One of the fallbacks of my job is international travel. I have to stay up for days on end, eat the stuff they call “food” on airplanes, and hold my pee for inordinately long stretches of time thinking the Chinese girl who fell asleep in the seat next to me and is now leaning on me may wake up on her own in the near future.
My most recent trip was to London, and I thought getting around in England would be a piece of cake, me knowing the language and all. Plus, I get British culture. I’ve been a Monty Python fan since the age of eight (NOTE: Thanks Ken, for bringing home The Life of Brian on Betamax!). I can even fake the accent, mate.
I went to the ticket station at the London Underground (NOTE: This is the subway system, also known as The Tube. It is not a terrorist cell, as I once suspected. Good to know. Mind the gap.) I asked for a ticket to a station near Southwark Bridge Road. I said it like it looks: Southwark.
“You’re wrong, it’s Suthick, mate,” the ticket guy said, disregarding many letters in Southwark and compressing the word into a single syllable.
Oookay. Point taken. I don’t really know English.
I took the tube to downtown London. I had reviewed directions from the station to the hotel online and knew the general direction in which to walk (NOTE: I really didn’t do that, but I don’t want to let you know how dumb I can be so I’m changing the story to save face. Don't tell anyone I told you. Thanks!). The simple fact that no London street other than a bridge goes more than 10 meters without curving broke my internal compass. That is to say, I got totally lost deep within in the winding cobblestone roadways. I did wander through a nice market that smelled of fish and curry, and after I asked directions several times I found my hotel. (NOTE: For the record, pulling wheeled luggage across block after block of old cobblestone street sucks.)
I was laughed at for being a silly American when I confused London Bridge with the Tower Bridge, but earned a point back by knowing that Big Ben was actually the bell inside the tower, not the clock. I earned an additional point for having a real Yorkshireman compliment my accent when I let out a few Monty Python quotes. For me, Monty Python quotes just kind of slip out, like farts.
I did get some time to walk through the streets of London with two Dutch colleagues. Every now and again they would start talking in Dutch, and I would tell them to stop talking about me.
We saw the main tourist attractions: Big Ben, Parliament! (I did a Chevy Chase impression for my colleagues, but apparently European Vacation was not popular in the Netherlands, as they just started talking about me in Dutch again), and I also saw Westminster Abbey and Piccadilly Circus.
When we got to Buckingham Palace, I had to take advantage of the moment to capture on film the unshakable thought that ran through my head all afternoon as I walked the twisted streets of London. Let me sum it up this way...
Question: If you were in front of Buckingham Palace, could you resist doing your best Silly Walk?
Answer: Me neither!