Saturday, August 1, 2009

-- bit of a ramble

I was second off the plane in Toronto. Well, third off, but the woman in front of my stood on the escalator, so I was able to pass her. (My plan is always to speed to Immigration ahead of everyone on the plane and avoid those lines.)

And, so … second off the plane and into the airport and there is nobody there. I mean, nobody. No security people (like there are in America) scoping you out and making sure you walk in the right direction; no airport staff; no other passengers. The airport was deserted. Like “have you ever seen The Langoliers?” deserted.

At Toronto, there’s no airport connections area -- so I had to clear Immigration and Customs, then hand my bags off to baggage connections, then go on up to Departures and check in for my connecting flight.

Which is where everyone in the Toronto airport was. I shit you not; every other check-in desk in the airport had something between 0 and 2 people at it, and the line for my flight to London was maybe 70 or 80 people deep. I was pleased that I used frequent flier miles to go Business class, because they had their own line, with only 3 people in it. I was even more pleased when I checked in and the nice man said I should go to the British Air transit lounge and get free dinner.

And, oh my GOODNESS was I pleased when I got on the plane and had my first encounter with Club World sleeper seats. The damn things drop down totally flat. Totally. Like a bed. And even when they’re not totally flat, they recline to anything in between. Yes, I’m loving the sleeper seats.

And I didn’t watch any of the in-flight entertainment, choosing to take advantage of my sleeper seat to, y’know, sleep. This seemed important to me as (despite all my planning) I still only got about 4 hours of sleep before heading off to the airport in the morning, and some 18 hours after waking up, I was going to land in London at 8:15 in the morning. (Something like that, anyway -- doing time change math in my head on so little sleep is not my forte.)

So, shortly after getting on the plane, I stretched out the seat, put on my eye shades and slept. For something like five hours. Hard to tell exactly -- I was having trouble falling asleep (people were talking), but I’m pretty sure I fell asleep because my conscious thoughts went from “why won’t those people shut up?” to “yes, I would like some breakfast.”

Then, in quick succession -- train to central London, taxi to hotel, hotel doesn’t have a room ready for me yet. So I dumped my bags and was off to wander for about four hours.

First, to Leicester Square, to get a cheap ticket for a show tonight.

Let me explain the type of show I’m looking for here. My first night in London, my plan is always to see “the loudest, most obnoxious musical I can find,” because I want something that will keep me awake until a decent hour and I can acclimate myself to the time change. Previous winners in this category include “The Who’s Tommy,” “Mamma Mia,” and “We Will Rock You.”

As it turns out, neither of my two choices for anti-jet-lag musical were on the half price board, so I actually had to walk to the theatre and buy a full price ticket. So, in three hours’ time (from when I’m writing this -- they charge 6 pounds for 60 minutes of internet access, so I’m saving up for when I post) I’ll be seeing, live on stage, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

After I bought my ticket, I still had 3 hours to kill before I could get into my room. (Did I mention that I hadn’t planned my wardrobe well, so I was wearing a shirt under which you could totally see my sports bra. This was fine for air travel, but I felt a bit self-conscious flashing my bra to everyone in central London.) I figured I’d go for a walk. In … that direction. There were two shops I intended to visit this trip (a theatre bookshop and a sci fi bookshop), and I had a very vague recollection that the theatre bookshop was, yeah, up that street, then make a left.

I did that, made another turn where the shop should be, and the shop wasn’t there. Rats. It was a bit of a longshot anyway. So I made another turn heading in the general direction of a main shopping street (and smiling to myself that I’m comfortable enough with London that I don’t really fear getting lost here) and I ended up …

… right in front of the Sci Fi bookshop. (Thank you, subconscious GPS.)

Spent at least an hour in there roaming the shelves and trying to decide whether I should buy a Captain Jack Harkness dol-- sorry, ACTION FIGURE, for a friend. But, more important, I needed a book. Generally, I just look over the shelves until I find something (a) interesting; and (b) by a British author. (I mean, why should I buy something I can get in the States?) In this case, I spotted my purchase pretty quickly, as it was another book by an author I’d discovered in precisely this fashion last time I was here. (And I’d enjoyed it enough to order some more off, so this was much better than paying international shipping.)

With my purchase in hand, I continued on wandering a shopping street. Bought a sandwich for lunch (tuna and sweet corn -- yum) and went back to Leicester Square to sit down and eat it.

(Sorry this post is turning out so long. The hotel charges 6 pounds for an hour of internet, so I’m doing a lot of writing all at once offline. May be posting from internet cafes later this week.)

Went back to the hotel just after 1:00 and my room was, in fact, ready. Came up to my room in an itty bitty little lift -- it holds 6 people, but I think they have to stand single file. Got in the room (which was, allegedly, an upgraded “superior” room). The nice man from the bell desk brings my bags up. I do not tip him as I have nothing small, but I feel bad about this and make a note to give him something later. I idly wonder if not tipping the bellman is going to give me bad hotel karma here.

My room is small (makes me wonder what an “inferior” room looks like) but serviceable. I unpack my London suitcase, get nekkid, use the loo and hop in the shower.

We’re skipping over a step here, which is when I’m standing there naked, for 20 minutes, trying to make the toilet flush. It won’t. It’ll fill with water and then drain the water out again, but it won’t flush. (Result: there’s toilet paper still in there, but it’s been repeatedly rinsed.) I could ring for help at this point, but I’m naked and really want that shower, so I decide to go with “denial” about the toilet. I shower and dress and am feeling 100% better. Well enough to deal with the john.

No, it isn’t working. Damn.

I pick up the phone to call down to reception and THE PHONE DOESN’T WORK.

OK, now I’m annoyed. I go downstairs and explain the problem. They say they’ll call maintenance and send someone up. I go back to my room and start drafting this post.

A lot of time passes. Finally the phone rings. It is reception, telling me the maintenance guy is coming now. She says that she couldn’t reach him before because the phones were down. (Well, that explains one problem, at least.)

I am interrupted by the maintenance guy. He flushes the toilet and says it isn’t broken. Says that’s just how it flushes. Says that the problem is there’s nothing really heavy in there, and that if I want it to flush, I need to put a lot more paper in there. But it’ll work fine.

(Really? Does anyone buy this?)

“Show me,” I say. He wads up a bunch of toilet paper and throws it in the toilet. Flushes it. We wait expectantly. It fails to flush. Score one for the American.

He now takes the lid off and starts fiddling in there with a screwdriver. More fiddling, more flushing, more fiddling, more flushing, more fiddling, (more paper), more flushing. Then: “You’ll have to call Reception and get another room.”

I do that.

Someone comes to my room with a key to the room directly below. I am told that the toilet should actually flush in this one. Hooray.

I pack everything I unpacked and prepare to move downstairs. I haul my stuff downstairs. (I note they did not offer to send the bell guy up to help move my stuff. I figure I deserved this.)

I get to the room downstairs. Haul my stuff in. Test the toilet -- it works! Turn on the air conditioning and …

… shit. The thermostat doesn’t work. And there’s a fan sitting on the dresser. Dammit.

I go back to reception (this time, not unpacking anything). I point out that they’ve moved me from a room with a broken toilet to a room with a broken thermostat and ask (trying very hard not to be an Ugly American) if I could have a room in which everything worked?

Apparently, I can’t. At least, not now. They’re solidly booked. The reception guy promises to move me tomorrow morning into “a very nice room,” but I’ll have to wait till then. He offers me a free drink at the bar for my trouble. I demur.

Should’ve asked for free internet.

1 comment:

Peg said...

Goodness, so much trouble for a room where things work properly.

I love that you update on the road, even if it costs you much deniro. And you are my hero for getting to experience one of those sleeper seats. Me = coach seat sardine.