London: Suited Cyclers and The Real Knight Rider

Photo credit: Ewan Munro

Chapter 2

Day 2, Tues, 9/23, Condition: slowing, fading, jet lag zloozing fovusszzzzzzz

Thanks to the miracle of winged aluminum can on fire technology, it’s astonishing that in the time it took you to watch a few movies, you’re in a place where people don’t talk or act anything like you. Foreign money alone strikes Americans with a sense that purchases are all Monopoly game transactions. Even the newly designed US bills look gothic compared to paper Pounds and Euros.

Click for full size glory!

Pictured: toy currency? (click for high quality)

     There was finally internet on the train from Heathrow to Paddington station (the Heathrow Express). Dad talked to a cybernetic man equiped with a mobile printer for tickets. The futureman convinced us to up-it to first class, because it was a few “quid” and why the hell not?

     In Paddington, I pointed out delights to Sarah; like our first pie shop! We didn’t get pies, but the sight of them alone was weird and wondrous.

     The taxi ride from Paddington to Southwark (pronounced completely, utterly, unbelievably and senselessly Su-thuk) was also wondrous. I assume all taxi drivers take tourists past Buckingham palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament, regardless of where they’re going in London. Our classic cabbie weaved its way through seemingly every lane. There was never a time when we were in only one lane of the road. A swear we clipped a cyclist as we passed Hyde park. I’m still not sure if it was his fault for cycling in the street, or ours as we avoided other cabbies also in at least two lanes at all times.

 WARNING: RANT DETECTION DEVICE ACTIVATED. INCOMING RANT PROJECTILE. [1]

Probably a fully unpacked scoffing kit c.1998

Probably a fully unpacked scoffing kit c.1998

    In Seattle, when people cycle wearing jeans I scoff at them–with all the scoffs my portable scoffing kit can dispense. From the cabbie, I beheld dozens of businessmen riding bikes. They wore full suits, black dress shoes, and a bag slung around them with one strap. There was even a man with a briefcase in the bike basket and an umbrella in his hand; he was still cycling in the street! My scoffing kit exploded under the stress. I had no scoffs left to give. There was only indignation.   At home, I often cycle to work and I do it in old faded gym wear. I do it exactly to avoid messing up my “work clothes,” which are jeans and a T-shirt.

And then other time they wear no clothes.

And then other times they wear no clothes.

     “Who is the deranged one here?” I wonder. I can’t comprehend it. What would drive a man to cycle to work, in London, in his suit? Does he own no other clothes? If it rains do people accept a banker that welcomes them into his office with torn and greased pant legs, sopping hair, and shoes that squeak as they ooze watery shoe polish onto the floor? Or are these men wearing their “cycling attire,” for a proper commute in the city of manners? I was going to write that I’m not angry, but I am. There is gear and equipment you should wear while cycling. One of my jobs consists largely of reminding people what they need so they don’t end up with blisters, hypothermia, or a shattered skull in the middle of the street because they had no reflective gear and no helmet on.

     I put all that aside. This is a different land with different people. Chin up, keep a stiff upper lip. “Keep Calm and Carry On, while you bleed out in the intersection.”

RANT DETECTION DEVICE REGISTERS ALL CLEAR.

    The jet lag set in with a vengeance by the time we unloaded in our hotel room. The weight of a day with but an aerial nap in a position suitable not even for a contortionist pressed down on me. My mind raced with adventure, while my nerves fired through synapses of cooling molasses. I began to feel nauseous so we slipped outside for fresh air. Next to the hotel, feet away, was a Costa Coffee, a Tesco Local, and a Sainsbury Express. I could be conflating some of those names, but I was sleep deprived.

1 Mgic Lane, HOGWARTS, Scottish Highlands, U.K.

   Inside the Costa, the internet was free, assuming you had a UK address. I contemplated various fictional addresses. Hogwarts was of course my first thought. It didn’t work and I banged my fists loudly on our table. Our huge coffee mugs rattled. I then ran over to the Sainsbury’s for English biscuits–that is, cookies which cost an incredible one pound per package. The same cookies in the US are two to three times that price, even with the exchange rate factored in.

     When jet lagged, I recommend you eat a huge meal and get fresh air. I wisely had coffee and biscuits, which only aggravated my nausea for the next several hours. During those several hours, we hiked from Southwark, over Blackfriars Bridge, to St. Paul’s Cathedral and it’s surrounding tiny alleys. The River Thames was incredibly low. The pylons beneath the normal pylons were showing–they looked like sandstone and honestly a bit precarious thanks to erosion.

     While we waltzed through many a zebra (that’s Zeh-bruh not Zee-bruh you savage) crossing, we encountered the strange phenomenon of Londoner ESP. Just getting around London develops into an art of precision like a dance. Stand at a street crossing, and prepare yourself for the appearance of the “green man” and his echoing alien chirp.

Not pictured: cybernetic bird chirping which accompanies green man.

Not pictured: cybernetic bird chirping which accompanies green man.

     Londoner ESP skips his appearance altogether. Behold, while you wait for green man, the Londoners surrounding you will hurl themselves in front of traffic. You’ll want to cry out, but just as you do, the car traffic jerks to a halt and the green man appears–while the Londoner pedestrian is halfway across the intersection now.

     You’re voice will emit, “Look OUT–ohhh, K?” You will get strange looks, and that will be all. You will cross the street, the green man will disappear, and you’ll be stuck in the center island because London pedestrian lights last like 3 seconds. Bollocks.

     We deliriously checked restaurant menus, and gave up at the Knightrider Pub. I guess it might have also been called The Centre Page, but I like the Knightrider Pub better because of reasons you will learn–and because I swear the wooden sign outside said Knightrider (admittedly while in my nauseated, jet-lagged delirium). The food was true English pub fare. We all had either meat pies or fish and chips, accompanied with beer or cider. After feasting, I felt so, much, better! But, the best part, was that over our table was a poster of David Hasselhoff, signed, and a message reading: “The real knight rider.”

(cue theme song)

     We trekked back to the hotel; this time, crossing the Thames via the Millennium bridge. Halfway across, it turns out you are not smashed from your pints of ale, it’s just the wind wobbling the bridge like it’s made of rubber bands.

Finally we slept; O did we sleep!

St. Paul's Cathedral by night. 180 degrees behind is the path down to the Millenium Bridge.

St. Paul’s Cathedral by night. 180 degrees behind is the path down to the Millenium Bridge. (click for high quality)

 

[1] Rant Detection Device is a patent pending technology developed by Ranta-Tech LLC. R.D.D. is trademarked and copyrighted under some municipal laws in a basement somewhere. Harsh penalties will be dispensed for violations (in international waters).

About C.P.

Collin is a professional writer and scholar. He holds an MA in Philosophy and a BA in English literature. His philosophical work has appeared in print published by Wiley/Blackwell and Open Court. More of his writings, philosophical, literary, comic, and just plain nonsensical are available online. He currently lives in Seattle where he is writing science fiction, dressing up for Cons, and wreaking havoc on his opponents (npcs and tabletop humans alike).
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