Thursday, August 11, 2016

England, 2016, Part 4: Whine the Rap

I have come SO FAR to be here, and I am so close to my destination: The Days Hotel in Waterloo, London. But I am running solely on the bitter fumes of confusion.

Car ride / Flight from San Jose / (tunnel walkies) / Flight from L.A. / Train from Gatwick / Walk to Hotel / Sleep the sleep of the Just.

I am at the train part! Yay! Only 30 miles (48 Kilometers) to go! This train system they have here is complicated, but figureoutable for a smart fellow (Chap) like myself.

IF I was on my ‘A’ game. Which I am not. I am more on my ‘mousetrap’ game, and some of the parts are missing.

I had steered myself from the Airport part of this complex down to the ‘Tram’ part, bought some sort of ticket North, and made it down a bunch of stairs to the platform.

And there I leaned, holding up a support beam, listening to the last little bit of juice run out of my batteries. I can’t even say I felt like shit, because shit is a known quantity. Shit is familiar to all creatures great and small. Everybody Poops. If you could say in every language “I feel like shit” everybody in the world would nod sympathetically. We’ve all been there, Man, Dude, Sir, رجل, мъж, (clicking noises).

Having had the day (night, day) that I’ve had, with a 10K of exercise with full combat pack, the stress of the cancelled flight, weird, inadequate food choices, the cramped ’S’ shape I was just in for 10 hours, pressure change from 40,000 feet to sea level, next-to-no sleep and being sling-shotted 8 time zones East………it all added up to one thing, but I was too strung out to figure out what that one thing was.

Waterloo Station. Yes - BIG.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons)
I am on the platform, underneath an afternoon sky that is supposed to be dawn, damnit (Bollocks!), staring at this rainbow spider-web of a train system, and trying to follow the little colored lines that lead to Waterloo Station. 

My ear is tuned to the periodic announcements coming from a loudspeaker, which, as all loudspeakers are, is tuned way more to the 'loud' than the 'speaker'.

Every minute or so a lovely robot lady, speaking in a stuttering Australian/Scottish/Bangladeshi burr tells me to “Mine the Crap”. 

“Find the Strap”
Oh, Baby.

“Line the Map”
That’s what I AM doing!

“Pine the Sap”
But there are no forests here in mast-happy Britain.

“Grind the Lap”
Let me get to my motel first

And then a Station Official brushes everybody back from the edge of the platform and says “Tram arriving. Mind the Gap.”

Oh! MIND THE GAP. As in, don’t fall in or trip when entering the train. Got it. Whew. 

Wow, I am seriously (Barking) losing it (Mad). This ‘standing still’ thing isn’t working: I should just keep moving. So, being careful to ‘mine the crap’ I step onto the train, which at least seems to be pointed in the right direction.

Oh, hey. I guess I'm really here now.
And I am off, North at least. Whee! Trains are fun. And English trains are especially fun because they are frequent, fast, clean and breathtakingly quiet.

I followed our course on the map on the wall and saw that this train was veering West and I would need to transfer at Clapham Junction in order to reach Waterloo. So I exited there and followed a herd of people and was suddenly out on a street. 

Well - that’s not right. I walked across the street - wow, people sure drive funny over here - and into a Taqueria. Wait - a WHAT? Well, it sold “California Wraps”, but all the ingredients and shapes indicated tacos and burritos, even though there was a smell of curry in the air. Hmmmm. I was tempted (and probably really should have eaten something by that point), but stuck to my original plan of asking directions. 

“Buenos Dias!” I tried.
Another mistake Selfie
“Wotcher” was the cockneyed reply.
Okay, that wasn’t working.
“How do I get to Waterloo?”
The cook waved a spatula behind me. “Take the bleedin’ tram, Mate.”
“But I just got off the train.”
“Then get back ON.” And he turned back to his grill. “Fooking loony……”

Oh. Okay. I talked my way back into the train station (thank you, David Niven!), and was soon on the correct line towards the “City of London”, as opposed to the suburbs that were now rocketing past me.

Stasis was bringing on fatigue again, however, so when the train doors opened at Waterloo station I stumbled out and 10 people all at once told me to “Bind the Sack, Mate!”

Which I am not sure was an invitation or an insult, and as such was totally British. 

Smoking right next to the no smoking sign.
Close now, so close! Waterloo Station is the busiest station in the country and its size reflects that. But I just needed to get out of it. I exited at the taxi stand, through a pall of cigarette smoke (something that happened outside of every building we encountered in England) and I was off.

Seriously off. I had no idea what direction I was heading in. By this point I was swatting at imaginary elves and hearing phantom voices telling me to “Find the Stamp…..”

Luckily Waterloo is kind of a peninsula around a bend in the Thames, and I knew that crossing water would be bad, so I just kind of ricocheted around the buildings until I eventually tiddly-winked back under the train station and inadvertently towards my hotel.

Yes, I DID try to find my way with my smartphone, but it was living a dream, insisting that I was still on my way to Terminal A in San Jose, and also that it was 9am.
My new home!

Man (Mate), that seems like two weeks ago…..

My ghastly appearance and strange mannerisms did not phase the front desk clerks one bit, Lord love ‘em, and I was finally IN MY ROOM.

Which I immediately left after dumping my luggage (“I. Have. Had. Enough. Of. You.”)

I took the worlds tiniest, most reluctant elevator back down to the 1st floor. What? Oh, Jesus Christ (Bloody Hell), to the GROUND floor, and had a dinner in the restaurant about which I have no memories at all.

Oh. I guess I had a burger. 
Back up the groaning, wheezing shoebox elevator, I kick off my tired, smoking shoes, which had carried me 22,000 steps (11 miles, {[18,000 meters], 43,000 deciliters}) that day. Most of it in full gear (Kit).

And at 6pm local time (10am really local time) I drag my already sleeping carcass into bed. I am DONE with this day/night?/day.

Or so I THOUGHT…….

Angus McMahan

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