Posted By Caulimovirus 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. Thatâ€™s because the moment we stepped out of the underground we were subjected to this.
Itâ€™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 Londonâ€™s summer weather, which is my very definition of perfect: cool breeze with shadow-less overcast.
.: We found our hotel. Itâ€™s cozy enough, and if Oscar werenâ€™t sharing the room with me Iâ€™d feel itâ€™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 didnâ€™t demand a jacket, but wearing one didnâ€™t make me uncomfortable either. I like to call such narrow perfection â€œJacket Equilibriumâ€.
.: 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 didnâ€™t look like Iâ€™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.
â€œHouston or Dallas?â€
.: I wanted to throw him off and say Paris, but he obviously didnâ€™t speak English as a first language and wouldâ€™ve most likely struggled to get the joke, which kinda sucked in the first place.
â€œOkay, enjoy London.â€
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, thatâ€™s the first and last time anyoneâ€™s expressed interest in our visitorâ€™s status. Nobodyâ€™s said anything about our cute Texan accents or asked if weâ€™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 70â€™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 (â€œbowlâ€ has only one syllable for both of us), but come on, weâ€™re different!
went in and out of several shops and restaurants gave several shops and restaurants thâ€™ olâ€™ in-out, in-out, and as happens naturally I soon had to relieve myself. The toilets at the mall cost Â£1 (U.S. equivalent: price of replacement engine for McLaren F1). Iâ€™m an American, so I donâ€™t take lightly to infringements of my right to shit anywhere.
Oscar: â€œIf you can read this, meeting tonight.â€
.: We found free restrooms at Harrodâ€™s, and I stood in line. The attendant signaled me, the fourth person in line. I didnâ€™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 Iâ€™m fairly certain this browser can’t display. I didnâ€™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, thatâ€™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 â€“ I canâ€™t perform when Iâ€™m being watched. I donâ€™t care if psychology doesnâ€™t recognize â€œpiss shiversâ€ as a legitimate condition. I canâ€™t use a urinal when other people are watching.
.: So I left, humiliated, defeated, and still badly in the need of a pee. Harrodâ€™s may not have gotten my dime, but they did get a small part of my dignity. They almost got a part of Oscarâ€™s dignity as well, who seriously considered purchasing a Â£15 hot dog. In U.S. terms, this is equivalent to fifteen $15 hot dogs.