Europe Explained (part two)

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***

London, England

“You’re going to have to move. The plane’s configuration…,” begins a woman I cannot fully understand. I just got settled into my seat with plenty of leg room, only to then be told in a roundabout way I was sold a seat on a plane that didn’t have enough room, so now I have to move.

“I still want an aisle seat though,” I tell the flight attendant.

“No problem,” she says, so I move a few aisles up into a vacant spot.

All is seemingly well until I hear, “What are you doing? You can’t sit here.” It’s like I’m part of Mean Girls now. This lovely sentiment is uttered by a male flight attendant whose face is littered with an anger I can’t place.

“I was told to sit here,” I calmly reply.

“By who?”

“By a flight attendant,” I perplexedly say, not sure if this guy thought I came and sat here on my own volition.

He has a shitty look on his face for the next half hour while we wait for the plane to take off.

“Are you going to be sitting here the whole flight?” I ask the guy, his legs well into my space and his attitude repulsive.

“Well, yeah. I’m working this flight,” he says, like I should have figured that part out.

I’ve flown enough, and never have I encountered a working flight attendant who sits with the passengers. And this guy is painstakingly rude. I mean, he works here and is behaving like a complete asshole.

“You’re going to have to get up a lot because I’m working,” he says, scanning the cabin for a different seat for me. “There should be a middle seat available elsewhere,” the dude continues, but in a tone that suggests it is I who should go find this mystical seat.

I try to take the high road. “Look, sir, I was told to sit here. I was sitting in the back and one your coworkers moved me here, so I don’t know what you want me to say.”

He doesn’t say anything, clearly pissed off protocol isn’t going to land him any favors. I feel awkward because this new seat is smaller than the first one and I don’t want to spend nine hours next to this guy who clearly is not going to be amicable.

And that’s how it is going to be for the next eleven hours because by the time I wake up from my nap, we still haven’t taken off. His elbow is in my space, he’s leaning over into my comfort zone, conjunctively whining to other flight attendants about my presence.

I really want this guy to move elsewhere and out of my line of sight, but it’s not going to happen. It’s so hard to be cordial, to do the right thing, especially when I’m a customer on a plane about to embark on my dream vacation. This isn’t how I thought it would start.

I also start wondering if he would behave this way to anyone else, or if it is solely me he has a problem with. I dare not ask. Halfway through the flight, it’s obvious he’s still trying to annoy me so I get up and ask for another seat. But I don’t give in to this malfeasance. I’m too busy enjoying Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes to worry about the pesky nuisance situated to my right.

“Excuse me,” I hear him say later, practically pushing me out of my seat and waking me up from a great nap. This guy is so rude.

I don’t know who is to blame here. Me, for booking this flight? That seems unreasonable.

Him, for his bad attitude and unwillingness to adapt? Probably.

The airline, for selling seats people cannot sit in? Definitely.

I don’t like to throw shade, but Norwegian Airlines is a great example of you get what you pay for. Bad service (the headphone jack and the touchscreen both didn’t work), and no complimentary meal (although I was given one by a sympathetic flight attendant who witnessed most of her peer’s antics). Norwegian is like many other affordable companies, in that your fare only really includes transportation. As far as comfort or enjoyment, you gave that up when you chose to save money.

All this irked me for eleven hours. The bad service. The two hour delay. The guy’s whiny, raspy, nearly-feminine voice brimming with entitlement at every choice of word. When we finally land, I’m glad it’s over.

Wheels down at London Gatwick. It’s time to get off this plane and go have some fun.

***

It all feels like a blur, strolling through the airport and navigating a new train system. Every country’s setup is different, subtle variances in the language or configuration that can completely throw a tourist off kilter.

While strolling through Hackney in the mid-evening sun, I spot a pub and walk in to the rustic white building with green vines growing down the exterior. It takes me a few minutes to learn I need to order from the bar.

“Do you guys have Grey Goose?” I ask a dark-haired woman.

“No.”

“Uh, okay,” and then I look at the other bottles, none of which look familiar. “Can you make a Long Island?”

“Sure.”

That was the best Long Island I ever had, but the fish and chips, eh, that left something to be desired. I imagined this dish would be a delicacy, the prime staple of English cuisine. Yet what comes out looks like something from your local grocery store. It’s a fat slab of fish sitting on top of potato fries. A diced lemon rests alone next to the main dish.

The magic is probably inside I tell myself, because what’s in front of me does not look like a world-renowned dish. One bite, and yeah, this is just a piece of fish. The potatoes follow in mediocrity. But that Long Island though.

Outside my hostel, two Turkish blokes are arguing over a traffic incident, set to come to blows until onlookers break it up.

At the hostel, three people are hanging out in the room, eyes glued to screens as my presence goes virtually unnoticed.

I wake up at 2 A.M. and can’t fall back asleep. This has been a tough trip so far. But I have a bike ride tomorrow, a chance to see all of London, that alone making the arduous flight worth it.

***

Real quick: I’m going to skip the rest of my time in England because London is boring. There is not much to see or do, nor is the culture one where an American can feel any sort of deviation from their normal life.

Perhaps the best way to describe London is that it’s like a small Midwestern city, only add good public transport and a few million people.

Also,

Pros:

  • Huge population, so many available Airbnbs (mine was $14 a night, super clean, and decent location)
  • Public transport: easy to get anywhere in the city by taking a train, subway, or bus. Do not take Ubers, as they’re in many ways unnecessary and costly

Cons:

  • Expensive: you won’t find many cheap places to eat or drink. I would liken the cost of living to Boston. Not crazy prices, but there are no deals, outside of the occasional food stand
  • Not particularly beautiful: weather is predominantly overcast and windy
  • Communication: sounds silly, but many Londoners struggled with understanding my “accent”

 

*This is part two in a series of my trip to Europe… Stay tuned for part three, coming soon… And to read part one, click here

A quick word from this post’s sponsor: 

Interested in buying or selling a home? RE/MAX agent James Eason can help with all your real estate needs.

Get in touch with him today by clicking on this link!

Want more Quentin Super? Buy his novel, The Long Road North, here

Know someone looking for a ghostwriter? Click here to find out more information

 

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