Weird City

The thing is, I’m a creature of habit. I feel immeasurably better knowing that I know how to get to my hostel now, and I am a little bit nervous of all the strangers out there. In my normal life, I have a very proscribed sense of place and who I am in that place. Here, not so much. I could be anyone! So I’ve decided to acclimatize as best I can to being a denizen of this city as much as I can.

Here’s some stuff I have observed and am emulating:

Londoners have this really special way of crossing the street. They wait there sedately for the light to change, and when it takes too long and there are no cars coming, they go anyway! I haven’t figured out exactly how they decide, because sometimes there’s no cars coming forever and they just stand there. At other times, there’s the briefest hesitation and then they leap across the road like so many biped gazelles. They really do move quickly.

They say sorry. Lots. Man, as a Canadian who apologizes even more than normal Canadians, I can get behind this. They do it in person if their toddler runs out in front of you, they do it when their sleeves brush you, and they do it when their city passes indoor smoking bylaws. Seriously, I would have photographed the sign in the pub window, but I was busy grooving with my Inner Brit. The sign was basically, ‘We are very sorry that this inconvenience has been so unjustly leveled on you, our valued patrons. We are so very sorry that we can’t even make a nice patio space for you to smoke and drink on, because of the draconian laws and the unreasonableness of the city, and they just don’t want you to have fun, and we’re really sorry, but we just won’t take a health code violation for you to keep drinking and smoking here. Sorry. Really sorry.’

Their crazy people are not so intimidating. No one has asked me for change yet, apart from those magazines that the homeless get printed and sell for change. Not one teenage punk with a rottie cross on a piece of rope sitting outside a store in a fetid nest of rags. And most of the homeless people I see have their hair dyed pink or orange. I don’t know what that’s about. Although there was one old guy with a strong Eastern European accent on the tube who wandered along in his dapper suit, blessing people as he went. Catholic style, with the four points of the cross. You know, I just wasn’t scared of him, even though he started talking about how everyone needed to be happier.

Also, I am acclimatizing by not wearing a brightly coloured backpack. Seriously, why do people think they’re not going to get pickpocketed when they load 15 pounds of gear on their backs and then wander around in a foreign city, pausing to gawk at buildings while crowds swirl past them? Hell, I could be making money off some of the rubes I’ve seen, and I’m not really in pickpocketing practice.

I am also becoming aware that I just don’t have enough time to do this place justice. Maybe even in my whole lifetime.

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