Posts Tagged ‘ narrative

En Route to Florida

“Note to self, when traveling to the east coast, book outgoing flight no later than 11AM and no earlier than 7AM,” I thought to myself as I took a seat at the gate for my 6AM flight to Atlanta. A middle-aged man across from me looked up and smiled.

“How you doin’?” he asked.
“Good, just tired,” I replied.
“Where you heading off to?” he continued. He looked anxious.
“Ft. Lauderdale,” I answered “And you?”
“I’m flying out to see my son,” he gushed, “He’s back from Iraq.”

And with the biggest smile, he told me his plans for flying the family down to see him.

London: Westminster Cathedral

It was Sunday morning and after a failed attempt at a nap I jolted up in bed and picked up the phone. I had intended to meet up with a friend from high school who was studying in London. Had some phone trouble which was frustrating but ultimately was able to leave him a voicemail to ring me.

Now what to do. It was to be my one and only full day in the city and I thought it necessary that I take advantage of it. Furthermore I was alone, and wanted to do things conducive to that. It was the first Sunday of Advent and reasoning that I wanted to go to church and had an interest in seeing an old Cathedral, decided to kill two birds with one stone. I looked up the nearest Catholic Cathedral’s mass times, glanced at my Tube map and hurriedly rushed out of the hotel.

I walked quickly towards the Tube station, a block from my hotel. I think I walked so quickly because I was nervous at what I was about to do and wanted to get myself familiarized as quickly as possible, trying to ignore the sinking feeling of potentially getting lost in the streets of London.

I bought a day pass, picked what line I’d ride and headed to the platforms. The ticket stations reminded me of the NYC subway. I took the line to the Victoria station, which was only a stop away. When I exited I looked around for a way out of the tunnel. Bright yellow “WAY OUT” signs guided me and I popped out of the station on the ground street.

“Westmintser Cathedral is just down that road,” I overheard a guide say to a group of tourists. Without stopping I headed in that direction, glad to hear what direction I should be heading. I looked back at the station, trying to remember its location so I’d know where to head back to.

Four blocks down there it was: big and red. I ran up to the mass schedule at its entrance and found I was 20 minutes early for their “solemn mass”, which meant it was the more traditional mass–typically completely sung. I was a little hesitant, I was never huge on the formality of a Cathedral mass, but figuring I was here and solemnity might do me some good, I decided it’s what I would do.

However, I was hungry and had about 15 minutes to find myself something to eat. I looked around and no cafes were to be seen, but right next to the Cathedral was–a McDonald’s. Yes, my first meal in the UK was at a McD’s. Eh well. I went inside and ordered a McMuffin meal and found myself surrounded by–Filipinos. A little random. Nearly half the staff and the finely dressed couple beside me were Filipino. I sat there eating my sandwich thinking of the irony that here I was in London, sitting in a McDonald’s surrounded by Filipinos speaking Tagalog, on my way to mass.

Anyway, that aside I proceeded into the cathedral and as expected, it was quite impressive inside. It was weird having tourists mill about (myself included) but soon the place was settled for the mass to begin. During the service, I sat near an Italian family. At the “Peace be with You” time of the mass where you turn and shake hands with those around you, they all smiled after I spoke and mumbled “American,” to each other. It made me laugh remembering that I was the one with the accent now.

It ended up being a beautiful mass. The sun was beginning to come out and it had a great effect through the stained glass. Most notably, the Westminster choir was amazing to listen to. They sung entirely in Latin and it really was quite an experience. Even the priest’s sermon was good. It was a definite nice way to start the day.

London: Arrival

I arrived around 5AM GMT, feeling surprisingly rested from my flight from Chicago. After retrieving my bag from baggage claim, I proceeded to the Heathrow Express where I exchanged my online voucher for a train ticket to Paddington Station. It was very quick and easy ride into the city and there I met a woman from New Jersey who happened to be heading to Prague. After talking to her for a while about the time zone difference, the ticket taker came by and she soon realized she had just missed her stop.

We arrived to Paddington Station, I wished her luck and I got off the train. Determined to figure out the Tube I proceeded to the underground entrance only to see the gates closed. It was still very very early in the morning. So, figuring I had intended to take a London cab ride at some point, filed in the queue (yes, queue) for one. Soon the black cars pulled up on the left side of the road and one by one we said where each person said where they were going and clamored in. There was some confusion because an Asian woman was in line behind me and they assumed we were together, but that cleared up quickly. The ride itself was neat, like everyone had said it would be, but my cab driver seemed a bit on the grumpy side and didn’t speak much. But again, it was early and the sun was not up yet.

When we pulled up to my hotel, someone came to open my door and take my luggage. The doors spread open and a sweet perfume smell filled the air. And suited men and women stood to greet me behind shining black marble. The lobby was extremely swank, but in an overly aseptic kind of way–felt like I walked right into a design magazine. That aside, I was lucky and able to check-in early and proceeded to my room to unpack and shower.

By this time, it was around 8AM and I decided I should follow some advice and take an hour nap before attempting to start the day. However, as you can imagine this was difficult as I laid thinking of what to do first, watching the light begin to come through my window curtain.

Nauseating Ride Home

Sitting across from me on the bus was an overweight woman, wearing black velvet pants and a hooded sweatshirt. She sat beside a round-faced, blond-haired teenage girl, who was murmuring about her recent pregnancy. I had stayed later than usual at the office and found myself on this non-express route. The bus was packed and it was standing-room-only before we left downtown.

Soon, a skinny, black, adolescent boy stopped and stood near where we sat, unable to find an open seat. The pregnant teen began to gag and her velvet-pant companion rolled her eyes in agreement. “Oh God do you smell that?” one exclaimed, as they both grimaced, holding their hands to their mouths, pointing at him indiscreetly. As the bus wobbled from stop to stop, they continued to make gagging noises, claiming to be vomiting in their mouths out of distate, and talked loudly to one another saying, “I feel so sick. He is disgusting.” But the boy did nothing and kept his head down low, silent through their alternating laughter and supposed dry heaves.

“Here, let’s hold him down and spray this on him,” a cocky well-dressed young man smirked, as he pulled off his headphones, holding a can of deodorant spray from his bag. All three were laughing now, as the others on the bus looked away. My throat tightened.

Suddenly the velvet-pant woman dropped her purse, spilling its contents everywhere on the floor. As people around began to lean over to help, she stopped everyone, looked directly at the boy. “Excuse me, get away from here! You’re going to have to move. I DO NOT want my clothes touching you!” she barked, as she pushed him back to retrieve her things. Read more