July 10, 2010

Did I Just Save a Life? – London 2010

The answer to that question is Yes. I think I did.

I'm walking a little bit ahead of A & R. Maybe just a step or two. From my left, the traffic has a break and we're moving to the other side of the street – there's no light here, but it's an obvious designated crossing zone. As I'm halfway there, I realize a royal blue armor truck is moving much faster than I first thought. In fact, it's hurtling down the street. I hurry my step and hop up on the sidewalk.

I turn around to tell A & R to pick up the pace … and then I realize that they're not 2 steps behind me, but more like 5 or 6. I glance at the truck. I glance back at them. I glance at the truck. My head is suddenly doing all these geometric calculations about vectors and speed and simultaneous converging pathways: Oh, I'm witnessing a collision course. In the split second it takes to figure out the obvious, A & R are still engrossed in conversation, laughing, looking down at the street, and general totally unaware of the unstoppable force about to meet their very movable bodies.

I yell: “Lookout!” loudly and sharply. In retrospect, I could have chosen a much better word. Like “Stop!” or “Freeze!” or “Truck!” or even “Fuck!”, but “Lookout” is what pops out.

Anyway, it's more my tone of voice than the word that causes a reaction. I'm not sure either of them really look around to see what's happening. A steps backwards. R steps forwards. A steps forwards. R steps backwards. Then, with the sound of screeching metal trying to come to a halt, both of them jump back on the narrow medium strip between lanes. The armor truck slides to a halt a little less than a yard from where they're standing. Everyone around me on the sidewalk is motionless, all staring.

A & R race across the street to me totally unharmed. Lots of shocked looks and nervous giggles and “Did you see that?” type of conversation follow. The armor truck lurches forward and speeds away.

Did I really save their lives? I mean, the truck manages to stop before reaching them, though many of the witnesses comment on how it was unhesitatingly barreling through before I yelled. I've gone over the scenario quite a few times in the past days. In the end, I think their reaction to my yell causes such a momentary panic in their movement, that it sends out a psychic boom and the truck driver realizes at the last second: “Hey, these two humans are walking in front of me.” A second earlier, maybe he's thinking they're going to stop to let him pass by? Maybe he's texting his girlfriend? Whatever it is, my shout coincides exactly with his slamming on the brakes.

So, I do save a life.

But not A & R's like you're thinking. Not the driver's either. Though all of this is possible, it's not certain. Nope. There is only one life I saved for absolutely sure: my own.

If my two close friends walk into the oncoming path of destruction, and I react too late or just stop and stare in horror, I'd never forgive myself. I'm supposed to be by their side. As a friend, I'm supposed to look out for oncoming royal blue armor trucks from hell. If I fail and they are thusly hurt or killed, then my life, as I know it, is over.

I just saved my own life today. Phew!

Luggage Wrasslin' – London Heathrow Airport 2010

Just a quick note on something really bizarre.

Everyone knows that airport luggage is claimed off of a wide conveyor belt which revolves around and around and around. Well, the one in Heathrow is the fastest I've ever seen. I mean, this is more like assembly line in bottling factories where objects are flying around at supersonic speeds.

So, I'm watching luggage slide down this ramp and crash onto the moving belt (and each other) and then zoom past. You have about 1 second to recognize your bag, reach for it in that really awkward hunched-over position especially designed by luggage belt engineers, and then lift your 20kg bag over the 6-inch lip of the shelf. It's comical, like in a small Asian woman being dragged down the line because she can't lift her bag but refuses to let go. Or young Kuwaiti men grabbing luggage and tossing it into the crowd behind them with the menace of a catapult. It is nonstop Keystone Kops action of misidentified luggage, yelling, tripping, falling, pushing, shoving.

I've never seen anything like that in all my years of traveling. Really weird. I mean TV reality show weird. Hey, wait a minute …

July 8, 2010

Hop on Board the Kiddie Bus – In Transit to London 2010

On the How Bad Is Your Travel Day rating: 8 out of 10 (scale explained)

There outta be a law! My flight from Kuwait to London is packed with kids. In the first 24 seats of the plane, I'm surrounded by 12 kids under 13. In the rows behind me there has to be another 20 more. And not the cute, cuddling, Look-Who's-Talking type, but the annoying, cross-eyed, baby monkey type. Every stereotype you have of someone else's brat is represented.
  • Kicking the chair behind you … check.
  • Climbing over chairs and other kids … check.
  • Screaming at the top of their lungs for no reason … check.
  • Screaming at the top of their lungs because another kid is screaming for no reason … check.
  • Turning around and staring at you for no reason … check.
  • Irritating squabbles over who gets a toy or spoon or magazine or whatever … check.
  • Foul smelling diaper changing … check.
  • Running up and down the aisle … check.
  • Nonstop babbling … check.

Now all this is bad. It's hard to blame the little terrors, because they don't know any better. But what is worst, by far, is the doting smiles and inane conversations the adults have around them. Oh, your little monster just threw her orange juice across the aisle? How sweet. Oh, your anomaly just squealed a pitch that cracked some of the windows? He's just trying to say how much he loves you, isn't he … goochie goochie goo.

Ugh. I hate it. The baby talk. That sappy tilt of the head as if every damn kid is a gift to the world.

Fine. Enjoy your gifts. Just not for a 7-hour flight.

How Bad Is Your Travel Day scale of 1 to 10 – Explained

  1. You arrive at your hotel an hour early for a surprise upgraded room which happens to have a box full of cash forgotten under the bed.
  2. The transit to your flight and hotel were like a dream of soft marshmallows dipped in honey.
  3. .The efficiency of the boarding, de-boarding, arrival, and check-in are a marvel of great planning and a little luck.
  4. The usual minor inconveniences and annoyances were brushed aside by a good mood and a peaceful nap on the plane.
  5. The standard short delays and annoying drooling moron sitting next to you on the flight were tolerable, but isn't it time you started upgrading to first class to get away from the riffraff?
  6. Your flight is delayed because the attendants are too busy gossiping to actual get anything done. The hotel you booked is nothing like its pictures and, in fact, is being renovated with jackhammers.
  7. It's not so much a flight as it is a pinball machine filled with morons. Between the turbulence, elbowing, and ankle-high trash, you might as well slit your throat and rest peacefully in nirvana.
  8. Once the video is shown, no jury will convict you, regardless of the lurid bloodbath.
  9. So...this is hell? A bit worse than I imagined.
  10. The fireball and plummeting to death was bad, but now you wake up on an island surrounded by idiots who say and do the weirdest, stupidest things for the next 7 years and after it's all over and done the endless limbo still doesn't make any sense no matter how many times someone tries to explain it.