Finally, after six months of planning, preparing and percolating, we have arrived. That’s right. We did it! As I write this my wife and I are sitting in the living room in Beckenham, England belonging to my bff from high school. She’s watching the “telly” and checking to see where the Tates are (Modern and Britain) online. Tomorrow we will take the overland train, then the tube and head to the Tate Modern first, to make sure we aren’t too tired to take in some of the best modern art the world has to offer.
And as lovely as that sounds, and I am sure it will be, lovely is not the adjective I would use to describe the journey of getting here.
It seems that only 12 days into the new year I have already discovered what the whole of 2009 will represent. Life Lessons. A Year of Learning. The Universe is not your Friend. And the events of the past 48 hours, not surprisingly, touch on those themes of the year ahead.
The first to really rear its head was the ever-popular The Universe is not your Friend. This is where you believe you have done something to better a situation and discover at the 11th hour that in fact, even though you did what you thought you needed to do, the universe done screwed you anyway.
Okay, so maybe this time it wasn’t really the macro scale, but the micro universe we like to call Air Canada.
The short version is that when I booked the flights in September I reserved seats in row 27. According to the online check-in 24 hours before our departure we were sitting in row 39. Two hours before takeoff we discovered that not only is reserving your seats ahead of time pointless, since if they change aircrafts they will simply reassign seats to you without informing you, but that the information I read that clearly stated we did not need to pay a fee for bicycles if we were travelling internationally was a boldfaced lie. One hundred dollars later, and after a mild dust up with the desk agent, we (bikes included) are on the plane and sitting in row 25.
The flight itself was relatively uneventful which is what you look for thousands of feet above the earth. Turbulence kept us seat-bound for the majority of the trip, and the flight attendants were grumpy, grouchy and insulting to more than one passenger in our immediate vicinity, but we made it and I feel up to date on 90210 and Gossip Girl.
Landing at Heathrow was uneventful and that night was spent at an Easy Hotel near Terminal Three. It was the next day that The Year of Learning began.
After arriving back at the airport from the hotel we headed to the tube station to take the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow to Victoria Station to Beckenham Junction — with two suitcases and two bicycles. The bicycles were in shoulder bags and the suitcases on wheels. Should have been easy right? But after tackling the first set of stairs, I can assure you, it was anything but easy.
I did discover that there are Londoners who are considerate and thoughtful as a handful of them stopped and asked if I needed any help. And it wasn’t because I was looking smokin’. I was sweaty, clammy and clearly in need of a hand.
After the tube and train rides and the final set of stairs at the overland train in Beckenham Junction I was ready for the last leg. As it turn out I was also ready for the Life Lesson. Two minutes equals 10 minutes. Always and forever.
Before tackling the planes, trains and automobile adventure that was our journey I consulted with the high-school bff. “How far is it from the train station to your apartment as we do have some things?” I asked, knowing that the answer would determine whether we took a taxi or toughed it out in transit. “Not far. About two minutes,” was her answer. In my guestimation it was close to a kilometre. And, having now walked it without 70 pounds of luggage, there is nothing two minutes about it.
I think the hardest life lesson to learn this year will be respecting limits. My own limits. Like the there’s-no-way-I-can-walk-half-a-mile-with-all-my-luggage-and-be-a-nice-person-after limit, just as an example. And the I-can-only-memorize-one-cab-service-number-in-each-city limit. So I’m gonna get to memorizing, take a load off and start the year off right.