Part Two

Posted By on August 5, 2007

“First Impressions and Other Miscellany”

.: Shortly after we lost Judy, Oscar and I emerged from the underground, and I saw my first real view of London up close. The unmistakable first impression I got was an intense craving for McDonalds, a sip of Budweiser chased down with Coke, all while talking on a digital Samsung handset. That’s because the moment we stepped out of the underground we were subjected to this.

It’s like the first year of college all over again.

.: Being in a train underground with no air conditioning for so long did not prepare me for the wholly pleasant experience of London’s summer weather, which is my very definition of perfect: cool breeze with shadow-less overcast.

.: We found our hotel. It’s cozy enough, and if Oscar weren’t sharing the room with me I’d feel it’d be big enough to live in comfortably.

.: I changed into street clothes, and I substituted eight hours of sleep with a quick shower (the showers here turn on at the push of a button!). I slipped into a light denim jacket that belonged to my grandmother. The weather didn’t demand a jacket, but wearing one didn’t make me uncomfortable either. I like to call such narrow perfection “Jacket Equilibrium”.

.: We went to a Sainsbury’s (pronounced “Sbrys”) to test our ATM and credit cards, and I bought an adorably clunky pint of milk and an unnaturally pickled pasta dish. I only picked the pasta because it had corn in it, and it didn’t look like I’d find that in much else (see picture below for further details).

I have a whole new appreciation for corn.

.: The cashier at the in-store Starbucks (you have to pay extra to sit down?!) asked where we were from.


“Houston or Dallas?”

.: I wanted to throw him off and say Paris, but he obviously didn’t speak English as a first language and would’ve most likely struggled to get the joke, which kinda sucked in the first place.


“Okay, enjoy London.”

What good is it to have benches if people are just going to go about sitting on ledges all the time? Anti-sit technology to the rescue!

.: As of this writing, that’s the first and last time anyone’s expressed interest in our visitor’s status. Nobody’s said anything about our cute Texan accents or asked if we’re cowboys. I blame this indifference on the presence of all the other nationalities here, since their multicultural diversity has deadened the senses of ordinary Londoners and cheapened our arrival as a result. For comparison, when my grandparents visited in the 70’s, people would stay on elevators lifts up/down-boxes and purposefully miss their stops just to continue hearing them talk. True, neither Oscar nor I have much of a Texan accent to begin with (“bowl” has only one syllable for both of us), but come on, we’re different!

.: We went in and out of several shops and restaurants gave several shops and restaurants th’ ol’ in-out, in-out, and as happens naturally I soon had to relieve myself. The toilets at the mall cost £1 (U.S. equivalent: price of replacement engine for McLaren F1). I’m an American, so I don’t take lightly to infringements of my right to shit anywhere.

Oscar: “If you can read this, meeting tonight.”

.: We found free restrooms at Harrod’s, and I stood in line. The attendant signaled me, the fourth person in line. I didn’t know what to make of it. I concentrated on the one stall I could see around the corner. He signaled me again, speaking this time. He used a combination of English and a language that has characters I’m fairly certain this browser can’t display. I didn’t understand anything he said, but the gesture was pretty obvious this time. I cut in front of the three guys in front of me and rounded the corner only to realize too late that there was only one stall, still occupied. The two empty urinals clearly were what the attendant had in mind.

Yes, that’s urine.

.: I figured I could kill at least one bird with this stone. I had to pee fairly urgently; the rest could wait. I approached the urinal and not a damn thing came out. I felt like a giant panda at a Chinese zoo – I can’t perform when I’m being watched. I don’t care if psychology doesn’t recognize “piss shivers” as a legitimate condition. I can’t use a urinal when other people are watching.

.: So I left, humiliated, defeated, and still badly in the need of a pee. Harrod’s may not have gotten my dime, but they did get a small part of my dignity. They almost got a part of Oscar’s dignity as well, who seriously considered purchasing a £15 hot dog. In U.S. terms, this is equivalent to fifteen $15 hot dogs.

Next: A museum old enough to be exhibited in another museum, and getting lost in Down
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

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