Walk into a public bathroom to the suspicious greeting of silence. There’s a buzz in the air, like a rawness, and a tang tickling your nose that hints you may not be alone. The stalls all appear closed. If any is occupied, you cannot tell. Let’s say you’re in America, so the gap between the stall door and the floor is like anywhere between 3 and 15 feet high, but you don’t see the legs of any squatting person to signal occupancy. And yet, all signs point to someone other than you being in this bathroom. No silence is so thick unless someone is hiding nearby.
A smile crosses your face, and you interlace your fingers diabolically. As a certain English sleuth would say, the game is afoot! You pull a clay pipe, already lit, out of a mysterious pocket somewhere on the overcoat you’re suddenly wearing, and stick it in your mouth. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl to the first stall. Peek your head underneath. Nothing. Scooch over to the second stall. Peek your head underneath. There’s a person standing shivering in fear on the seat of the toilet. You yell, “Surprise!!!” The person spontaneously combusts (medical cause: overload of public-bathroom-anxiety, and also fear I guess, because you’re dressed like Sherlock Holmes and grinning all wide eyed up at them from underneath their locked bathroom stall door. Just so you know, that’s not a cool thing to do, no matter what country you’re in). Good times.
Yeah, so sucks for you, because you’re actually in England (I lied about America), and English public stalls are impenetrable to fun-loving sleuths like you. The stall doors and walls go all the way to the ground, so it’s like you’re sitting in your own little mini dungeon, except not made of stone, and with toilet paper.
Imagine a character named Jordan (oops, that’s my name). Jordan is walking toward an intersection, a hot coffee steaming in his hand. Traffic is flitting by, all kinds of boring silver and beige colors, with the occasional flashy red sportscar designed for rich men trying to compensate for something; Jordan can feel the gentle push of the traffic’s wind as he steps up to the edge of the street. He looks left. No traffic. He sips coffee and scalds his mouth. His tongue feels itty bitty blisters already forming. Then he steps out and gets squashed by a car.
Why? He looked the wrong way.
112% of Americans will look the wrong way when crossing traffic (statistic courtesy of My Butt, a very, very scholarly journal with authority on all kinds of relevant things). On the contrary, Londoners never look the wrong way. The streets have your back. They tell you which way to look.
It’s a shame I’m over 21 because otherwise purchasing certain liquids with inebriating side effects (legal age in the UK to purchase is 18) would be much more exhilarating. Pubs are everywhere, and after work, Londoners flock to them like cat hair on a dark sweater. Apparently it’s the thing. Americans go out at night. Londoners go out after work.
I found Baker Street and Fleet Street. On Fleet Street, although I couldn’t find the infamous Demon Barber, there’s a smashing pub, converted partially from a 13th century monastery. Apparently Charles Dickens was a regular at this pub, as well as at 7.2 million other pubs located around London. In other words, many of the older pubs here brag about Charles Dickens, but really it’s nothing special.
Air conditioning isn’t too common in London, so everyone ends up shrouded in sweet, sticky sweat and packed like mules in the underground or in a pub. Despite that, London still smells infinitely better than Philly. If Philly is a toilet clogged with rotting fast food, London is a half full trash can equipped with an air-freshener. I don’t have to pinch my nose shut walking around here.
Before Jordan got squashed by a car, he was just thinking how he really likes London.