First off--anyone who still reads this in London, go check out Trafalgar Square: The tourist board has laid a bunch of sod, so now it is park-like. I like it! I only wish I was there so I could lounge and conspicuously read my Nelson biography.
So. Reason number four hundred and eighty seven why London is better than Chicago: I've never had a problem with the public transport here, except there's not enough of it, the buses don't go where I need them to without a transfer, and the trains are aboveground. (seriously--who thought this was a good idea? It SNOWS here, people!) I have a CTA card, which allows me to travel an unlimited amount for a monthly fee. Last night I left it at the theatre, and I only remembered it this morning. Cursing my fate, I made a quick stop at an ATM, then trotted into the train station, needing to buy a day pass, which costs $5. So I'm standing in front of this machine which resembles a soda machine in the sixth layer of hell. What I'm looking for is: "Day Pass--$5--Press here," but what I'm seeing is: "Insert Amount Here, press vend." Well, I don't need a $20 pay as you go card, (I only have twenties, since the ATMs here are incapable of dealing with anything less), I need the $5 unlimited day pass. "Aha!" I think, "In London, if I have a question, I can ask the slightly surly Tube employees and THEY will help me--surely it is the same here!" So I slide over to the window, where the woman (who is roughly my age) informs me that she does not sell cards. I will have to buy a pass from the machine. I laugh at her. "Seriously?" I say, disbelieving. Sne nods, wary. Ok, fine. So, getting panicky, as I am going to very quickly be late for work, I slide back to the machine and approach it with my $20. The woman materialises over my shoulder. "It doesn't give change!!" she helpfully tells me. Now I am past the point of incredulous, and think about making some comment like "Where are we--Brazil?" until I remember that Brazil has adequate public transport AND it runs on bio-friendly fuel. "Can YOU give me change?" I ask, already fearing the answer. "No, ma'am, but there are lots of small businesses around here, you could ask one of them." I can't believe this. If I am going to go to the store to buy a pair of jeans, I would not take them next door to try them on. I try whining: "I come through here every day, and I just left my pass at the office, can you let me in please?!" (okay--I lied--but I figured I could buy a pass for my journey to the theatre) The woman looks slightly panicked "Ma'am, you have to pay to get in..." "I HAVE the money (brandish, brandish) right here!" "I can't let you through without paying! There's cameras all over, I could lose my job!" Well, at least now I've got her as worked up as I am. I finally decide to give this poor girl a break and trot next door to a small Mexican restaurant. Day laborers and small children stare up at my "office casual" attire. The man behind the counter is understanding and gives me a ten, a five and five singles. I finally get the card, which is not the one I wanted. Instead it's got five dollars loaded on it, which will get me two and a half rides...and I need three en total today.
Oh, London. When I think about the times I cursed your touch-screens with their multiple options and ability to give change, or Ken Livingston for not having enough Oyster terminals...little did I know. At least the story has a happy ending: I arrived at work at 8:59 and had to wait outside the door for someone to show up and let me in since I was here first. Woot.
But wait, there's more. I had to save the best story for last.
Yesterday: I answered maybe 20 phone calls, helped fax a few things, sent some Fed-Ex, but mostly screwed around all day (hey, there were only four people here, it was, as I mentioned, veddy, veddy quiet.) Until I got this phone call:
ME: Hello, J---- M---- G----, how can I help you?
ME: Hello, how can I help you?
GUY: Yeah, can you hang on a sec?
ME: Sure, no problem. (thinking: Ah, he's probably sending an email, or maybe needs to get his boss on the phone--)
GUY: --I just got out of the shower.
ME: What? (thinking: What?!)
GUY: Yeah. How you doing?
ME: Um... (thinking: is this guy for real?)I'm fine...
GUY: That's great. What's your name?
ME: Uh, Nicole. (thinking: "Stupid!")
GUY: Great weather we're having, huh?
ME: Uh. Is there someone I can connect you to, or--
GUY: Let me put some clothes on...I just got out of the shower.
ME: Okay, sir, I'm going to have to end this conversation, you have yourself a nice day now. *click*
Note how I remained professional throughout. When I hung up I started laughing so hard that one of my co-workers stuck his head out the door and asked me what happened. The best part was when he called me back about ten minutes later and got as far as "I think we got disconnected..." before I hung up on him again. Seriously. I'm kind of half hoping he calls again so I can tell him I'm working at a private investigation firm, and we have his phone number in our system and we will be pursuing charges for harassment and mental anguish. Honestly. This be one crazy City.