In a series of posts we will hear the views, insights and amusing tales of this inspired longtime Boris supporter who jumps between New York and London at frequent intervals: Downtown Gotham Girl.
No doubt Gotham Girl would understand Boris when he recently opened London Fashion Week and described London as “the greatest city on earth”.
I’ve spent time in both New York and London. Like so many others before me, I’ve noticed that the cities have much in common. However, I think the interesting stories lie in how each city manages things – for good or bad – in their own way.
‘New York vs. London’ is popular but inaccurate. It’s not ‘vs.’ It’s not even ‘or.’ It is very much ‘and’. There is New York and there is London.
Then there is the act of traveling between the two.
I do it rather a lot and travel between the two cities has been very much on my mind lately — partially because I’m overdue for a trip and partially because Boris was in New York recently to meet with Mayor Bloomberg and boost tourism between the two cities. I am all for that idea. In fact, I have done more than my part to boost travel between two of my favorite cities, for years – hosting London-based friends by the planeload, playing tourist myself in London year after year.
One of my favorite parts of the trip – regardless of direction – is that wonderful moment when I am confronted with THE QUESTION.
No, not: “Will the taxi line be ungodly?” – a New York-only question since London does a far better job with trains to and from the airports. Nor is it: “Where will I find a decent Dover sole now that Manzi’s is closed?” though that question still looms large now that Manzi’s is closed.
No, THE QUESTION is “Business or pleasure?”
It sounds harmless, right? It can be harmless but one must answer carefully or face unforeseen delays. There I am – coming off a plane ride just long enough to make me forget the hell of NYC airport security but more than long enough to make my knees go numb. I’m wholly focused on getting to my hotel to lie down and possibly eating something more appetizing than the chicken or the pasta choices offered mid-flight (which resembled neither chicken nor pasta). Nowadays, I always say “pleasure” even if I am there for business. Why? Because the last time I said “business” – it all went slightly Ionesco.
“Business or pleasure?” the woman at the desk asked me.
That’s where the trouble started. “What business are you in?” and because it was terribly early and I was exhausted, therefore not thinking clearly, I answered truthfully. “I’m an indexer.”
There it was –the usual stare. “A what?” she asked.
“An indexer.” More staring. “I index books.” The stare followed by the blink. I cannot even tell you how often this happens. I sighed, “The alphabetical list of things in the back of the book.”
“And you have to come to London to do this?” she sounded skeptical.
“No, I could do it pretty much anywhere. But the people I need to see at the moment are here.”
“An indexer?” She repeated it as if trying it on for size. Apparently, it didn’t quite fit. “I’ve never heard of someone doing that.”
“Well, there aren’t many of us, admittedly.”
“What about computers?”
As I mentioned, I was not at my brightest and best at that hour so it was my turn to stare blankly. “What about them?”
“A computer. Why don’t you use a computer to do it?”
“I do use a computer but a computer can’t read. All it can do is see.”
“Listen, I’m sorry – I’ve just gotten off a very long flight – where might I find the ladies?”
“Oh, right. Sorry. Through there. Have a nice trip.”
Which is why when THE QUESTION is posed, I just say “pleasure,” It’s quick, easy – has the added bonus of being the truth. I’ll enjoy any trip to London.
Do not think that this sort of thing happens only in London. Coming home, THE QUESTION isn’t any easier – especially if one chooses to be hyper-technical about details (as I have noticed people in uniforms behind plexi-glass tend to be).
“Business or pleasure” asks the clean-cut young man whose peppiness and sharply pressed shirt marked him as new to the job
“Neither,” I yawn. “Coming home.”
“So pleasure.” he says.
“Oh come on. It’s a beautiful day out!” Ah, the enthusiasm of youth and of someone who hasn’t just spent hours listening to the woman in the next row compare her marriage (unfavorably) to that of her sister.
“I haven’t BEEN outside yet.” I point out. “I’ve been in a plane.”
“Well, it’s a beautiful day out,” he assures me. “You will be glad you’ve come home.”
“Are you new?”
“Is this a new job for you? Have you been here long?”
“About 4 weeks,” he tells me.
“That’s great. I hope that next time I come through, you still enjoy your work as much as you do now. I’m sure if I were more awake, I would find it refreshing and bracing. But at the moment, all I want to do is go home and sleep.”
He nods sympathetically, staples the two forms together and waves me through. “Sleep well,” he says.
“Thanks.” He was sweet and he meant well. So I added, “And thanks for the welcome home.”
You know – I miss THE QUESTION. I miss London. Time to check those fares.