Wednesday, August 5, 2009

You say "lost" like it's a bad thing

I’ve gotten lost more on this trip to London than any other -- larger because I didn’t entirely mind it. I would never allow myself to get this lost in, say, New York. In terms of safety, streets in New York vary from block to block. Not so in Central London; everything feels of a fairly uniform quality. So, if I know I need to go vaguely Southward until I hit Chinatown, and then hang an East -- no problem. And I might even find something interesting along my way.

The not-entirely-random wandering occurred because my not-entirely-plans didn’t go entirely according to plan. The plan was to do a London Walk this morning; I chose instead to sleep in. Then the plan was to drop by the British Library. Sleeping in won again. Finally, the plan was to meet a friend for tea. This did happen, although replace “tea and scones” with “milkshake and cupcake.” Sugar rush duly accomplished, we wandered a bit (and I managed to buy one more gift for someone back home). We then parted company and I realized I had the evening to myself. So, of course, I headed off to the half-price ticket booth to get a ticket to a show.

I now know why people hate American tourists. The half-price ticket booth (which, to be fair, works pretty much exactly like the half-price ticket booth in New York) has a big board on which all the available shows are listed. And if you happen to miss the big board, right next to it is an even bigger electronic board displaying the very same information. It is impossible to get into the queue without seeing the board to your left and the electronic board to your right. You would have to be a complete moron to miss them.

So, I wait in line. It’s a very short line, but we’ve been waiting in it long enough to see the boards (even if, for some strange reason, you chose to get in line without first deciding what show you’d like to see). The group in front of me gets called to the window. Four of them. American. I can’t hear what the guy in the booth asks, but I assume it’s something along the lines of, “Can I help you?” And the American asks, “What shows do you have available?”

I involuntarily roll my eyes. I’m hoping he’s telling her to step out of line and look at the board while he helps the next people, but apparently, he doesn’t. She then turns to her group and says, “What is it we wanted to see? Do you have Phantom of the Opera?” (No, actually. They don’t. If you’d looked at the board, you’d know that.) I roll my eyes again. I never saw how it ended; I got called to the next window. They were still there when I left.

I ended up seeing a play called “Collaboration.” I wasn’t really up for a musical, and of the plays available, this seemed like a reasonable drama. After all, it had Nazis in it. That’s a subject matter that playwrights can keep on mining indefinitely. This wasn’t a particularly exceptional Nazi play -- a fairly straightforward affair, but it was blissfully short and largely well acted. (I often wonder when I see a show with one bad performer in it -- didn’t the director notice? Did someone think about letting her go due to “artistic differences”? Because, damn, she’s just embarrassing herself and bringing the play down.)

And that’s about it from London. I’m back in the hotel (if I’ve got a few more minutes left on my overpriced hotel internet, I’ll post this) getting ready to confirm my flight and pack. To Athens tomorrow!

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