Tuesday, 22 July 2008

There's only one way to solve this: cage match

You've got to hand it to bureaucracy. Who else makes you call them to set up an appointment to have the right to pay more taxes, tells you the rules have changed, but wait actually no they haven't and we unilaterally decided to change your appointment time without telling you and now it's for tomorrow morning that's not going to be a problem is it? And you sit there and take it.

So I found myself in an alley behind a sprawling mosque in Whitechapel, loaded with reading material, queued up and waiting for a National Insurance official to call my name. I was shuffled from one waiting area to another, and when I was finally seated for my interview, my internal whining monologue was barreling ahead at full force.

But my interviewer was a trainee, and he was, frankly, awful at his job. He was as easily confused and flustered as a 12-year-old boy at a sorority party. His supervisor, who was walking him through everything, kept making fun of him and giving me apologetic glances while his trainee's brow was furrowed and the steam was coming out of his ears.

"Is 'high street' one word?"
"What? Are you sure you can handle this?"

Nothing like someone else's utter haplessness to set you at ease.

Oh, and unilaterally deciding to take a half day at work for my appointment made it easier to handle, too. That's not going to be a problem, is it?

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

My crib

It doesn't really feel like mine: more like I'm just living in somebody else's room for a while, which I guess is literally what I'm doing. I do like watching all the foot traffic in and out of Tesco that I can see out of my window.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

With sadness so real that it populates the city and leaves you homeless again

I should have seen it coming. It was inevitable: homesickness.

Not having gas at my flat for a few days — and thus, no hot showers or hot food — set it off. I sunk into that listless, yearning despair, one that London's rain complemented so well.

How had I forgotten that this would come? I'd moved away to college, I'd studied abroad before. It was different this time, though. Before, when leaving, I was coming back to a known: Carroll, Athens. And back then, that was all I really knew. How could something I'd known so long be any good? Turns out, pretty damn good.

I started to have the same thought I had during an emotional series of flights from Columbus to London last month: Who in their right mind, with friends and family like mine, would leave them all behind?

It's a fine question. I'm sure part of the answer lies in elementary-school Eric, the proto-nerd, pouring over atlases in his free time. Or sitting in class, bored to tears, and staring out the window, dreaming.

Maybe, I thought, I haven't left really left anyone behind. Look at all these e-mails, text messages, Skype calls. Maybe they're right here whenever I think about them.

No worries: the gas has been turned back on. It was never really off, the mechanisms were just a little messed up. It was there the whole time, we'd just forgotten how to connect with it.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

"It's not a party until someone spills a beer on you"

Fourth of July booze cruise. On the Thames.

Translation? Brilliant.

Abby, a Louisiana native and my co-intern at work, talked me into BUNAC's Fourth of July "booze cruise," which was attended by something like 300 drunk Americans and American wannabes.

We all need a little peer pressure sometimes.

At work that day, one of my co-workers asked what it was we were celebrating independence from. "Well," I said. "You." Then we left work two hours early for the cruise. (Whoops.) My only regret is that we forgot to buy some tea to toss overboard.

And just when you thought a booze cruise couldn't get any better, I won a free day trip from the group International Friends in the raffle drawing! So now I need to figure out where to go. I was thinking the Stonhenge, Salisbury and Avery day trip. Thoughts, anyone?