london: the most exasperating city

04Sep07

I love London. It’s one of the few cities I’ve been where I think I could live for several years, which is kinda a good thing since I’m going to be spending a lot of time here in the future. Unlike cities like New York and DC, I feel like London’s more my speed and I think it fits my personality more. It’s just the right mix of energy and calm for me. Life moves quickly but not at the crazy pace of New York.

BUT…

there are some things that are completely infuriating and that make utterly no sense to me. Of course, I’m feeling this exasperation more now that we’re in the middle of an underground strike.

so here goes:

-They drive on the left side of the road. Fair enough. But shouldn’t they be walking on the left side of the sidewalk too? What little signage there is in subway stations always says keep left when walking up stairways. But everyone waits on the right when riding up an escalator so that people walking up the escalator can pass you on the left. And it doesn’t matter what side I’m walking on: I always find myself on the wrong side of the road, constantly trying to maneuver out of people’s way…

-which leads to point two: when two people are walking in opposite directions, isn’t it everybody’s job to make sure you don’t run into each other? Here it isn’t, especially if there’s a group coming your way. Instead of sensibly falling into a single-file line, parties of people two, three, or four wide continue to hog the entire sidewalk, forcing the person coming in the opposite direction into the road or overhanging brush. Really? Is your inane conversation about the weather so crucial that you cant spent ten seconds to move out of the way?

-speaking of the weather, this past “summer” in Britain was a bit rough, to say the least. Major flooding and the temperature never really got very high. In fact, the hottest day this year was the first weekend I was here which was 86 degrees. And there has been no end to British complaint about their summer. Every single day since I’ve been here, somebody has complained about how summer never arrived. Again fair enough, until you think about what happens in London when it’s hot. Air conditioning is non-existent, except in office buildings and of course the archives. The idea of air conditioning in your home is still a foreign concept. I’ve never stayed in a place that has air conditioning but if you think that’s b/c I’m staying in cheap places it’s not. My friend just moved to an apartment in a great part of town; no air conditioning there. So when there’s a stretch of hot weather, there’s no respite from the heat. Oh and the underground has no AC either. Imagine being 200 feet underground, pressed up against people in a packed car, temperatures soaring. Not fun times. And buses are no better. All this to say: while it’s understandable to be miffed when summer temperatures never materialize, a hot London is a miserable London and I’ll pass on that.

-when I ask a policeman for directions out of a street carnival with over a million people in attendance, I should not be told that it’s a simple U-turn just around the next street when actually it’s probably a half-mile walk against the flow of hundreds of thousands because the only way out is along the parade route, where people are standing still, watching the parade.

-and finally the buses. Very simply: it is not all right to have people waiting for fifteen minutes for a bus and then have four buses show up at the same time (or worse, to see three buses going in the other direction while you’re waiting for the bus in the right direction).

That’s only a few but I think I’ll stop for now.

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3 Responses to “london: the most exasperating city”

  1. 1 whitheramp

    i haven’t been to london, but i think i’d agree with you — manhattan is a but much for me. i really like san francisco–it’s just about perfect. but i spent the other dayin brooklyn, around prospect park — my first time there, actually — and am totally in love. i could live in nyc if i lived in (a nice part of) brooklyn.

  2. 2 thefrogprincess

    yeah, parts of brooklyn are so nice and a completely different vibe from manhattan.

  3. I totally know what you mean with #2. I studied abroad in Oxford while I was in undergrad, and because I’m really petite, I would literally be pushed off the sidewalk when people didn’t move out of the way. One time my friend Mike had to grab me by the back of my coat because I got pushed out into the street in front of an approaching bus. I think that habit is totally rude (‘tho I generally love the English people).


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