With a flight from London Heathrow to Los Angeles LAX pretty early Saturday (December 29, 2012) morning, I decided to leave Edinburgh on Friday. And stay close by the airport that night. From LA to New Orleans, San Fran to New York, Yosemite to Vancouver, and Vegas to Dublin – I don’t recall regretting leaving a single place over the previous more than a couple of months as much as I did Edinburgh. Sunlight barely present through ever-present cloud seemed to twinkle all the more gaily from the Winter Wonderland fairgrounds as I entered Waverly Station with Sarah. I hadn’t seen her since Christmas Day, and had gotten in touch with her on Facebook to say that I’d like the chance to say goodbye properly. Such as when Carlo woke me from sleeping through my alarm the morning of my subway commute to JFK International Airport then exodus from New York, I’d not always had the chance to say a proper goodbye to the people I’d met and spent time with in each city of my odyssey. Sarah met me near my hostel that morning, before we had brunch nearby the station where we later hugged, she turned, and unceremoniously left me watching the screens for my departure. Most of the four hour train journey was spent wistfully watching the grey shores of Scotland turn into the green fields of England then the sombre suburban sprawl of London. Some of the early part of it was spent talking to an energetic young man I sat beside, before moving to a vacant seat on the east-side of the train. He told me some interesting stories, such as how he’d once woken from a night out in Edinburgh wearing someone else’s pants (yet he didn’t even, and never did, know who their original owner was). Perhaps in poor spirits at the swiftly approaching end to my journey, I didn’t so much as acknowledge him as I left the train in London.
Upon alighting at Paddington Station I made my way to a nearby McDonald’s, as it was dinnertime and I apparently needed some comfort food. The “restaurant” was so busy I sat and ate on some stairs – from where I could see someone slumped in a corner, vomiting, being briefly fussed over by unenthusiastic staff. The scene suited, if didn’t greatly help my mood. Fed, and kind of fed up, I caught the Tube west for the final time and set foot out of a station somewhere, possibly in Southall, nearby the airport looking for a warm bed and a roof over my head for one last night in the UK. I’d start wishing I’d planned ahead better to fly directly out of Edinburgh. Though I did largely enjoy the train trip south. So, in Southall, or wherever, I wandered aimlessly in search of lodging. I pressed an after hours button out the front of a tiny hotel just off the main road. Waited. Then I pressed it again. And waited, again – as carbon dioxide swirled visibly in front of my face. But no one ever came downstairs to lift my chin by welcoming me inside out of the cold. Dejected, I walked back to the station and continued on to the stop closest the airport. For the life of me, I can’t remember exactly which hotel I stayed at that night. Let’s say the Travelodge. It doesn’t really matter. Nice place. It had good computers with which I could upload photos to Facebook. (I didn’t really care about broadcasting my trip photographically to a bunch of people who probably couldn’t care less; I just figured it was a good way to ensure I didn’t lose most of them if my camera came to an untimely end.) Gin and tonics were cheap at the bar, and I managed to enjoy a couple before easily falling asleep in a large, soft hotel bed. Probably after watching some quality British comedy on the TV. But before waking for my flight, one of the strangest things to happen to me during the entire trip would transpire.
It must have been about 2am. Not a late hour for some people on a Friday night, by any means. But it certainly woke me up. There was knocking, and murmuring at my door. Then, as still now, I wasn’t entirely sure I wasn’t dreaming, but staggered out from under the doona to confront the visitor with my bleary eyed countenance. It was a young, blonde, casually dressed and quite attractive woman. I can’t remember what, if anything, she said. I looked to the left, down the hallway, and only a few steps away was a slightly older, unshaven man on the phone. He briefly, and with little interest, regarded me before continuing to talk while looking off into the distance through the wall. I looked back at her, and though I could not see any malice in her eyes, instinct told me to close and lock the door and crawl back into bed. Knocking and pleading continued softly for about five minutes, then stopped and I returned to sleep. I’m still glad I decided to close the door in her face. At best, they were after a threesome, and I don’t particularly fondly entertain the idea of having a threesome with a woman – however attractive – and another man I know, let alone a couple I don’t. And of course, at worst, well, who knows what they might have done had they entered my room. The next morning while checking out I asked the concierge if there were CCTV cameras in the hotel’s halls, before telling him what had happened. He said that, no, there weren’t any cameras but qualified that at least I had woken safely. Indeed. So, tragedy – or orgy – avoided, I set off out of the hotel with full pack on a foot journey I can’t remember well enough to bother outlining, to my Heathrow departure gate to Los Angeles. Can’t even really remember the flight. I probably just watched and listened to movies and TV shows and music, and got drunk enough on gin to sleep through as much of the enormous flight as possible. At least it was Air New Zealand. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Despite a temptation to indulge in the Australian national pastime of bagging them out.