbling pop machine, I find a plug-in and hard plastic chair. I pull out my sister's Olde Powere Converter and plug in. Life-giving electricity rumbles through the little netbook. Again, I am charged limbs for internet ($7/day). While the computer loads, I converse with the girl behind me. She has a Kindle and likes it, something I can understand, but not comprehend. To exchange the smell and texture of paper for a little machine? It seems strange. The display, though, isn't backlit, so at least that property is preserved. I hope that one day they make reflective monitors, rather than garishly glowing LCDs.
The next few hours are spent digging through hostel sites, looking at flights to Greece, and thinking that survival (at least, the kind of survival where you don't hole up in a cardboard box) is expensive. I finally choose a hostel - St. Christopher's place - which seems as though it will have the fewest bedbugs for its price range and I'm off! Which is good, because I'm falling asleep in my chair and getting hungry. The Underground whisks me into town and I fall asleep, briefly, in my seat. I wake with a start just before I reach the change-over. Another doze brings me to the London Bridge Station. I climb off the Underground and head out at random, wandering till I find the street I'm looking for. Continuing down this, I come to where the hostel should be, but isn't. I walk back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The hostel fails to appear.
Finally, in despair, I buy myself a probiotic yogurt smoothie-ma-jig and sit down in a concrete alcove. The computer becomes one with the internet. I sip the smj and check the address; yes, it should be here. I look behind me and lo', it is! Inside the hostel of requirement's lobby I'm distracted by people coming in and out, and the variety of languages and dialects, but become focused as Randy and Jenn sign on. Pretty soon, we've worked out a plan to keep me moving, because sleep and rest are (obviously) for the weak. Incidentally, the little netbook seems to have proved its worth.
|The plan successfully concocted, I leave the hostel after apologising for not staying, and take a whirldwind trip past Lloyd's for lunch. The building looks like it's on dialysis - all the plumbing and functional stuff is running along the outside in large, steely veins. It's also oddly like Willy Wonka's factory. I find that time has slipped by and run back to the station, catching a later train then I'd wanted to; I notice that the trains are departing right on time. (Click for a big image.)|
I step across a deep abyss to get on the train, which is futuristic, with blue LEDs by the doors, lots of tables, wide hallways, and deep comfortable seats. The doors are transparent and rush open when you push a little button. The gaps between the cars are made out of a number of blocks which flex as it moves, but don't have any place you can get caught - this is distinct from Amtrak where you could literally lose your toes or worse as the car jars. On board the train, I am drawn into conversation with a carbon-trader. I've never met one of them before, so I ask a few questions. No, he doesn't think it's enough. No, he's not as sure about the science as he'd like to be. Yes, it's a living. He and I discuss my glacial work and he leaves with a slightly better idea about the science.
At the station, I walk boldly, if sleepily, out into the terminal and suddenly find myself confronted by Glenys.