If for no reason other than the fact that Marilyn thinks that I can relate a good tale and that Gwen asked, I thought I'd recount a small tale of whimsy that evolved whilst I was completing my last contract over in the area now (at least today) referred to as the FSU.
It seems that I was returning from a contractual stint over in the 'Stans (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazhakstan...), with a small layover in Ulaan Bataar to visit some friends (which in itself is quite another story...), when I suddenly and quite unexpectedly was being brusquely awakened by a BA (British Airways) cabin attendant asking me to "Put out that damned cigar, you're scaring the folks in first class." Shaking off the cobwebs, I politely asked her what day this was.
"Well, dearie. Where are you coming from?"
Not wishing to point out her dangling participle, nor exacerbate my hangover, I replied "Tashkent...although that was on a Tuesday."
"Oh, dear.", she replied. "Today is Saturday, and we're coming into Heathrow. You're not British, are you?"
Suppressing the desire to inquire how she could have possibly arrived at that obvious conclusion (I guess the Dockers and the size 15 mud-caked Vasque Trekker fieldboots now blocking the Business Class aisle confused her...), I politely asked for (a.) a landing pass, (b.) a customs declaration, (c.) a fresh microglacier for my drink and (d.) anything (but scotch) with alcohol in it.
She complied with all but the latter. After landing, I swore I would either buy her a real drink or throttle her. Luckily, (for all concerned) her brother was a hackney driver who needed the fare from Heathrow to Gatwick (75 fucking pounds!) and she was going home; of course, in that general direction. She explained that she would be glad to split the fare.
"Of course," she explained, "I'd be glad to split the fare.", "Oh, by the by, who did you say you were working for?"
"Globalenvirodecimate Energy, Inc.."
"Oh, bonzers! Then you're on per diem. Great! I can see the folks for free!"
Unfortunately, England's views on unpremeditated murder are as silly as our's in the US.
She hailed her sibling, and after much swearing and cajoling, we loaded the GIS station, Worden gravimeter, my Cirris station, enviropack and my personal effects ("liquid assets", don'tchaknow...wink, wink, nudge, nudge) into an ancient, wheezing Bentley and headed off on the M5.
Taking particular note of the "No fuckin' smokin', mate" signs liberally plastered all over the passenger compartment of his vehicle, I immediately sparked up a fine Turkmenistanian double maduro. "Look, mate. I ain't going to argue...(Watch out for that fucking lorry!!!), but do keep the ashes off the seat."
Of course, of course.
I am nothing if not cordial.
With only a few near death experiences and a boil-over outside of Cockfosters, we arrived at the Gatwick Hilton. "Blimey!" remarks our driver, "What a bloody fucking nightmare that was!"
I couldn't agree more.
With considerable help of both sib and sibling, I get my room booked, get a porter (who later complained of mud poisoning and the excessive cheapness of Yanks), I flopped into a real room, with real walls (not goat skins stretched over poles!) and real running water!
Looking forward to an extended period of extensive liver abuse and eating of room service on someone else's ticket, the blinkering room phone rings.
"Who the bloody hell can that be?" (I've been in country too long.) "No one knows even I'm here." I mused, musedly.
"'ello, mate. This is Cynt'ia. My brot'er and I are over at the 'orse and Groom. You said that if we were ever in the neig'borhood, to call; and well, 'ere we are!"
Come to find out, Cynt'ia and her brother Basil (I am NOT making this up!) were over at one of my favorite pubs right across the motorway from Gatwick; and Cynthia (bless her little synapses) has a most astounding, (and inconvenient) memory. I did say that if you were ever in the neighborhood and had a few spare minutes, to look me up.
Of course, I really did not intend for them to do it that same evening.
Trying to beg off claiming excessive work, sleep deprivation and severe alcohol poisoning; proved rather ineffectual. "Oh, come on, Yank! 'Smatter, a little too much Clan McFiddich the previous night?"
Those were _fighting_ words.
Especially to one accustomed to the finer things in life, like bourbon!
We hacked our way over to the Horse and Groom, but I made it quite plain that I had to file a report and expense account before I could indulge in the heady repasts of British hospitality.
"Bring the bloody thing with, it's got a battery, dinit?"
How could I argue with such logic? Remember, these isles spawned Darwin, Churchill and Monty Python.
So, I sallied forth into the Horse and Groom, sporting a new shirt, new Dockers, a clean pair of Reeboks, my Pentium ("Correct at least 99.556432% of the time.") laptop, and a desire to kill off as many weak brain cells as remained.
The night started off (hell...it's already midnight in Tashkent...) with a rouser of "Bring the boys back home" and pub darts. Luckily, my grim visage of 25 stone, imported, dark and nasty cigar, and total envelopment into a small computer surpassed their glance.
At least for a while.
"Blimey, mate. What thell you lookin' at?"
"Oh, nothing, really. I just filed an outrageous, and totally fallacious, expense account and happened upon an old "HolySmoke" file that I didn't delete before I left..."
"'olySmoke? What the bloody 'ell is that?"
"Oh, that's right. You still live in the dark ages..."
I'm nothing if not a spokesman.
So, (to the cajoling of all present ...and the promise of drinks to come...), pulled up the file "HolySmok.TU2", circa December.
We tittered over David Rice.
We chortled over Mratin Glodbreg.
We thought Dan Ceppa had too much time on his hands.
We hooted over Hector Plasmic.
We laughed out loud over Phil Morrison.
We goat-damned wet ourselves over Michael Hardy.
We shook our collective heads over John Prewett.
We thought that Arthur Beile should be committed
Amazing how truth transcends time barriers..
...In England, coffee is just toasted milk. And scotch is worse.