A Travellerspoint blog

20090426 Sunday in London - Part 2

No... Sleep... 'til DUBLIN!

sunny 45 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

I'm inwardly amused at my sense of relief to be at McDonald's after the day's misadventures. It's an ironic oasis - part of my parallel universe. It makes me think of the Gary Larson cartoon where Beethoven (?) is in hell standing in front of an orchestra where everyone is holding kazoos. Those that have known me for a while will understand. To give a small perspective to the rest... I was a vegetarian for over 10 years, and an avid member of PETA. I would not have been caught DEAD at a McDonald's unless I was handing out flyers. (Not to mention that i'm across an ocean and should be eating ANYWHERE but here.)

Each time I've been to McD's to use the wireless, I've bought something to "pay for my seat" as it were. But tonight I only have 10 pounds left of the cash i traded in, it's not crowded, and I feel I've given them enough so far, so I just look for a spot.

At McD's there are a couple coveted 2-person tables. The rest are community-style tables, large 6-person booths, and a high bar-like counter with backless stools around the perimeter. I usually end up at the counter trying not to care that my laptop is situated so the whole restaurant can see what i'm typing if they care to look. I feel a bit like an accidental exhibitionist. What adds to this is odd feeling is that - regardless of the fact that this is the only free wireless around - i'm the only one with a laptop. (And it's been that way each time so far.)

It was only as I was using the restroom before leaving the last time, that i discovered they have a whole additional seating area downstairs. So, with hope of finding a quiet corner, i jaunt down the stairs merrily - looking forward to some purging writing - and nearly barrel through a blockade. I guess they are closing that floor for cleaning. *sigh*

I resign myself to a counter spot in the main dining area. Luckily it's not too busy, so I can set my backpack on the seat next to me instead of on the floor where A) it gets dirty, b) its inconvenient to access, and c) its less safe.

There is a young guy on my right with one stool between us, and an old woman on my left with one stool between us. i can imagine that she might be hard of hearing - and possibly sight impaired - since she doesn't seem to notice me settling in at all. but the guy is doing that "i know you're there but I'm observing the unspoken laws of personal space in a crowded place by choosing to ignore you" thing that urban humans do to preserve their sanity. i choose to break the contract and address to him instead of taking a chance on startling the poor lady out of her seat. I turn to him and ask "is it okay if i set this here?" holding my backpack and pointing to the stool between us. he nods an affirmative and i'm relieved he doesn't start a conversation at this particular moment. i start to settle in, and at the moment I have things strewn about trying to locate my maps - another young man about the same age walks with purpose to the stool my backpack now occupies and stops short, looking at the other man confused, then at me. It's obvious by his body language that my backpack is occupying what was once his seat, or what he had expected to be his seat. Now, an awkward social dance ensues where we all realize whats going on, but it turns out that these young men don't speak English. i smile apologetically and reach to move my backpack to the other side where the older lady is. he also smiles apologetically and tries to get me to leave the backpack in place. after some back-and forth he eventually acquiesces and takes the seat. we all smile at each other saying what needs to be said without words, then return to our mutually exclusive business. they have a rapid conversation where i hear "American" and they leave a few minutes later saying "bye bye" awkwardly on their way out. If I had to guess, I'd say they were Croatian.

my email is piling up and I'm conflicted about whether to answer some, or finish my blog post. I open a few messages to see if there is anything urgent. In the mean time, my battery seems to be dying quickly. 86% power already.
The older lady has finished eating and noticed me. I can sense her watching me out of the corner of my periphery. I opened a chocolate bar when I sat down (Thanks Madeline!) and I'm nibbling as I write. I turn and offer her a piece and she declines. She asks if I'm hungry and offers to get me something proper to eat. (Wow, do I really look that bad? Heh.) I thank her deeply and explain that I just ate less than an hour ago. I can see she wants to chat, and I have that moment of conflict where I really want to put up the "do not disturb" body language and get to my writing before my computer dies. But deep down I know that's unwise and unkind. Not to mention that when I feel the urge to close up and retreat it's proven best to stay present and open up. So, I turn to her and give her my full attention, and her face just lights up. that moment was worth anything i might miss otherwise. Olinda looks like a Spanish Nun. Maybe she is - not sure. But she talks excitedly about Catholicism, The Vatican, how much she loved President Bush, how I need to go to Medugorje when I'm in Spain, to go to confession before I travel to Dublin, etc.. It's not easy to stay open to all this. But her enthusiasm is genuine and kindhearted, so I listen with respect for her perspective. I'm not sure how else to explain it, but if you've ever heard the term "New soul" - she is the embodiment. She seems to me like a 5-year old trapped in aging flesh, eyes sparkling with wonder at the world. Or perhaps she has not always been this way. Perhaps she has found her way back to faith after a life of strife and it has given her this inner light. Faith, hope, love. Very powerful indeed. I miss that feeling - the unquestioning clarity of purpose. It gives me a stirring of sadness when I see it in others. Just the recognition of something I had that's now missing. But I do not miss it enough to return to being a sheep for it. Maybe I will find the path back to that place without needing to be a sheep. Maybe I will feel differently at her age. Maybe i can find that place with inner balance. Only time will tell.
(Sorry to digress... I just love to try and guess what made people into what they are presently. Hm... that reminds me of a Dave Matthews song "...could I have been... anyone but me?" ;)

Olinda seems satisfied with her sermon and my reaction to it - and switches topics to my travels. On hearing that I'm looking online for directions from my hotel to Standsted Airport, she hops down from her stool (No small feat with her tiny frail stature... yet she makes it look sprightly.) to recruit an even older woman sitting at a community table nearby. Eileen glides over to me, all in flowing black, squinting with piercing blue eyes less than a foot from my face - silver curly hair in a wild halo framing her face. Where Olita is a tiny tidy shiny lacy doll of a woman, Eileen is the complete opposite. I bet Eileen was the most handsomely unattainable and rugged Scottish beauty in her day. As Eileen talks about busses and trains and Liverpool station, my fertile imagination is weaving a Terry Gilliam tale around these two impossible characters in a London fast food joint. I keep having to internally shake myself and repeat what Eileen is saying to avoid going down that rabbit hole completely.

After a bit more conversation - Eileen recommending I see Lourdes - we all return to our posts. I only have about 8% power left in my laptop battery. I'm closing things up resigned to finishing my writing at the hotel and publishing my blog entry in the morning. As I'm closing things up, the (very large and intimidating) restaurant manager walks up to me, slams down a dirty tray aggressively, and launches into a loud tirade about 'who do i think i am coming into his restaurant and sitting there since 8:21 using the wireless connection and not buying anything! he has a business to run and he can't tolerate the likes of me coming in and just doing as i please! i need to buy something or leave immediately'. Hmph.
i'm so shocked i can't speak at first. then, i tell him i've been there and bought something the last 2 days. and he says i'm lying - that he is there every day and he hasn't seen me before. and even worse - i brought in food from outside (he gestures to the chocolate bar).i re-assert that i have bought food and if it was important i could prove it - but its really beside the point. i told him it was completely unnecessary to be rude about it, that i would have been more than happy to buy something. all he had to so was say so politely, and that making a scene was unprofessional. he blustered, repeating what he said originally, and stormed away.
I was so upset. I had to sit and regain my composure for a couple minutes. especially considering that I was already close to coming unhinged after the way the day had gone so far. Breathe, breathe... in, out.
i entertained thoughts of gathering all the "unsavory" characters I could find outside and bringing them in with me to buy them each something that would take a long time to eat. Alas, the usual crowd was not outside. i guess they all go "home" at that hour because it gets cold...? I decided it was for the best. In my heart i knew the intent behind the act was not kind. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, right? For all I know, he may be having a worse day than I. As a matter of fact, it was tough not to be petty in return and point out to him that he is a McDonalds manager so I can see why he needs to feel that he has authority over others in that small capacity. (Rrrrow, hiss, hiss!)
I went to the front to buy something but he was in the back making fries and there was a long line. I asked myself "Self, what are you doing? Hello! You have nothing to prove to that jerk!". So, I walked out, resolved to never return.
On the walk home, I entertained thoughts of eloquent and scathing letters to corporate HQ about how public humiliation is not a good business practice. Including receipts of purchases, threatening lawsuits, etc. Of course - all the time - knowing I would never actually do that. I still allowed a bit of indulgence in the safety of my mind. (Grumble, grumble. Stupid reality, consequence, karma, integrity, and inner peace. Bah!)

(As I'm stepping along, I start singing Black Flag "Rise Above" to myself to help let go of the petty thoughts. *whew* Now, that's better.)

I was hoping to stop at the grocery for a hotel snack, but they closed earlier tonight because it's Sunday. Of course they did.

i'm relieved to be back at the hotel. I resign not to take another half of a sleeping pill tonight so i can get the blog entries updated. I forgot that I bought a Stella Artois beer to keep at the hotel in case i wanted a midnight snack. But, I'm afraid to drink it because if the alcohol thins my blood, I might get another nose bleed that will take even longer to stop.

I make a last run to the restroom before battening down the hatches for the night. I wipe the side of my nose that wasn't bleeding earlier - and guess what. Yep. Now I have a nose bleed on the opposite side. Oh Yay. WTF, Universe?! Luckily this one is not as bad and only lasts a couple minutes. Today is all about appreciating the small mercies.

Now I have to go back and finish the entry for Friday night. But i just noticed it's getting light out. Heh. I was wondering why those doves were cooing in the middle of the night.
I should probably just stay up so I don't miss breakfast again.

(Sung to the tune of the Beastie boys' "no sleep 'til Brooklyn"...)
No sleep 'til [du nuh, nu nuuuh nuh...] DUBLIN!

Posted by icufoundme 12:52 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged tourist_sites

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