Bruin abroad: Urban tales in London town
I’m from a small town in Louisiana. Okay, it’s not necessarily small, but it’s not exactly large either. It takes about seven minutes to get from my house to Target and about 12 minutes to get to my old high school. All of my friends’ houses are within a ten-minute drive. You don’t know everyone in town, yet you’re bound to see someone you know or at least recognize while out. Public transportation barely exists and, even worse, barely any big-name acts that drop by when on tour.
And then there’s London. It’s a bit larger – by about 8 million people. Although Nashville is certainly more populous than my hometown, this is the first time I’ve ever truly experienced big-city living. So naturally, there are tales to accompany this.
View from our flat
Our Fifth Roommate
It was late one night as I sat alone in the living room of our flat, typing away on my computer. A movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention, so I turned my head toward the motion without much thought. Immediately, my gaze landed on a tiny brown mouse sitting on the tile in our kitchen. We made eye contact and jumped, both startled to discover that the other one was actually there. I rushed toward the door, and once I turned back, he had disappeared to a place I know not.
That wasn’t the last time I saw our little friend. Nope, the same situation happened again a few days later. We called pest control, expecting that to fix the problem. Nah. A few days later, Briana saw him rush across our kitchen once more. That same night, I ventured back into the living room after the hubbub of Briana’s sighting and was in the middle of FaceTiming a friend (‘ey there Beth) when I saw him zoom out from under the couch and across the floor to his hiding place in the radiator closet.
You’d think the mouse would at least wait until it’s dark, right? I mean, c’mon now!
The Tube Strike
Last week, two unions involving the workers of the London Underground decided to go on strike for 48 hours. This wouldn’t have been a problem for me had it not been the same week that I had tickets to see Phoenix at the O2 Academy Brixton in south London.
I’ve been on the subway during rush hour before in various cities, from New York to D.C. to Chicago. It’s busy and it’s unpleasant but it was nothing like the crowding that awaited us on this particular journey. We packed into the train car, our personal space basically non-existent; we looked like cows smooshed into those vented trucks you see on the interstate en route to the slaughterhouse. The unhappiness from our fellow tube-travelers was clearly evident.
Before leaving, I had first confirmed that the Brixton station was indeed open. As we were barreling down the deep underbelly of London, the conductor came on with the happy announcement that the Brixton station was now closed and the train would be terminating at Stockwell, a stop before Brixton. Joy!
Another reason the Brits are the greatest: sweet Tube reminders via poetry
So Briana and I unloaded along with the rest of the train and made our way to the surface. I tried to make sense of the bus map, failed, so then asked a tube worker for assistance. He directed us to a bus, so we blindly followed his instructions, hopped on a bus and got comfortable, expecting our appropriate stop to arrive soon.
But it didn’t. I finally checked my GPS, and it showed that we were going in the opposite direction, so off we went at the next stop, determining that the best option would be to just walk the 20 minutes to the venue.
Finally, we made it our destination, nearly an hour and a half after we left (fun fact: it would’ve taken 20 minutes on a regular day). I felt super urban after that commute.
The Ideal Pedestrian and Public Transportation Mastery
I’m not quite there yet with the whole “ideal pedestrian” thing. However, I am learning to acclimate myself to looking right FIRST and then left. There has been the occasional bad pedestrian choice that has resulted in a honk or glare (it’s okay, though, I’ve made it through unscathed thus far). The other day I walked to class while listening to music, and I felt quite urban and quite pedestrian, I dare say. My earbuds must have given off the “hey y’all I’m a local” vibe (or at least that’s what I like to think), because a lady stopped me and asked for directions. Even more exciting is the fact that I was actually able to direct her where to go. HOLLA. And then today I was able to tell a lady in the underground where a train was headed. DOUBLE HOLLA.
There’s also something satisfyingly urban about taking the bus back to your flat with your reusable shopping bag in tow after a trip to the grocery store. Then there’s the self-praise that comes along with successfully reaching a destination on the tube…alone…while also changing lines. I don’t know about y’all, but I love me a good tube ride.
View looking south across the Thames
I got a bit excited over this rainbow
Suffice to say I’m rather enjoying my time learning the ins and outs of city life! The weird thing will be coming back to the states and driving a car after a four-month hiatus from it…