Thursday, May 11, 2017
Don't do anything stupid
After I had my spine fixed two years ago, the lead surgeons' major item of advice was "don't do anything stupid." Too bad I didn't have his advice the first time I went to London, back in May of 1990. Going to London was not a stupid idea, far from it. I learned so much from that adventure. The STUPID idea was driving a car in London.
London was somewhat of a snap decision. I had a conversation with a broker from London one morning. She was talking about going back and forth on a monthly basis. I thought I really should go to London. I stopped by a travel agency on the way home and booked it. I bought a package through British Airways with round trip air and 6 nights hotel in a modern hotel in Hammersmith for about $800 per person including all of the taxes and fees. I had her add a rental car (hire car) to the package.
We flew overnight from Orlando. The flight was delayed several hours with mechanical problems. I had a miserable night, thinking that I would be able to sleep on the plane, I worked the day before, the plane wasn't scheduled to leave until 11:00 PM (and left at like 3:00 AM.)
Oh, yes, I was that funking clueless. After a sleepless night on a trans-Atlantic flight, several hours behind schedule I picked up the car at Gatwick and with a really terrible map, headed into the city.
To start, you drive on the opposite side of the road, and the controls are on the opposite side of the car from nearly every place else in the civilized world. So once I got out of the passenger seat and into the drivers seat, I find that the gear shift is not under my right hand, but under my left. Fortunately the pedals are in the same order, but shifting was a very conscious (in other words SLOW) process.
Then there was the matter that the map supplied by the rental car company lacked detail, it pointed in the general direction of the hotel, the detailed map I had bought didn't go out as far as Gatwick - Gatwick is so far out I am surprised they don't speak Spanish. Kind of like Dulles in the DC area, Dulles is nearly in West Virginia - don't fly there and expect to be in Washington DC.
So off we head into one of the largest cities in the world. You have seen Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circle, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace in pictures, maybe from the top of a double-decker bus, I have driven past them all. I was terribly, terribly lost, driving on the wrong side of the road, shifting with my left hand. I eventually paid a taxi driver to show me the way to the hotel. As I recall I was so grateful I gave the taxi driver a 50 pound note for a 20 pound fare and insisted that he keep the change. It was worth every pence. I paid more to park the car at the hotel, than I had paid to rent it for the week, and didn't move it again until it was time to go back to the airport. The trip back to the airport was much easier, there was an entrance to the motorway two blocks from the hotel. I even managed a stop at an English Country Pub for lunch.
All in, renting a car in London was one of the stupidest things I have ever done when traveling. It was also the adventure of a lifetime. Looking back it would have been cheaper to hire a Rolls Royce to chauffeur us to and from the hotel - that would have also been a grand adventure. Would I do it again, NO, do I really regret it, NO, it was a wild adventure.
What is the stupidest thing you have ever done while traveling?