Friday, July 25, 2008

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bar...err...Pub

Yet another installment from the Way Back Machine (aka Eric's archived mail), here is an email from my business traveling days. Warning! What you are about to read will tell you that clearly, I'm a goofball. Oh and it's a really long story. Get a cuppa and have a seat!

April 15, 2000.

And then there was Dublin...

After a 14 hour flight - oh wait. There's an anecdote in-between the leaving and the arriving.

So it's almost time for my flight and I am walking through the British Airways lounge (these places are really nice, by the way - open bar, snacks, showers, computer connections...), when a guy stares at me funny and begins to speak in Spanish. Suddenly he switches to English and asks me in a very American accent:

"Excuse me, are you an American?"
Startled at this, I stop walking and laugh. "Yes, actually. Does it show?" Must be a lucky guess, everyone else seems to think I'm Colombian or something.
"Well, no. Is your name Victoria?" he smiles, embarrassed.
"Nope, sorry!"
"Oh, you look just like this woman I met 3 months ago..." Probably my second cousin. I seem to look like everyone's second cousin. Except Eric's.
"Nope, sorry. Not me!"

I smile, and take off to get to my plane. After many minutes I get onto the plane, go to my seat and would you believe? The guy that thought I was Victoria is in my seat!

"We meet again." I say. He looks up startled. "And this time, you're in my seat."

He figures it out, apologizes and winds up in the middle seat. Of course, I get his story. Did I ever tell you that I have an amazing ability to get the life story out of people I come in contact with on very short notice? I don't TRY to, it just works out that way. I'm certain it's a +5 or +10 advantage (gaming geek talk, if you don't get it, never mind). He's very interesting and his name is Allan. We ascertain that I'm really not Victoria. He's been trying to get to London for 36 hours and has been on, and off, 5 planes in that time. Each one broke down in a strange and vague manner. Very Odd. We chat, we eat, we discuss movies, we read/watch movies and sleep. Business class going overseas is very nice.

Twelve hours (with 4 hours of sleep) later, we land in London's Gatwick airport. The absolute worst airport I've even been in for trying to figure out how to get around in! Even though the signs are in English, I don't get it. Finally I make it to the right location, get frisked by a female security guard, even though I didn't set the alarm off and have my computer bag thoroughly checked. I should have this guy come look for spare change in your couches...He'd make a fortune in lost earrings and small change, I'm certain. I get on the plane, I fall into a fitful sleep. Across the aisle, I notice a young blonde woman looking as exhausted as I feel. I smile at her in tired understanding Two hours later - Ireland! Exit the plane, discover that what they consider spring isn't very warm in Dublin and that none of my clothes are up to the task. I determine that I'm an idiot but will have to make do with what I have. We all go to collect our luggage. As we do so, the young lady says hello. We begin to chat.

Her name is Susie and she's from Kalamazoo, Michigan, here on business for a company called Stryker [Ed. Susie! If you're out there reading, say hi in the comments! How crazy would that be, eh?!]. Something about surgical supply, artificial hips and whatnot. Her work is actually in Limerick, but she's come to see Dublin over the weekend. We discuss what I'm doing there and that neither one of us has plans for the evening. She seems incredibly personable. Almost like a somewhat older version of my younger sister. We decide we should hang together. We get a cab together and she decides to see if she can get a room in my hotel, since hers is even farther out from Dublin. There are no rooms available in Dublin. Since she had offered me space on her floor in case I didn't have a hotel room, I felt strangely bound to reciprocate and offer her a bed if there are two in my room and she can't find a room. Her hotel situation sounds far more nebulous than mine. Turns out that they don't have any rooms available and that my room does have a second bed in it. Suddenly, I have a roommate. [Ed. To this day, that was one of the craziest things I'd ever done: hook up with a strange girl in a foreign land to go sightseeing.]

That's right boys. I managed to pick up a cute, young blonde, an hour and a half after arriving in Dublin and took her back to my room. I've still got it! ; >

We hit the showers (separately! it's not that kind of a relationship!). Aahhhh! A shower! Call a cab and then wander around the premises. Very nice. Very grand. When I was asked where I wanted to stay, my contact asked me if I wanted quiet or in the city. I went with quiet. Next time, I'll go with the city...Quiet was nice, but we kept going into the city so it quickly became silly of me to have stayed so far outside of it. By the time we get in, all the shops are closed. It's not tourist season yet, so everything closes early. We have dinner - Italian. Apparently it's all the rage in Ireland now - Italian cooking. Thousands of miles from home and I'm still eating the same food! We talk - a LOT - about all kinds of things. We bond further. We watch people as they go by. Very DRUNK people. Turns out there was a huge game and the Welsh have won? Lost? I'm not clear, but everyone is happy and drunk. We wander around, looking to get into a pub but they're closed. At eleven?!! Old British laws, still on the books, make the pubs close down at 11 at night so as to keep the Irish from becoming corrupt drunkards. In response, they open the pubs early - around lunchtime - so drinking starts early and goes long. And if you make it in before 11, they'll draw the curtains and keep serving for along as an hour or so after closing, but we miss the deadline. We continue our journey.

More walking, more watching. We are now in search of a dance bar. We stand in line for 20 minutes and watch the clubbing girls go past. In summer weight dresses, sandals and no jackets. I'm freezing and think they're insane. Just as I've decided that the music for this club we're waiting to get into is lame, we hear that they are now closed to the public and they're only letting those in with private invitations. Well! Off we go again. More walking, more people watching. Another club is also "closed". They're being choosy we're told, but not being in the mood for it, we move on. We go to a coffee house and talk more. It's getting very late now and we decide it's time to head back to the hotel and get some sleep. It's now 2AM. I'm running on 4 hours of sleep and have been awake since 8AM London time...We go to find a public phone [Ed. In the days before absolutely everyone carried a cell phone.], in order to call our driver - Peter. They aren't accepting money. I try using my calling card, but that doesn't work either. Hmm. This could be bad. Across the street from us is a dance bar with GOOD music coming out of it. Let's go over there and see if they've got a phone! We go. We knock upon the purple door. The bouncer looks at the two of us and asks if we really think they're still open. We attempt to explain the situation and how I've a calling card, can we please use the phone?

"This phone doesn't take calling cards. Sorry."
"Wait!" We explain the situation a little more clearly. We're waiting for our ride....OOPS! Wrong thing to say. Over there that means sex...Susie rephrases while the doorman pauses a bit, stunned. I explain, slowly, using small words, that the public phones are all broken, and that I have money, can I please use the phone to call our cab so we can go back to our hotel? Oh...sure! I place the call. I tell Peter where we are so he can find us.

"Are ya sure you don't want to go have a bit of coffee somewhere?"
"Oh, no. We just had some. We'll just wait outside here and watch the people while we wait for you."
"Are you certain, now?"
"Oh, yes. We'll be fine."
"Alright then. See you in a few."

We disconnect, thank the doorman and then wait outside, in the doorway facing the street and watch the people go by. A couple of things I need to point out to you - the Dubliners that I've run into so far have been INCREDIBLY friendly. Even the non-drunk ones. And the ones that are drunk are SO drunk that I am constantly AMAZED that they are able to continue standing, let alone walking. I've never before seen the like. We decide, as a game, to count the number of people that crash into the pole in front of us until Peter arrives.

So we're standing there and I notice something odd happening in the car waiting in front of us. There are people in the car looking at us and laughing. Well, I haven't a clue what it's about, so I don't fret about it. Soon, we notice a small scene occurring on the corner across the street to our left. A group of young men have come out of the pub and are milling around. Soon, they're not milling. Instead they're fondling one another in different levels of drunkenness and kissing. French kissing. Ab-so-lute-ly looking for tonsils. I am stunned. Susie and I make eye contact and the same thought strikes us - we're standing in front of a gay bar, aren't we?

The George, it turns out, is a hot and happening gay club and we're standing right in front of it.

Oh. So that's why Peter was trying to get us to go elsewhere! Too subtle for me. Very polite. Perhaps he thinks...? Oh dear...! We laugh. We continue to watch until Peter shows up. We tumble into the car and burst into laughter.

"Peter! It's a gay club!"
"Oh, aye. I know it." He laughs, too. We tell him about what we saw and he says, "Welcome to Dublin." Did I mention that Peter reminds me of Pierce Brosnan around the eyes and brows? Hair is too light, though. More of a sandy brown than black. He's great fun and very nice. He took care of us for the weekend. Our driving needs, that is.

By the way, in case you're wondering: Pole - 7, Drunks - 0. And one for Susie.

Back to the hotel to sleep, perchance to sleep. We get aggressive and make plans for the morning. Ask for a wake up call at 8AM. We crash. Mightily. The phone rings far too soon and I answer it. "Susie...Susie wake up." No response. I fall back asleep. An hour or so later I wake up again, I'm supposed to be sightseeing, not sleeping!

"Susie. Susie." Still no response. I try to look at my watch to determine what time it is. I'm SO tired that I'm literally CROSS-EYED trying to look at my watch. The hell with this. I go back to sleep and wake up when I'm ready.

At 2:30PM.

Oh man! We dress and go into town. Racing around, shooting pictures while the light is still good. Nice buildings, cool doors. Incredible churches. Except that it's Sunday and most everything is what? That's right, closed.

However, St. Patrick's Cathedral isn't. It's an incredible building.
St. Patrick is reputed to have baptized converts on this spot, indicating that there has been a church here since around 450 A.D. It's the oldest Christian site in Dublin. Not much is left of the original construction in 1191, a fire in the 1400s destroyed most of it and it was rebuilt.

Any which way you look at it, though - it's of immense age and has an incredible history. I shoot what I can, but I'm running low on film [Ed. Film!], time and daylight. We move on, shoot more pictures, have dinner and then go in search of a pub. The first one we get to is full, so we go to the one on the corner across the street from it. The Oliver St. John Gogarty on Fleet Street. It's jam packed. Everyone is singing. The Scots, you see, have beaten the English at rugby and it's a VERY big deal. The Scots were supposed to lose and everyone is amazed that they won and is celebrating. However, they aren't celebrating the Scots winning. They're celebrating the English LOSING. Old feelings die hard around here. We squeeze our way in to the bar and get a round of drinks. Rum and coke for me, Guinness for her. We tried going to the Guinness factory but it was - yup - closed. We look around for a place to sit in the mad house. Bodies lurch out of the way for a moment, giving me a glimpse of a couple of older gentlemen sitting at a bench and table with their backs to the wall. They smile and gesture us over to come and sit with them. We go over and strike up a conversation. The gents are Welsh, and are wearing tuxes in celebration. They're really quite funny and very nice to us. Somewhere in their 60s, we aren't threatening to them and they aren't to us. I'm glad to have someplace to sit and watch the crowd. The people are singing and laughing. The crush is amazing - very like New Year's in Times Square. You have to press upon other people to get through the crowds. Several young men smile and wave. Some others, amazingly drunk, dance and sing at us. I laugh and enjoy the people. I'm told that I'm an "absolute cracker" and have to ask my Welsh friend for a translation. Stunning, he says. I thank the complimenter and he continues to mutter "Complete cracker!" to himself.

We buy a couple more rounds, sing, talk and laugh. Susie makes the acquaintance of a nice young man named Nigel. I, on the other hand, have a man come up to me, looking very proud of himself. After he sees me finish talking to Nigel, who's just walked off, asks me if Nigel is my boyfriend.

"Oh no. My husband is at home."
"You're married?!"
"Oh yes."
"That's a shame." Sad look.
"Not for me, it isn't!"
"Well, if you hadn't been, I'd've stayed and talked to you." Sigh. "As it is..." His voice trails away and he follows it. I give his departing form a wolfish grin. My Welshman turns to me and comments on my man's audacity. We have a good, wicked laugh at his expense. Chalk another one up for me! [Ed. OMG! I'm full of myself, aren't I? So embarrassing!]

Now it's late and I determine that I have to go back to the hotel because in the morning, I've got to train fourteen people I know nothing about. So I trundle off to bed, reeking of cigarette smoke. They smoke like chimney stacks over there, the Irish and the Europeans. There are so many people from all over that I have a hard time telling who's supposed to be Irish apart from all others. Sometimes, as you walk along and listen to snatches of conversation, it's impossible to tell if it's English, Irish or some other darned language that's being spoken. It's fun to hear all the different accents, though. Irish sounds, to me, like a bizarre combination of almost French, German and Spanish. It's very strange, but very pleasant to hear.

In the morning, I have an adventure just trying to get into the office to work. But I'll leave that story for another day!

Hatchet - the International Training Woman of Mystery

- - - - -

Whew! Did you make it through that whole thing? I've got more stories lined up, if you can handle it. Face it, I was blogging before I knew what blogging was. Unfortunately I don't have the photos in digital. Then again, maybe it's better that way. Imagine how much longer it would be with pictures?!


screamish said...

crazy story. you realize of course you should be writing a book and not fritterring your talents away on the likes of us reading your blog, don't you????

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Thanks Screamish! The only problem is that I'm really good at frittering!

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