Thursday, April 26, 2007

Next time, just hit me with a fish

I had a great trip. Really, I did. But because this isn't a warm fuzzy blog, and the majority of the people in the service industry in London annoyed the fuck out of me, here's a list of the top 10 things that pissed me off in England.

Don't let those nice accents fool you; things have changed in the four years since I've visited and they wanted our tourist dollars. This year is apparently the busiest tourist year on record in London, which normally gets 50 million tourists annually.

Sometimes, when I had to deal with actual people, it felt like we were in Fawlty Towers. I was half expecting John Cleese to come out and hit me with a fish (that's actually Monty Python, but the service - or lack thereof - really was that absurd.)

1. Customer service is non-existent. An American friend living there says service in England is considered to be for "posh" (read: wealthy) people who pay for it, and Americans get annoyed because we don't have the same kind of class system and expect to get what we pay for.

If you're being served by anyone except a prositute, expect the worst. Well, who knows? Maybe the prostitutes are bitchy and disinterested, too. Or maybe for that you must pay extra.

Case in point: no one has change for a 20 pound note, even thought everything generally costs more than 10 pounds. Our hotel managed to break this note for me and gave me - surprise! - a 5 pound note that was out of circulation. Thank you so much. Then when I came back, instead of apologizing, they informed me that I could go in any bank and change it, after insulting my intelligence and asking several times if I had indeed gotten the bad 5 from the hotel. I was pushy enough to get them to give me another one, which I ended up exchanging for $10 (nothing like doubling your money) at the airport on the way home. Which reminds me of another complaint (see #4.)

2. The bitch working for American Airlines who sent us to Heathrow when our flight from Gatwick was canceled, made us pay for our own ($67) bus tickets, and then got irritated when I asked where the buses departed from. Up yours, lady.

3. The drivers who nearly hit us and our friends every day. When the one car (one!) actually stopped for us at a crosswalk, instead of driving through it after running a red, I felt warm all over.

4. The fact that our money was worthless! OK, maybe it's not England's fault that the dollar sucks and the pound is the strongest ever, since maybe the time when England owned most of the world due to the cunning use of flags (credit Eddie Izzard.) But I resent paying $29 for two sandwiches and two desserts and a bottle of water to go. Wouldn't you?

5. I resent paying 17.5 percent sales tax on EVERYTHING. Then again, I'm sure I would resent it much, much more if I lived there, and paid this in addition to fuck-all taxes already. But hell, this is a country that used to tax sunlight. (I am not making it up. The boarded up windows on old buildings are a testament to this.)

6. No one knows what an iced mocha is! Espresso, milk, chocolate syrup. This isn't rocket science. One guy thought I was talking about a milkshake.

7. Smoke, smoke, everywhere, and no air to breathe. Cough, cough. This forced us to go to that really authentic English place, Starbucks, for many lunches and coffees, because they had the temerity to prohibit smokes inside.

8. The fact that the British government adopted a tax of $40 per ticket after our tickets were booked, but we still had to pay it to get on the goddamned plane. Only in England would this bullshit be legal. Can you imagine buying a car and having the state of Oregon come back and tell you, eight months later, that you owed tax? What if I hadn't had a credit card? Would my husband and I still be at Heathrow? Probably...

9. Any and all German tourists. I can't believe even one nanometer of my DNA has to do with you fuckers. You were the rudest of the rude. You have no concept of personal space, your language is ugly, and you're all generally fat, drunk, or both. And as for the Nazi uber-bitch who wouldn't help me figure out how to pay for the e-mail service at Heathrow so I could send a message to my friend about our new flights, fuck you lady! Had you not been with your kid, I would have let the choice words flow freely from my brain to my mouth.

10. I've actually run out of things to bitch about now, but don't worry. I'll think of something soon :)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I will miss him, even though I never met him

Only a few come along in each generation, and it seems they get less and less talented - diluted? - as the generations go by.

Kurt Vonnegut was one of my heroes. Cynical and sarcastic and pessimistic, yet with undertones of hope and love and kindness. Vonnegut went through his own personal hell (his mother's suicide, his own depression, the near simultaneous deaths of his sister and her husband) - and he even had to sell Saabs for awhile, after a promising career as a short story writer dried up as the market for them did.

While he bemoaned the muck our political system and world had become, while he professed certain doom, he told us to treasure each other, go out and enjoy ourselves. I think he was secretly hopeful for the human race.

He thought the solution for all of our problems was to have stronger family support systems. He obviously didn't meet my extended family :)

But seriously -

He was amazingly resilient, adopting his nephews, going to therapy instead of turning to substance abuse or personal destructiveness, pushing on when most of us wouldn't have been able to put one foot in front of the other.

He said, in one book, "I didn't expect to amount to a hill of beans." But he did. He was an inspiration for those of us who were frustrated with government evils, the tyranny of censorship, and the general malaise of our country.

I should have written him and stated as much. I'm sure thousands of others did, though.

My brother was lucky enough to meet him - twice! - and said he had a wicked twinkle in his eye. Fortunately for us, he had a wicked persistence with his pen.

And although he didn't believe in an afterlife, as the Humanist Society, which adopted him as their honorary president, would put it, Kurt Vonnegut is in heaven now.

And as Vonnegut recalled his uncle Alex saying, What could be better than that?

Monday, April 09, 2007

What the fuck is wrong with you people?

We're all volunteers, so at least we should be considerate to each other. We have the co-chair who doesn't even fucking live here but is still PDX co-chair, who talks to people like they're his employees (news for you, fuck face, we're not). We have the co-chair who didn't bother showing up tonight (probably because he got drunk on his day off), didn't send me an agenda, and then (accidentally? drunkly?) forwarded comments I made about the asshole co-chair who hijacked my committee meeting to other volunteers. Thanks, bro.

We have the co-chair who never, ever shows up for meetings - or if she does, she's at least 45 minutes late - or replies to e-mails, and constantly bitches about having to do these things (even though she doesn't) but no one will call her on it because, let's face it, she's a minority female. Well, so am I, but it's not as obvious, so does it not count? Should I stop showing up?

Yes, there are some intelligently bitchy posts on this blog. This isn't one of them. This is one strictly to be on the receiving end of rants I cannot continue out loud without the risk of driving my husband crazy.

On a positive note, there is not a shortage of espresso in the world :)