London Heathrow

I had big plans for my 8 hour layover in London. I was gonna get out of the city, take a train to Paddington Square, hop on one of those double-decker buses, see the sights, drink two pints, and breeze onto my flight to Prague.

Not so much.

First off, I’m really, really tired. But that’s okay. As a friend said, “Its just one cocaine all-nighter. No big deal.” Fair enough.

The flight was good. American had two meals, and you can play video games at your seat, and I read about unlocking the hidden secrets of my financial power.

When we landed, I took the opportunity to check out the Londoners. Some of them are roly-poly, with ruddy cheeks, and jolly disposition. Others are flittery, with thin noses and proper stance at all times. Still others are super hip. With scarves, hats, sunglasses, long boots over stockings, collared shirts underneath sweaters. Best to keep up appearances, eh, old chap?

When I got off the plane, I realized I wasn’t really…in a typical airport. It was just a hallway, with closed doors. No restaurants, nothing. I could do nothing but just continue to walk down the hallway. The plan was to check in at the American Admirals Club, have a scotch, get some directions, and get the fuck out of the airport.

Finally I followed the line…right into a dingy security line…complete with flickering flourescent lights.

Ugh.

And in this line, you could only have one carry-on bag. So, I couldn’t even get into the terminal with my bags. But I couldn’t check a bag without going into the terminal to see the attendant.

I could go to Terminal One, check a bag, and come back, and I thought about doing that. I left the line, and found a tram to Terminal One.

We all rode the bus, hopeful for the promise of freedom. We didn’t even mind that it took twenty minutes. We didn’t listen to the drone of security warnings in several languages. We gritted our teeth as the bus stopped moving for ten minutes so it could get us the requisite 6 inches closer to the curb.

We got off and I thought it was over, but we walked straight into a huge room. With people directing us all over, and voices in German and French warning us about liquids. I looked to my right. Through a thick glass wall, I saw FCUK stores, and bars, and people seemed happy. But I was in this line that ran as far as the eye could see. “So, this is what they felt like in Bladerunner,” I thought.

We slowly moved and finally were corralled into a big open area, while we waited to be ushered into the NEXT room and line. I waited for poisonous gas to come out of the ceiling vents.

Finally, I made it through the bag check (they found a corkscrew), and now I’m here in Terminal One. Any hope of making it “on the outside” has been crushed by the sheer horror of Heathrow Security in the 21st Century. So here I wait. My body thinks its 4:54, but my watch thinks its 11:55 (my watch is fast). My job is to convince my body to listen to my watch. So, I’m drinking coffee instead of beer. Eggs instead of steak. Duty free eggs. Duty free coffee. Everything is duty free.

In roughly 4 hours, I will be leaving for Prague. I will not sleep before then. I will not sleep before having a beer somewhere in Prague tonight.

Somewhere in Prague, the person who will pour me that beer is not thinking about me all that much. But I am thinking about you, kind sir!

It has dawned on me that one is worldly only in retrospect. No one can be on a character-building journey and be worldly in the present moment. I certainly am not, blearily trudging amongst the foreigners, the british accents sounding more like a cockneyed gang out of Clockwork Orange than beautiful music. But every worldly traveler is worldly through his suffering.

If you don’t know how to suffer, you don’t know how to travel.

And if you don’t know how to travel…brother, you don’t know three-eighths of what you think you do.

Onward,

Justin

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