Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Do Something New Every Day

I got to do two new things in London today.

London, for me, is not "new." It's a place that feels like home, looks like home, but costs twice as much as home.

My old pal Peter took me for coffee on top of the National Portrait Gallery. He's had five books published in Australia and the UK, and his first book is being printed Stateside in the spring. It was NOT my intent to swipe his book idea about going from Cape Town to Cairo by land when I launched MariesWorldTour.com (he immortalized his own trip in "Swahili for the Broken-Hearted" and hopefully people will realize that many of our similar viewpoints come from being pals while talking about Africa, not from me swiping him). Strangely, that is how life turned out. And we both did it in the same year. And so did Paul Theroux, although he started from the north. Peter and I had similar experiences, although he got to be in an Oscar-winning movie and I got to crack a rib and catch walking pneumonia. As for Mr. Theroux… well, life is different when you're a small fry like me. Or a medium-fry like Peter. No one famous was inviting us over for tea, that's for sure.

I meant to cover the entire planet, not "just" Africa. But things don't go as planned very often in my life.

Anyway, the two new things are:

1) I took a shower at Heathrow Airport. I took one at Gatwick before, when Herr Marlboro had just moved into a Portsmouth place that featured an old bathtub and no shower. But Heathrow's shower was new to me. Three pounds got me the rental of a towel. The Heathrow ones (in Terminal 4 in this case) are located in the Arrivals Men's and Women's Rooms. Much nicer than the Gatwick ones, which adjoin the public corridor.

2) I was randomly selected for a full body scan. Yikes! I was subjected to low-level radiation ("the same amount as what you'd get from two minutes of a long-distance flight) and a series of strange images were created of me, which were disturbing in their flabbiness. Three shots showed me from different angles. And the closer I stood to the backdrop, the more distorted the butt and hips were.

At least that's what I tell myself.

Anyway, it will probably give me early cancer, but it did get me to the front of the line.


Jared said...

My favorite quote about travels and towels:

"The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jadlan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoonb; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it around your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assume that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a brush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course, dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly , a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag; nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possessions of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit, etc, etc,. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend he hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally lost. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, and through it all and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slag, as in "Hey, you sass that hoopy Sulriel? There's a frood who really knows where her towel is!" (Sass: know, be aware of, have sex with; Hoopy: really together guy; frood; really, amazingly together guy)"

And you don't have to pay three bob to rent one.

Marie Javins said...

Must confess I was carrying a small towel in the bowels of my backpack... but who wants to get it soaking wet and then have stinky luggage?

Last time in Gatwick, I brought an old towel and just threw it away when done. This time, my personal towels had been raided by tenants along the way so I didn't have spares.