Ten Sketch Moments of London

1. The Dead Pigeon – Under the context and emotion of the Elephant Walk (which is probably is why I spoke up), I witnessed the most gruesome death of a pigeon. As we walked along Covent Garden, which is usually filled with a lot of people because of the shops, restaurants, and entertainment, Haley and I saw a pigeon drag itself along the cobbled stone path near a shop. I don’t know how it happened, but it was eviscerated. It’s guts trailed along after it. The bird was far past anyone’s help, and seconds from death. Many people were walking in a wide circle around the spectacle of this bird’s death, but one person ran forward. She was probably from Ann Arbor. I digress. She ran towards the bird with outstretched arms like she was going to cradle this thing in its final moments. “Don’t touch it!” I screamed, in a strong, “the hell do you think you’re doing?” voice. She looked up at Haley and I in a half crouched, arms straight out position. Haley and I were both looking at her liked she’d completely lost her mind. “You don’t know what kind of diseases that thing has!” Luckily, she heeded my advice. The bird, I think, actually died while I yelled at her. Haley and I respectfully stepped around the corpse, but both of us were sort of stunned. Who touches a bird that’s flopping itself along a cobbled path with its guts hanging out? Who? I ask you.

2. Caribbean Men – From the holiday apartments we stayed in, we had to walk down this English suburban road, cross a busy street, and then, if we were going to Tesco or The Goose, turn right, or, if we were going to Catford Station to take the train in to London, turn left. Turning right or left never was much of a critical moment where we had to stop to make the decision, mostly because of the Caribbean Men. Bless them, they loved women of all types and were not prejudice concerning looks or nationality. However, they scared the ever living shit out of all of the girls on the trip. They cat called and made derogatory comments towards us. They followed two girls all the way back to the apartments, forcing them to enter a completely different building because they were too scared to let the guys know where they were actually staying. We casually complained about this to our professors, both men over the age of sixty. They both said something along the lines of, “Oh, they won’t cause you any trouble.” To which I replied, “Um, try being a twenty year old girl in a foreign country!” Thankfully this was before the movie Taken came out or I would have been a hysterical mess.

3. Catford’s McDonald’s – In Catford, fast food was a limited option. There were pubs. There was a KFC that served French Fries instead of mashed potatoes which was depressing. Also, there was KFC’s ugly cousin, Kennedy Fried Chicken, all decorated in grey. One day, on the second trip, I mentioned something about wanting a McDonald’s coke but not wanting to go all of the way into London to get it. Papa Looker looked at me and said, “There’s a McDonald’s in Catford.” He gave us the directions, and Haley and I HAD to check it out. We realized why we never would have found it on our own. Just past Kennedy Fried Chicken, there was a nondescript alleyway. The first doorway was open and led into a small area filled to the brim with trash. Walking down the alley felt sort of like walking down Jack the Ripper’s favorite alley. Then, it just sort of opened up into a large parking lot. There was even an English version of Dick’s Sporting Goods. We crossed over and got some food at the arguably nice McDonald’s restaurant. Still, we never would have found it on our own because, I was taught never to walk down Rape Alley for funsies.

4. Parisian Beggars – The top of the Eiffel Tower might be where you get proposed to, but the base of the Eiffel Tower is where a lot of Eastern European women harass you. They want you to buy their little Eiffel Tower statues. Worse, they come at you aggressively with their sob stories, wanting straight out donations. “I’m here trying to find my sister. She’s been kidnapped and I need money to find her and then get us both home to our parents who are worried about us.” “Please help me. I’ve been kidnapped. I need money to get home to my family.” Oh man, I just talked to your sister. She’s right over there. If you pool what you have now, you guys could probably make it back home by breakfast tomorrow. What’s even worse is that when you try to let them down easily, like, “Hey, I don’t have any money to give. I’m here on a trip and have a strict budget.” they’ll yell at you in their native language for three straight minutes. It’s terrible.

5. Was I Robbed? – On the second trip to Paris, Haley and I forewent the Eiffel Tower and the McDonald’s with the angry French man. We did however make it to Sacre-Coeur, which is on top of Montmartre, the highest point of the city. I tell you this to bring up the fact that to get up to the basilica, you have to either take this lift or a shit ton of stairs that might as well tell you you are a fat and lazy American with a loud, mocking French accent. The base of the stairs and the lift are all locate in one spot which is populated by tourists and con artists. As we approached, Haley and I were suckered into holding onto bracelets these men were braiding. They said they didn’t want us to pay for them after we’d told them repeatedly that we didn’t want to buy anything. They just asked us what we were doing in Paris and about being American. Nothing confuses the French more than someone being American. You can literally see them thinking, “Why would you do that?” Anyway, they let us go without buying anything, which really freaked me out. I started checking pockets and my purse. I counted my cash and checked for my bank card. I made sure I had my metro ticket and my camera. I almost emptied out my purse, expecting to find something missing. Nothing was. So, Haley and I enjoyed looking at the basilica and then walked down the steps. The guys accosted us again, wanting us to buy the bracelets we helped make. I thought, “Aha! Here’s the scam.” Except, they let us go when we refused to pay for a bracelet. They moved on. Holy shit, guys. I had a massive melt down. I was sure they had stolen something. To this day, I have no idea what they took. I feel like the family in Dane Cook’s joke about doing a B&E. They didn’t take anything, but they left a lava lamp. Years later, I still stop and think, “What the hell did they want? What did they take?!” Argh!

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6. Apartment Drinking – I have been so ashamed of this story for five years now. I’m not going to be shamed anymore though. Everyone has that really terrible drunk story, especially if they’ve been overseas in college. I accept this as my own moment of being a huge dumbass. I do want to mention before I get into this, that Apartment Drinking is way different than Pub Drinking. Pub Drinking involves having to look somewhat decent. You pay for each drink separately, and it’s always an ungodly amount of money, which limits you. You also have to get home still, which limits some people. So basically, you have two drinks and then, if you’re me, by the time your group pulls their shit together and gets to the door, you’re already at the apartment in comfy pants, crawling into bed because no one speed walks faster than me when I’m moderately tipsy. Apartment Drinking is dangerous because everything is already bought. Two liters of alcohol at the store is way cheaper than two liters worth of alcohol at the pub. You’re already in comfy pants. You don’t have to walk back to the apartment. You just have to wander the few steps to your bed. It’s terribly dangerous. So, one of the guys had this big idea to get really drunk in the apartment and have a fun night in. Fun night in turned into me being that person who gets super drunk super easily. Everyone was drunk, I hope. I can’t entirely remember. I know that I talked to some guy about his dead father because I was super terrified of my brother being deployed over to Afghanistan. I also tried to relate my fears about my brother to his experience losing his dad. Have I mentioned yet that I’m a terrible drunk? Usually, I’m just really happy and a lot sleepy. That night I was a bleeding idiot. I also vomited, panicked, and tried to clean up all of the evidence in a drunk stupor. It was awful. I’ve never been so drunk or sick in my life, and like Dumbledore said, “What happened last night between you and the toilet is a complete secret, so naturally the entire apartment knows.” Or you know, that’s what Dumbledore would have said if it was me who woke up in the hospital wing that morning. Let’s talk about decisions I would not make again. Although, that is the same night that spawned the infamous, “I’m not hungover. I just have a headache and I feel sick to my stomach.” the next morning, so I can’t hate it too much. (I did not say that by the way. I knew I was hungover. I was just surprised I was still alive, and hadn’t died from alcohol poisoning.)

7. The Mayflower Pub – Okay, in that last story, I was dumb enough to purposely get drunk. In this story, I was dumb enough to accidentally get drunk. Haley and I had planned this whole big day where we were going to be outside and enjoy our Saturday. We were going to walk through the big market by the Shakespeare church, then go to the Mayflower Pub, and then go back to Abbey Road where there’s this big section of a wall that they paint white and you can sign your name to because The Beatles. We thought we had the whole day planned. Cue us sitting at the Mayflower pub, drinking a pint of Guinness at eleven in the morning, and that’s after having gotten severely lost on our way to the pub. Our plans did not take as ong as we expected them too, clearly. Haley wanted to go to the Mayflower Pub because she loves history and was a history minor. I wanted to go because I found it super interesting that you could go to the pub where they sent of the Mayflower. Like, ‘Murica, Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims, Thanksgiving, Mayflower. The inside of the pub was shockingly small and while updated in many ways, not surprisingly that it was around for the launching of the Mayflower. Out back, along the Thames, there was a little fenced in patio with miniature picnic tables, where Haley and I sat, until we decided that we’d had our fill of the pub and wanted to go to Abbey Road. I noticed my drunkenness immediately as I tried to stand up. Getting me out of a picnic table is like watching a calf being birthed. It’s so horrifying and mesmerizing at the same time. I turned to plot my exit strategy. My first thought was, “Oh shit.” My second thought was, “How much have I had to eat today?” I drank a whole pink of dark beer on a stomach filled with a bagel and part of an apple. Turns out, I can get out of a picnic table while drunk with much more grace than while sober. I think I was so panicked about being drunk that I wasn’t paying attention to actually standing up. I walked, as soberly as possible, towards the train station. We didn’t really know where Abbey Road was. We thought it couldn’t be that hard to find. Fun Fact: Abbey Road is really hard to find when you don’t have the internet and you are unintentionally morning drunk. We caught a train that we thought might take us to where we needed to be. We didn’t need to be there. Luckily, we found our way back, but it was really confusing, especially when you pass out on public transportation. Haley (who confessed later that day that she was at least buzzed) and I had both fallen asleep. Thank God we were robbed or vandalized, and that we woke up in time for our stop. I’m still a little horrified at myself. I can’t believe that I was drunk and passed out on public transportation in the middle of the day. I need adult supervision.

8. Drunk Guy – So, I mentioned that Haley and I got lost while going to the Mayflower Pub. We knew it was on the Thames because we have a cursory knowledge of the relationship between ships and large bodies of water. We didn’t anticipate that you can not walk along the Thames from the London Bridge Station to the Mayflower Pub. We wandered hard, trying to figure out how to get where we needed to go. What made this way more nerve wracking than it needed to be, is that we kept passing the same belligerently drunk guy. Three times. We never saw him get in front of us. He’d just suddenly be twenty feet in front of us, heckling people and causing a disturbance. How did he get there? How did we never see him pass us? After the third time, I was certain that we’d stumble across him in a quiet part of the street and he’d murder of for sport. Jack the Ripper ruined it for all weird guys in London. Oh, that guy seems a little off? He’ll probably slit my throat so deep he nicks my spinal chord. Luckily, he never actually approached us. He was just always there. Creeping.

9. Amsterdam – I did not go to Amsterdam. I do not remotely live a lifestyle in which I’ve ever even contemplated going to Amsterdam. There were two freshmen though, who wanted to go to Amsterdam. They had no plans other than that they were going to show up in a foreign city and stay in a hostel. We were all 100% they were going to get murdered or sold into slavery (again, this was even before Taken). We saw how they were in London. They drank and were not smart, two mutually exclusive facts that became agonizingly apparent when combined. They left, and the general consensus was, “You know those girls? Those girls are dead. Papa Looker is going to have to call their mothers and tell them that those girls were murdered in Amsterdam.” They didn’t die. They came back. I never heard how their trip was. I expect that it’s one huge blackout drunk experience. Yay them. Luckily we didn’t take bets on their demise.

10. The Chelsea Walk – OH MY GOD The Chelsea Walk. So we had to do these London walks in groups. They took you through different areas of London. You walked by different notable monuments, buildings, etc. They were awful. I’ve never encountered something so mind-numbingly boring. I didn’t care who lived in that house. None of the information was interesting to me. I didn’t mind seeing different parts of London, but the directions were confusing and the facts were lacking appeal. Except for the Chelsea Walk. I can’t tell you anything about the Chelsea walk because we forgot to bring the packet of papers with us. Instead, we wandered around Chelsea trying to figure out what might be on the tour. St. Ubs had read through the packet so she had some idea. Mostly it was awkward wandering around. The unspoken decision was that we would not tell Papa Looker that we didn’t actually go on the walk, like we’d get in trouble or he’d make us do ten more London walks to make up for it or something equally ridiculous. I knew this. But I kid you not, the moment I saw Papa Looker next, I panicked. He looked over at me without expression. He might not even have actually looked at me, but I blurted out, “I really liked that Chelsea Walk.” I can’t read minds, but I guarantee that five people behind me shouted, “What the fuck, Marissa?” in their minds, while I stuttered and rambled on with, “It was really, you know, great, and, um, interesting. Chelsea’s pretty.” Papa Looker kind of nodded and looked at me like I was smoking crack before continuing on into whatever station we were headed. I will never live that down. People who weren’t even in my group have asked me what the hell I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. I was fearing and panicking.

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