LONDON: SELF ISOLATION OUTSTATION

March 21st, 2020

I’m counting the seconds as the digital clock in my hotel room flashes to 21:53, London time.

I move my gaze to the refreshment station. I can name the contents with eyes closed: one bottle of water (we’re supposed to get two but hey, who’s counting?), a small overused kettle, two unused mugs, milk portions that’s most likely expired, three sachets of English Breakfast and two sachets of instant coffee, of which one is decaffeinated (ugh). The paper cups used to be my favorite, back when we could still go out on layovers…

After a long flight of serving G&T’s and sharpening my vocabulary with phrases like “chockablock” and “what’s for tea?”, I’d reach here at the crack of dawn, close my eyes for a couple hours while the city wakes up and then catch a red bus to the Underground, wrapped up in layers with my decaf coffee and my paper cup (best saved the caffeine for the next day before the flight). Oh, those were the days!

I look at the time again. 22:01. I’ve already slept six hours, caught up on Netflix and eaten my weight in curly fries, what more is one to do? I decide to carry on reminiscing layover life as I used to know it…

With London being my most visited destination, one would think that being trapped in my room for once is not the end of the world. Besides, it’s always cold, it takes forever to get into the city and spending a day in GBP (British Pound Sterling) tends to leave a hole in ones pocket. But the thing is, going places is not about the weather or the infrastructure or whether or not you have the luxury to enjoy a sunday roast at an overpriced pub overlooking a famous bridge. Going places is about what happens to you on the inside when you step out onto a historic street for the first time, when you lay eyes on landmarks that have been captured from a million angles or when a stranger mistakes you for a local and says something you can’t make out and you just smile with a frown and nod. Going places is about collecting souvenirs that can’t be lost or stolen or taken away. It’s about leaving the sun behind somewhere, not knowing what weather to expect. It’s about always being prepared for grey skies and rain showers, but to never stop hoping for a sunny day.

22:46. I’m finally starting to feel less bloated and like I’d be able to catch a few more hours of sleep. I guess there are some benefits to self isolation. It is not the end of the world, but it is the end of an era.

I’ve been lucky as I have never been dealt a rainy day in London, however today, there was no sun. Maybe it escaped through the hole in my pocket. Maybe it will be back tomorrow.

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