Sunday, June 11, 2006

getting around

You can call me whatever you want, as long as you don't call me late for dinner. Unless I am late for dinner, in which case I've probably been trying to get there by a bus.

You wouldn't believe my traveling ordeals today. I'll go ahead and list them for you in a second, but I should warn you now that they are fraught with tedium, frustration, and anger. (You know, like a math class.) I could have probably navigated the sinking Titanic better than I navigated the London transportation system today, and I would have been safer, too. Who knows?

I have been pretty good about getting around the past few weeks. I stick to the stops I know, and I don't try to cut any corners. If the tube goes there, I generally go there as well. If the #9 or #10 drives by, I may jump on for a bus ride. Ditto the #360. Never take taxis. For rich people and tourists. But lately I have prided myself on being a little Magellan, you know, Christopher Layton Columbus trying to explore various areas of the city using oddly numbered buses going down strange and 'exciting' avenues. Also, I have been doing this to cut corners, with disappointing results.

Today the Piccadilly Line was shut down for repair. Seriously, who shuts down Piccadilly on a Saturday? I'll tell you who: English People. Not having Piccadilly running is like telling your heart that it can't pump blood directly to your brain; it has to go everywhere else first. But we were determined to make the most of it. After all, errands had to be done. Lisa had requested that I bring home some Kit-Kat Tiramisu bars and I wasn't going to let a tube closing keep me from my task. Here is what I encountered:

1. Piccadilly Shut Down. On a Saturday.

2. I took a District Line to get to Earl's Court, but it only went as far as South Kensington. So I walked. It was a beautiful day, so I didn't mind. It took 45 minutes. Maybe kind of a long walk?

3. Can't get home from Earl's Court, have to go through Notting Hill. Why did I wear these flip-flops?

4. Took the Central Line from Notting Hill to Tottenham Court Road. Trying to find Leicester Square. A creepy old man was writing about me in a little book. I watched him do it. What was he writing?

5. Walking through a hot, dodgy neighborhood somewhere in Soho. Where can I turn for peace?

6. Back on Central Line to Notting Hill, and dropping down to South Kensington for Kit Kat Tiramisus. Mission accomplished! Back to Earl's Court for one more errand.

7. Hmmm...the tube is still not going there. How about a bus? A delightful bus ride might be just the thing! Unless the bus goes super far south, lets everybody off, and then pulls over to the side of the road to 'rest' for 30 minutes. GRAAAVY.

8. Maybe I need a rest. I stop into a pub for a Coke and to watch the England vs. Portugal match. I sure wish English people liked soccer more. How can we get them to care about something so monumentally important? Isn't there any way we can get them to drink a lot and wear flags on their heads? Is soccer really more than watching three hours of a ball going up and down a field and nothing ever happening? (You know, like women's basketball?)

9. Another bus to Earl's Court. Errands accomplished. Tube sort of running again. Back to High Street Kensington. Good old #9 gets me where I need to go.

Later that night, I meet an old pal in Covent Garden for dinner and hang out. Sound good? Yes, except:

1. Covent Garden isn't running. Take the tube to Embankment, switch north to Charing Cross, walk to Covent Garden. One bazillion other people have the same idea.

2. About 12:30 I realize I need to get home, and all of the tubes are closed. Bus? No problem. In fact, maybe I'll have a little Burger King. Walk to Piccadilly and then....hey - maybe I'll walk home! I'm buoyed by that Whopper.

3. I get to the Ritz, and my dogs are barking. I catch the Night #9. Lauren Marsh is on it, and she tells me that a big bunch of students have just left to take pictures of Big Ben. Feeling a little protective and maybe a little spontaneous, I decide to go find them. I jump off of the N9.

4. I take the N52 and am assured that it goes to Westminster. Which it probably does. But halfway through the trip I see Big Ben at the end of a street, so I ring the bell and jump off of the bus. And then I realize it's not Big Ben, it's just some other random clock that looks like Big Ben. So it's about 2:00 am now, and I'm rambling around Central London, through the business district, past Trafalgar, past Big Ben, over the Westminster Bridge, along the Thames, back over the Jubilee Bridge, up through Piccadilly again, and catch the #N9 home. Full moon tonight, keeping an eye on me.I never find my students. They may all be dead. Would I get fired for that?

I don't know why I tried to be so daring. I should have stayed indoors today, reading and watching Countdown. But the weather was so fantastic and I had real, earnest errands to do, and I won't apologize for it. Besides, guess who I saw walking around Chinatown? Rufus Wainwright! He was wearing super long jeans that he had turned up and cuffed, and the cuffs went almost to his knee. (You know, like a pirate!)