The 11:30 p.m. trans-Atlantic flight from Toronto to London is called the red-eye for a reason. I slept about four hours but sleep was of little concern once in London. London is a lot like New York City albeit funnier accents. The city is a teeming cultural polyglot; England, paying it’s colonialist debt to places like India, Australia and any number of African countries. It is a debt paid in citizenship. I find myself in danger as I shade my eyes from bright sunshine (I thought England would be gray) as I stand on a street corner looking at people, inventing lives they might or might not want. I lose balance stepping off the curb. The blaring horn of a London cab gives me just enough time to get to safety. (These guys eat their young – I’m sure). It would not be the first time I would step off the curb and forced to run for my life across the street. London cabs don’t slow down. This rule must be written in bold ink in their instruction manual. Also, I should say that London cabs – real London cabs are ugly. I mean really, really ugly. Ford Fiesta’s have a Rolls Royce beauty by comparison. A twenty London cab pile-up could only improve their looks. There are no other cars in London that look like the London cab. If a reason exists for the ugliness of the London cab (like there’s not enough ugly to go around etc.), I certainly did not find it on this trip.
On May 17th I pondered the purpose of fear as I walked through the airport in Rochester, N.Y. beginning the first leg of a London, Paris vacation. Fear is an emotion designed to protect the species I suppose, setting the fight-or-flight mechanism in play. The fact that we are quite removed from having to run from the likes of wildebeests should render some fears moot. I think though, being 35,000 feet off the ground and traveling at over 600 mph over the ocean, that fear might be necessary; a warning even. Traces of fear stay with me as I enter security, I inspect the heels of my shoes as I push my belongings through the scanner, I look at my passport photo again checking for anything that could spell “foreign individual with bad intentions.” My hair is a different color. Fear returns in full. I am selected for the full body scanner. As a full-bodied individual I force a smile at what the visual might produce, happily no rips in my underwear. I wonder if this device can tell if one’s underwear are clean? I step out of the cold, impersonal scanner leaving my deepest, darkest secrets to be scoffed at by some young punk with a bad crew-cut. Then it’s on to board a small “puddle jumper” only in this case the puddle is Lake Ontario. Now, I am in my personal flight (not fight) mode as I take a seat in the small cabin and see the prominent display of propellers. I had a Pontiac in college that held more people than this. I think of all the things I did that might bode ill for the safe outcome of this leg of the trip; I changed my FaceBook profile picture – I had said I would leave my mom’s picture as profile for the whole month of May – she’ll understand. Then again, maybe she won’t and will want to talk to me face to face. Fear compounds. (I’m getting on a rickety plane after dissing my deceased mom on FB – I’m toast). But I did stroke the Foo Dog that sits on my front porch before I left the house (how many times, even or odd number?). I tipped the shuttle driver nicely. I let the woman with three kids go ahead of me in the security line. Okay – balance. It’s all good. I buckled my seat belt and waited for the last passenger to fill the empty seat not far from mine. Finally, the person shows up and our trip gets rolling. It was, thankfully, getting dark as we flew over the very large Lake Ontario but by the end of the hour flight it was still light enough to see the co-pilot reading a map as the pilot patiently explained to us that we would be in a holding pattern for a while due to fog in Toronto. One needs a map for a holding pattern? I shut my eyes tight trying to think of something to allay my fear. I was humored with the image of the very late last passenger; A hefty, middle-aged English woman standing at the front to the plane shaking the rain from her English sheepdog hair yelling in her English Cockney, “where’s my seat?” (as if she wasn’t close enough to spit on it) “whosoever’s in my seat better move their arse!” Oh the queen’s English indeed.