London, I

These drivers are terrible. Everyone drives on the wrong side of the road here. It is cool how everyone has a British accent, though.

Okay, the intentional American insensitivity is out of the way. Let’s move onto any unintentional insensitivity. Note that this is lightly edited and was written with nasty jetlag on three-ish nonconsecutive hours of sleep during an abnormally long drive to the hotel on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day. What this means is that it’s probably safe to ignore any insanity herein. Also I was feeling mildly neurotic because our hours’ drive took three hours and I was hot, hungry, and dehydrated. But so far, it’s been great.
Note that this is not intended to be chronological, but merely a way to help me remember the drive and prevent insanity from nesting itself further .

The Americans’ tour continued. Our bus swerved through the tight streets of London- they certainly seemed tight compared to the fat United States interstate, anyway- showing ever more of the city. I couldn’t help but compare it to the other cities I’d been in. I’d walked the streets of Knoxville, Chattanooga, Baltimore, and D.C., so while no expert on the urban, I wasn’t a country hick. Our journey began (disregarding the airport) in what I would call suburbs. They reminded me of Columbia Heights in D.C.- a row of residential houses all physically connected with their own little garden and doorway in front, rarely with a driveway to be found. Instead, the streets were lined with cars shoved against the edge of the sidewalk. Few walked here, as there were hardly any shops, and what were tended to have shutters shut. The description of the shops may sound sketchy, and think of criminals, but it didn’t seem quite like that to my highly trained eye. It just didn’t seem like a good place to open a shop.

London is so much more friendly to bikers than anywhere I’ve been. D.C. had bike lanes, but they were quite new and the drivers seemed to have taken the lanes as a personal insult to their dominance of the roads. Nevertheless, it was against the law to hit bikers.* Knoxvillian drivers treat bikers like the person talking loudly on the bus- they glare at them and aren’t afraid of a passive-aggressive shoulder bump to show who’s boss.

Seriously, the swerving of this bus is terrifying. It’s not the swerving really; if we were swerving in an empty parking lot I wouldn’t give it a second thought other than to wonder about our presence and purpose there, but it’s the nearly hitting everything that worries me. Traffic lights, cars, pedestrians- it’s as if our bus driver thinks he’s driving the Knight bus and all obstacles will step aside with nary a thought. The lanes are definitely smaller here.

*It also ‘is’ against the law to hit bikers. With car or fist, although it’s interesting to compare the pros and cons: one is much easier to get away with and less likely to get charges pressed, but the other gives you a much speedier getaway, especially considering the first involves you on foot and an angry person on a bike.