'sorry!' this british airways ticket sales guy is pissing me off. it's like he's happy to inform me that i'll be stuck in heathrow for at least another week. and he's sweating. he's sweating and there's air conditioning.
'we've only got a few seats left, on wednesday', he continues. 'but they're business class... that'll be around 600 pounds...'
is this motherfucker smiling??
ok. travel tip: buying a same day departure ticket at the airport (officially, the busiest airport in the world, at that) during the summer is virtually impossible. this should keep you from trying, unless you're like me, and 'impossible' is the proverbial red flag and you're the proverbial bull.
'pounds??', i ask, just to be sure.
'ster-ling,' he enunciates, in the way brits have of making americans feel like they don't really speak english.
i call my brit sister, pep.
'help!! i can't get a flight out; can i stay at your place tonight?'
gracious as ever, pep came to my rescue. told me to call her when i reached the baron's court tube stop nearest her home. my gigantic suitcase contained 7 cities worth of good memories and i did not want to lug that shit on the tube at 9 o'clock at night. only, i wasn't sure i had enough sterling on me to take a taxi from heathrow to fulham. i'd been through enough that day. not only had i been denied a flight home to barcelona, but i'd just left my serb, which, now more than before, is like walking out of the warmest, most comfortable place you've ever been, straight into an arctic chill. i decided that i deserved an original glazed krispy kreme donut and a small sugary latte if not a cushy ride to pep's cushy urban digs.
licking the sweet, possibly toxic glaze from my fingers, i headed out into the evening sun, and towards the tube--piccadilly line, i think--about 15 minutes later. i see one lone taxi out front, and decide to give it a go. there are two men, the taxi driver, and another older white man, slightly disheveled. actually, kind of hobo looking. there may be a tiny hole in the right knee of his khakis; at the very least, they're stained with some type of oily substance. he's wearing a faded navy sweatshirt under a corduroy blazer. his head full of salt and pepper hair is everywhere. he's in a terrible hurry, if his mismatched luggage, strewn all over the sidewalk, is any indication. i step over a small battered red suitcase, and approach the driver.
'excuse me, could you tell me, ball park, how much a trip from here to fulham would run me?'
both men look up. before the driver can answer, the hobo hands me 15 pounds. ster-ling.
'here. put that towards it.'
'let me help you with this suitcase'
i clutch the 3 five pound notes between my fingers like i'm giving, not receiving them. he lifts my 26 kilos of summer dresses and cute sandals into the taxi, then takes my hand, deposits me inside the cavernous london cab and shuts the door. my mouth is still open. job done, he sticks his head through the window.
'what's your name?'
he reaches a hand inside and gives mine a firm squeeze.
'nigel. it's good to meet you. but... are you sure about this? i mean, thank you but...'
i keep myself from saying, you look like you could use this dough, bro.
'of course, of course. where are you from originally? nigeria?'
'ah!! i was sat next to alicia keys at the grammy's once. but my crazy ex girlfriend wouldn't let me talk to her, she was so jealous.'
'well, i've gotta go. god bless you!'
'ok... god bless you, too!'
nigel disappears into the lucky throng of travelers, all of whom had the good sense to book their flights in advance.
i arrive at pep's house about 2 detours, and a month of cocktail parties' worth of get-to-know-you chat with the cabbie later (who's written down my name, and vowed to keep a look out for it on the cover of a book).
'do you know that guy nigel, who gave you the money?'
'he said the CIA's looking for him. he knows lots of, like, government secrets and that and they don't want him to talk. he said the world's going to be plunged into a massive depression in the next six months.'
'doesn't explain why he'd be giving away money.'
'he said we should get out of this country, cause it'll hit here hardest. sounded like he knew what he was talking about.'
as talkers normally do. this nigel. the ride ends up costing 55 quid* flat. i had 40.