Friday, June 09, 2017

Notes from my 4-Day UK Business Trip

Day 1:

3:45 AM: Rise and shine, slightly later than
Roher Standard Time (vehamayvin yavin) and have an early meal like it’s a fast day.

Bukola is my Uber driver for the morning. He doesn’t smell and gets me there in one piece. That’s worth five stars.

TSA proves, once again, what a fun-loving on-the-same-page bunch they all are. 50% of the scowling, hollering staff yells at you to move forward, whilst the other 50% snarls at you to step back. Which is it? Literally a coin flip, isn’t it? I go wherever the heck I feel going, when I want to. That works out for me this time.

I pass the United customer service desk en route to my plane. Not a fun place to be these days, I presume. Nobody’s being dragged past the desk, so that portends for a good flight, I hope.

My kosher plane meal is nice and cold, as it shouldn’t be.

I watch movies to pass the time:

Allied: ooh, intense, and sexy. I’m talking about Brad Pitt, of course. I met him in person a few years ago (He asked me for directions to The Waldorf); his goodlookingness isn’t normal.

The Magnificent Seven: fun, cool, heartbreaking.

I also beat the whole plane on the in-flight trivia. My last Jeopardy! test was 6/1.

I also continue reading Digital Gold, by Nathaniel Popper because I’m a nascent Bitcoin nerd.

I hate turbulence.

Landed safely in an alternate universe called Heathrow Airport, where everything is described with extra words. Examples: Car park, baggage reclaim, moving stairs. This funny guy is partially right, but the Brits are worse offenders, and I’m available to debate him:

I see a BA Airbus A380 on the tarmac, in motion. The largest plane in the world. It is…leviathan.

I realize I left the US before dawn, and landed in the UK after dusk. Wow. A whole day in flight, technically.

Plan A: If early enough in the evening, grab a shuttle bus to Oxford, then grab a cab from the bus depot to the hotel. Too many hops, and too late at night. Scrap that.

Plan B: Grab an Uber from the airport. I can’t figure out how to navigate out of the premises, and find myself a spot from which to be picked up. Scratch that.

Plan C: Grab a taxi and take it straight to the hotel in Oxford. That’s the option I use. You don’t wanna know how much that cost.

I get to the hotel. My room has no fridge. The hotel doesn’t allow it. Great. However, Hermolis has responsibly delivered half of my 3-day order of food, and the hotel was nice enough to place it in a corner of their fridge, accessible to me. Fantastic. It’ll do for my stay. I grab a quick meal from the pile, then Facetime with my family, and it’s lights out.

Day 2:

5:45 AM, rise and shine, greet the day, and see where I actually am. Weather is cool, but, having, just two days ago, run 42 miles in celebration of my 42nd birthday, I’m not up to running just yet. I didn’t even bring my gear. Feeling how I feel – about 90% - I might come to regret that.

I grab my breakfast from the hotel fridge, then load up my lunch and dinner, and I’m off to work, just about a mile away. I walk. It’s lovely.

Turns out I’m in The Shire. Everything is lush and green and wet and aromatic and small and gorgeous.

I panic when I see several cars that kids are apparently driving. Then, I realize, oops, duh, they drive on the right here.

I pass lots and lots of colleges and lots of coffee shops. Nice to see some non-Starbucks ones for a change.

Looks like the median, mode, and mean age of everyone is 20.

Along the way, I find still water (Mineral water and I are not on speaking terms) in a “cooperative,” an alternate term for “grocery.” Who knew?


I learn that my Plan C option was the right one, as Uber drivers don’t drive from London to Oxford. They stop at the border. Tax reasons or something. Pshew.

Post-work, I’m scheduled for dinner with my mates (Look at me, talking all British already!), but I call ahead to the restaurant to see if I can bring my own meal. Absolutely not. So I have my meal in the office, head over to the restaurant and sip Tiger Beer (All good on, while I watch everyone else scarf away until I’m free at last.

It’s 1.5 miles from here to the hotel. I’ll walk it with my flatmates (Okay, seriously, do I even know what a “flat” is?).

I walk past the bus station from which I’ll alight back to London. Turns out, you can’t book a bus if it’s not the day of. I don’t think this is as efficient as they think this is. Whatevs.

I notice that people don’t walk around here with their head in their smartphones. I’m told the folk here in this little town are conditioned this way because the narrow streets demand vigilance, lest you get whacked with a bus mirror. Perhaps, but I just think these people here are extra chill.

We walk past The Eagle and Child, the bar where Tolkien, Lewis, and Carroll drank together, and received inspirations, and noodled over ideas. I did not know that. That is cool. I knew I was in The Shire!

Back at the hotel, I grab another dinner. It’s been hours since my last one.

I check out what’s on the telly (Seriously, how long have I been here?).

Let’s see:
  •          Talk shows with bearded hosts.
  •          Game shows galore. All of them of the quiz variety.
  •          Law & Order all over the place.
  •          BBC1 through 234. Do they not have unique names for channels here?

I settle on nature documentaries, before I Facetime with the fam again and hit the sack.

Day 3:

The weather is gorgeous again, and cool, and this is the stuff I just love to have in my lungs, and I’m at 95%, and really, I should be running, but I don’t have my gear, and this seems to have been a big mistake. I consider going barefoot, but that might be an even bigger mistake. Live and learn. Next time I visit, I probably will not just have run an ultra a few days prior.

I take a different route to work, get a feel for the neighborhood. Pretty and peaceful no matter where I go.


People like to say “X, y, zed” and “A to zed” a lot here.

The night is young, but no good movies are playing in downtown Oxford proper, and no good shows to see.

I pass The Phoenix House, and according to the posters, Antony & Cleopatra is playing tonight! Ooh! Shakespeare! I’m in!

But wait! It’s simulcast across UK movie houses from another location. Bah. I want the real thing.

Back to the hotel I go.

Know what’s cool about this town? When pedestrians press the button to cross the street, it actually works!

Back at the hotel, hooboy, Hermolis has delivered more food! I eat like a king, catch up on e-mail, flip through the channels, watch more documentaries, and then I find a great movie:

Run Fatboy Run. Anyone ever hear of this? Thoroughly charming, and a good amount of silliness, with a nice dose of gravitas for balance. Check it out.

Facetime, and sleepytime.

Day 4:

I pack up while mumbling and grumbling to myself over my lack of running gear. It’s even gorgeouser today than it has been all during my stay, and I need to breathe this delicious air deep into my lungs. I won’t make this mistake again. My gear will come with me every time.

On my way out, I thank the hotel staff profusely for allowing me free access to their fridge.

I boinkadoinkadoink my luggage for the mile walk to work.

I notice the runners in this town don’t use devices much. No dangly thingies pouring out of ears, no armbands holding phones, no beep-a-bleep-boop. This town is truly chill.


Done with work. I say my goodbyes and walk over to the bus depot, Facetime with the fam one last time, and it’s London, ho!

The bus rumbles by Alice’s Shop, whose interior, apparently, was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland! Check it out: I’ve got to stop this bus and have a look! Okay, I’m not that desperate, but I’ve got a growing list of things to see and do when I return to this place. Problem is, like Washington D.C., everything closes at 4 PM. Arrgh.

The Great Hall, from the Harry Potter mythos, is also somewhere ‘round these parts.

I zone out for the trip, admiring the Britty Britishness of the lush countryside, and before I know it, I’m back in Heathrow

Now here’s the interesting thing: the signage for getting you out of the airport completely stinks, but the signage for getting you in and through is fantastic. Supwiddat?

The “TSA” in this place practically commits random acts of lovingkindness. EWR this ain’t.

I get to my gate two hours early, because I’m like that.

I’m sitting comfortably in my seat, when suddenly the world’s largest Guinea-Bissauan, or perhaps Central African Republican, squashes me into the fuselage. Behind us are 30 empty seats, but I don’t want to confuse the crew vis-à-vis my undercooked kosher meal, so I endure. I’m not asking a giant Sierra Leonian to go sit elsewhere.

The Israelites aboard try to put together a mincha minyan before taking off. The operation is shut down by the flight crew, who actually understands what they’re trying to set up. Rescheduled for in-flight.

I get my kosher meal, and my new Djiboutian friend asks me if I paid extra for it.

For this codswallops? I don’t think so.

He’s confused, the poor guy.

I lose myself in my movies. My ribs hurt enough from being squished. Conversation will only exacerbate the issue.

Let’s see, I enjoy:

Jason Bourne: too formulaic at this point. How many more people can he hunt down? Stick to great films like The Martian.

The Shallows: a quick popcorn fright, but the protagonist’s resourcefulness is most entertaining. Good film.

Doctor Strange: fun, and a shtickel different from the usual fare. Tilda Swinton is clever casting, and chews through every scene.

I hate turbulence.

We land. I get my bag fairly quickly, get quickly through passport control, land an Uber lickety split with Paola (her last run of the day, which started at 4 AM. That doesn’t make me so comfortable), and it’s home sweet home in a flash.

Nice way to stick the landing.

Glad to be home. Who needs Facetime when I can have the real thing?


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