Friday, July 6, 2018

Getting there

I almost never think of myself as the age I am.  In most ways, I feel like I did when I was a young man.  I can exercise or walk forever. Yesterday my brother and I must have walked 6 miles, if not more.  While I was not keen about waking up at 4 in the morning for Wimbledon, I had no real qualms about lying on a blanket in the middle of a field to watch the tennis, or taking the subway back, or cheering in a crowded pub listening to assorted encouragements from well oiled patrons.

Occasionally something happens that reminds me that I am not 25.  Usually it is in the form of someone saying something to me that reflects their accurate assessment of my laps around the track.  On Monday, while riding back on the subway from the tennis matches I could not get a seat. So, like a new yorker or bostonian, I just hung onto the straps thinking nothing of it.  A man who I will put at about 45, stood up and offered me a seat. He is fortunate to have all the tissue in the back of his head given the heat stare I gave him all but screaming, sit your ass down.  

I wrote the following in a blog a few years back, but since few follow my wisdom religiously, I'll repeat it here. I was sitting in a bar once and a young woman came up and sat in the barstool next to me. She started speaking to me in a way that seemed like she was hitting on me. I found this flattering. Her comments were so atypical for Harvard Square where this tavern was located, that I began to wonder if she was on the job.  She put that notion to rest with the ensuing chat. At that juncture she said that she did not like this bar much any more. Why is that? I inquired. "Well, no offense" she began, "there's just a lot of old people in here now."  For a moment I could not fathom why she had prefaced the comment with "no offense." When it dawned on me, the expression, "getting taken down a notch" seemed most apt.

Which brings me to what occurred about 50 minutes ago here in Gatwick airport.  When I got to England last Friday I took the train from Gatwick to London, and then took a cab.  After being in London for a week I learned the subway system pretty well. I saw that the distance from the hotel to Victoria Station was a mere three subway stops.  In fact, I had taken that ride on a number of occasions when I had gone beyond Victoria Station exploring the city.  I felt like it was not necessary to take a cab from the hotel to Victoria when I returned. I'd just hop on the subway, go three stops, get on the Gatwick express--I'd already bought a ticket before I departed Boston--and zip zip I will be at the airport.

And that is what I did. I got to the Gloucester road stop from my hotel in ten minutes, had to add some money to my "oyster" card, but then was ready to go. 

Problem number 1 was the response to my inquiry about a lift. "Sorry mate there is no escalator or lift down to the district line platform. "  I packed well for this trip, not too much, just right. Just right was a lot.  So, Okay, I lug the bags downstairs. Take the subway three stops. Get off at Victoria Station and follow the signs to the Gatwick express.

A word about signs. Boston has the worst signs. The worst, They all but scream, "fuck you if you don't know where you are going." Well, let me tell you we are not called New England for nothing. The English taught us well. I am pretty good with signs, and I was turning around like a pinwheel trying to find the Gatwick express. I did.

Then I get on the train and take it the thirty minutes to the airport.  I get off. Again a war with the signs. There's departures and departures.  And I am lugging these heavy bags.  I find where I am supposed to go and there is a long line. I had arrived in plenty of time but still I had just about had it.  I get through check in. What gate? I ask. She tells me they will announce it at 245.  That would be fine except there are no fewer than 93 gates and they are all in different directions. I need to find a central place to park my tired body. I go through security and wander here and there.  I find a spot, and then mumbled something to myself that I have heard others say, but rarely have said it meaningfully to myself before: "I am too old for this shit" I said.  I am not talking about traveling, I hope to travel until I go to the terminal terminal. But maybe I don't take the subway to the Gatwick express. Maybe I dont even take the Gatwick express and tell the cab driver, I am going to the airport. 

It is about an hour since I got through security. I am drinking an ice coffee and feeling more like a human being.  I still do not where the plane leaves from as it apparently is a top secret. I am in a  coffee shop at gates 31-38. Very few are in this vicinity so I figure I will be shlepping elsewhere and now, caffeinated, feel fine about it. Maybe even stop in a duty free store. The signs for these are, go figure, very clearly marked.

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