I had a very odd feeling this morning. I stepped into a cab, and something seemed wrong. Like the cab was off-kilter or something. And then I had the following three thoughts in rapid succession:
- The driver is sitting on the wrong side.
- Oh wait — the left side is correct.
- What country am I in again?
Bay area cab drivers are different than the talky drivers in Dublin and London. Neither driver I had today offered me any unsolicited personal advice at all. And neither told me how they felt about all that fucking porn on the Internet.
Dublin taxi driver, as best recollected: “Fucking porn. It should be illegal. Who wants to look at that? I don’t fucking want to look at that. Well. I bet my fucking wife does.”
No fewer than four drivers said things to me along the lines of, “you’re not married are you?” And one put it quite succinctly. “No, if you were married, your husband would say it’s either me or the plane.” He was nicer than I’m making him sound though. They were all very nice to me. On one of several trips to Heathrow, my driver asked if I needed help hauling my stupidly large and heavy suitcase from the cab. I said it was no problem. I was used to carrying it around. “You’re not like English girls, love. They would never carry their own suitcases.”
The driver I had in Zurich didn’t speak English and had no idea where I wanted to go. While it was true that I did a terrible job of pronouncing the street, I did have the address written down. Didn’t help. He got out the Swiss version of the Thomas guide and did lots of cursing at one way streets. And stopping. And turning around. And turning off the meter. And backtracking. He felt so bad when we finally got to the right place that he gave me a sort of hug. Hugging is the shared language of apology. I didn’t really mind that he got so lost. I got a nice tour of the city.
I have traveled 28 of the last 58 days and am writing this in an airport. Tonight will be my 14th time on a plane since the beginning of the year. That is, if this flight ever leaves. Right now, a loud voice over my head is apologizing that our delay will be just a bit longer, but Starbucks coupons are available to ease our discomfort. As long as we don’t mind going back out through security to get to Starbucks.
About an hour ago, I considered paying someone lots of money to scan my eye, take my fingerprints and keep it all on file. And the only reason I didn’t was because they wouldn’t yet be sharing my personal details with enough airports to make it worth the time it would take to fill out the form.
I must even give off frequent-business-traveler vibes because people are always stopping me and asking questions as though I’m a traveling advice-dispensing service. This morning, I was on the train to the terminal, having an emotionally involved conversation over IM (No, you are wrong; that is indeed absolutely possible. And anyway, how else am I supposed to have any conversations at all when I’m forever in airport terminals?) and a woman leaned over to look at my blackberry screen. “Is that a blackberry? Does it really keep your calendar and contacts and e-mail? Do you like it?” What I like is having private conversations on it, actually. But instead, I told her about how it’s great, and how I can answer email while walking to my plane (and by that, I meant that it lets me chat while driving and when in boring meetings) and she quizzed me a bit more and then seem satisfied, possibly because she’d caught up on the details of my emotional well being and could contently look away from my screen.
Tonight, two different people asked me if the airport had wireless, and if so, how much it was. One woman said, “$6.95! Next they’ll be charging us for the bathroom!” And while I enjoy free wireless as much as the next person, I don’t know that it’s an inalienable right or anything. And really, $6.95 for 24 hours seems fairly reasonable, considering I’ve recently been paying upwards of $15 an hour for the privilege.
I could tell her the airports where she can could get wireless access for free. Vegas has lovely free access. The Alaska lounges do. US Airways and British Airways, not so much. Heathrow terminal one seems to have no wireless access at all. Be grateful you’ve got the opportunity to pay the $6.95. But I may not need to worry about lack of access much anymore. Today I learned how I can brilliantly power broadband on my laptop via my blackberry. If only I had known earlier, I could have added that to the list of the benefits for the nosy train woman. But in any case, heathrow terminal one can no longer hurt me. In fact, I welcome my next visit to heathrow terminal one. Which is coming up pretty soon, actually.
All this traveling means I’m never actually sure where and when I’m going to be. I started keeping a separate calendar with just my trips. (Not to be confused with my regular calendar that holds all of meetings. And since apparently I’m all about numbers today, I’ll explain that I have 35 meetings scheduled for just this week, so you can understand why I need an entirely different calendar for my travel in order to have a clean visual view of my life.)
I like traveling. I don’t always like individual moments like this one, when I’ve been awake since 3:30am and have no chance of getting to sleep before 1:30am, and am in an uncomfortable chair, and my eyes are too tired to stay open, and I’m lonely. But I’m taking the time to write, and after, I’ll ignore my email for a while and read my book about perfect moments and grilled cheese sandwiches and Alfred Hitchcock and Love Affair, my favorite movie after Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (All three versions, in this order: the original from 1939; the remake with Annette Bening; the version with the changed title, An Affair to Remember. Sleepless in Seattle doesn’t count and isn’t included in this list.)
And I’m driving my own car home from the airport this time, so I guess I’ll have to give myself unsolicited advice. Although I’ll likely be so tired that maybe I’ll take the bay area cab driver approach and make it a quiet trip. Hopefully I’ll remember which side of the road to drive on.