Buses, Trains, Planes, and Automobiles
i am now speaking to you from the future, and trust me when i tell you this: time travel is exhausting. i was driven into richmond at 6am, then spent six hours on the bus (to nyc), then an hour on the subway (to jfk airport), then six hours on the plane*, then over an hour on The Underground. i don’t remember when i’ve last slept. i do remember, though, managing to fly through the majesty of both a sunset and a sunrise on the same flight. don’t ask me to explain it; the intricacies of time travel are beyond me. just know that i am now at least five hours ahead of you in the future, and my body and eyeballs feel as if i were delivered here, across both oceans and the entire u.s. of a., via slingshot.
i’ve been a little too whupped to fully appreciate my new surroundings as of yet, but i’ll give you some highlights of what i’ve learned so far:
- most of these people look perfectly normal (read: american)—until they open their mouths and start talking.
- The Underground isn’t always underground.
- most areas i’ve seen (from traveling above ground on The Underground) look like shires. i suspect they are entirely populated by hobbits.
- i’ve been to the grocery store, and my first reaction was that i was going to die of starvation here. to calculate the exchange rate, i doubled the prices of every ₤ amount i saw, which made frozen entrees, for example, check in at $8 apiece and up. then i started finding things marked with prices like “49p.” i broke down and asked a black lady, who turned out to be west indian, “what does this p mean?” i thought it was probably the equivalent of ¢, but i didn’t want to find out i was wrong upon seeing my total at the register. i was right, though. after jamaica jane spent a couple of minutes explaining pence to me as if it were calculus, i said, “you mean it’s like a penny?” and she resoundingly agreed. so i’ve now begun introducing myself to the Sainsbury’s store brand. i might just survive after all.
- Ford is a popular car brand here. as a matter of fact, my host and roommate-of-the-month (let’s call him seamus o’flannery, on account of his being irish) is an engineer for their british division.
- speaking of cars, maybe i should hold off on assuming i’ll survive as i’ve already almost been struck and killed by one. after spending over thirty years looking left THEN right before crossing a street, it’s challenging to remember to do it the other way around. (i also had to be told by seamus that i was waiting to be let in on the wrong side of the car.)
- so far, i’ve not been disabused of my mental picture of england’s gray climate. in the few hours that i’ve been here, it has already rained twenty-seven times. you’re walking along and things are perfectly fine, then it’s lightly drizzling, then you’re ducking for cover from a steady rain. then it stops. then it does it all over again fifteen minutes later. good show, ol’ clouds. just as i expected.
On: Self Indulgence
my mom’s reaction, upon finding out about my trip here, was this: “you’re being really self-indulgent, and rarely does anything good come from that.” well, i beg to differ. think about it: every time you buy yourself some of your favorite ice cream or sign up for yoga classes or get your nails done, you’re being self-indulgent. you’re doing something to give yourself a bit of pleasure in this life. that said, i’ll see my mom’s accusation, and i’ll raise her: i am, in fact, being wildly self-indulgent. and i think that if you can do that—if you can indulge yourself in a healthy way and still maintain your responsibilities—why wouldn’t you? i hereby petition that “self-indulgent” never be considered an unflattering adjective again. it’s no one else’s responsibility to indulge you or see to your happiness, so if you don’t do it, who will?
and finally, i’ll be keeping a running list of british vocabulary and translations for my own wildly self-indulgent pleasure. here are today’s words:
- queue = line
- mind = watch out for (as in “mind the gap between the train and the platform”)
- mark = be aware of or look out for (as in “mark the closing doors”)
- way out = exit
- “idnit?” = “right?”
- lift = elevator
- top up = add onto or refill (as in, “top up your oyster card”—an oyster card being the equivalent of a new york subway metrocard)
- collect = pick up (as in, “i’ll come ’round and collect you at half past the hour”)
- brolly = umbrella
and with that, i must to bed. rainy weather is at least good for sleeping. guess i won’t lack for that over the next month. aloha…and cheers!
*do NOT sleep on Air India. my bargain fare included beverages galore, an indian snack, a hot entree of indian food (hot in both possible senses), and a dessert. each seat in economy class also had its own little monitor from which one could select movies, tv shows, videos, games, or music channels. and the english language movies were up-to-date (e.g., “juno” was an offering) and included like twenty different selections. hawtness!