Monday, April 27, 2009

Dispatches from abroad

Since all professional and aspiring triathletes and cyclists go to Mallorca to train, I of course have planned a trip there as well, with a stopoff in London first, to pick up my friend Stacey from Wharton, who doesn’t aspire to triathlon greatness as I do but is willing to go along for the ride. Plus, she’s the one who planned this trip in the first place, so I guess she can tag along, learn a few lessons from me, that sort of thing. I just hope she can keep up.

Of course, this assumes that I actually GET to London in the first place. After hurriedly getting everything done that I needed to, I dash to the airport, given a ride by my dear friend “Frank” (who’s actually Keith, but he prefers to remain anonymous). I’ll note that yet again, I slip through security in spite of my titanium shoulder. This irks me, quite frankly, since I want the fact that I gave up a perfectly good collarbone to my sport to be recognized. So as I’m about to go through the gate I loudly proclaim “Boy, I wonder if there’s anyone about to go through security who has a SHINY METAL titanium plate holding their collarbone together? Anyone? Bueller?” – and while I get a few puzzled looks, no alarm goes off, no extra wanding, nothing. What the hell does it TAKE around here, people??

So they load up the plane, and we push back from the gate. And sit. And finally the captain makes a pronouncement to the effect that “we have a problem with the door seal, so we’re going to tinker around with it, should only take a minute or two, folks.” Now, clearly there are a number of things wrong with this statement, but I’ll just focus on the “minute or two” comment. Because about half an hour later, the captain comes back and says “Okay, folks, the seal on the door is in fact not working, but we’ve got mechanics working on it, it’ll just be a minute or two.”

The captain has obviously never heard the axiom that it is always better to underpromise and overdeliver because now that the captain has set expectations that this’ll be resolved within minutes, you then have a very pissed off group of people thinking that the captain is a lying piece of crap when a full HOUR later he comes back and tells us they’re still working on it and we all have to deplane. Damn, where’s the titanium-shoulder-doubling-as-a-weapon when you need it??

We do finally leave, 3 hours late, though I’m sure United put this flight in the “on time” column, since we did push back from the gate technically on time. Who cares about minor details such as actually taking off? Piffle. But at last, London.

Day One in London

Stacey and I spend the day training – in other words, walking briskly about London, taking in the sights as we simultaneously breath deeply. Stacey is a neophyte to this kind of intense workout, but she seems to be doing okay, hanging in there. All the while she’s pointing out where she goes cycling in London, how she rides her bike to work, how slow she is, how she’s passed by everyone, how thank god the highest grades in Mallorca are 5-6%, blah blah blah. Hmm, I’m sensing a bit of sandbaggery here, but am withholding judgment. In the meantime, as a lark we decide to walk to the top of a ridiculously tall tower, that commemorates the Great Fire of London of 1666. I’m huffing and puffing my way to the top, realizing that I’m setting an example for the little people with such feats of strength, though I’m also realizing that they probably built this damn tower to kill off all the descendents of people who weren’t killed by the damn fire. As I’m deep in such profound thoughts, I hear some obviously uber-athletic people coming back down the stairs – it’s amazing, really, that anyone else would have braved such a climb, and I’m about to hail my fellow athletes and congratulate them on their fitness, when I realize that my kudos might be lost on the young girl skipping down the stairs towards me. Who’s all of about 2. Who’s trailed by her sister, of the mighty age of about 4. Oh. Umm, or maybe they’re just….midgets. Endurance athlete midgets. Yeah, that’s it.

Day Two in London

We schlep our way to the airport for our flight on Ryanair, aka the “Cheap Airline that Frowns on Customer Service.” This is the same airline that caused a fuss a month or so ago in the news when it said that it was thinking about charging people to use the bathroom. On an airplane. Up in the air, with no other options. Great idea, that.

But first, before we get stuffed into our sardine can, we have to go through security. And I’m glad to report that the sharp-as-nails security people HERE do in fact stop me as I’m going through. Do they finally realize that a titanium collarbone can be a dangerous weapon? No. That would be a no. They do, however, find and confiscate my chamois cream, thus saving an entire planeload of people from being goo-ed up needlessly. Whew! Rest easy, my fellow airline passengers.

My preconceived notion of Ryanair is that it’ll be Soviet in nature – grey, utilitarian, surly flight attendants barking orders, that sort of thing. Instead, it has a carnival hucksterish air to it – bright yellow and blue colors, and the flight attendants keep walking down the aisle pushing drinks, snacks, duty-free goods, lottery tickets, etc. All for a fee, of course. When we near Mallorca, I look out the window and see……flat land? Where are the gentle 5% hills I’m expecting? Then Stacey points to the mountains in the distance.

Stacey: That’s what we’re riding! Last year it was too flat, we rode those smaller hills, so this year we’re on the other side of the island where it’s hillier.
Me: Umm, Stacey, I hate to point this out but….those aren’t HILLS, they’re MOUNTAINS.
Stacey: Yes, but they’re only 5-6%.
Me: In what alternative universe?? Those are mountains, pretty much going straight up.
Stacey: Well, whatever, close enough. Whee!

Before I can reach over and strangle Stacey, we land. And on the drive to the hotel, it’s clear how beautiful everything is. I picture some scenic rides, enjoying the beautiful surroundings, perhaps stopping for lattes in small villages. Yes, this’ll be perfect. I love this country already....


Roadie in Vancouver said...

Who knew that chamois cream could be used as a terror weapon? What if you or anyone for that matter had already liberally applied it to where it normally goes prior to getting on the plane, just in case you were going to ride your bike straight from the airport?

JoJo said...

OMG - you need to post warnings before some of these posts because I have to close my door at the office I'm laughing so loud. I've often thought chamois cream could be a biological weapon, particularly when it gets stuck in the tube and then comes shooting out when the seal breaks. But enough of that. Enjoy Mallorca. I'm so jealous. Take Care, JoJo