Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We've got obsessions

We all have them, obsessive thoughts, tendencies. This blog is representative of one of mine, which recently took hold in a way I could have never anticipated.  And I’m not talking of my rather excessive excitement about a white Christmas (happy holiday season BTW).

We’ve spoken before about the weather ‘negatively’ impacting fun times. Rain on your wedding day (not ironic), temperatures so hot you’re seeing mirages, but most of that you can combat. You can take action to make you feel in control, and not controlled, by your weather system. All that changes with travel. Yes, I’m talking about the current and seemingly unrelenting weather frustration people are feeling towards their xmas travel plans. It would have been remiss of me not to discuss this issue and also very unlikely to not be personally involved with my own weather travel journey.

I was stuck in Cologne for a day just before Christmas. I was meant to be coming home, work had finished, everyone else had left and there was me. Alone. By myself. Angry. I stayed in a hotel for one night then got up at 4am to catch the only flight back to London the next morning. The flight scheduled for 7am eventually left at 11am, I made it into London Stansted, caught a train home and bitched about the whole saga on arrival.

When you sum it up, it’s not a huge drama. I’m home, it sucked, but now it doesn’t seem like the drama I thought it was at the time (cheers hindsight). During the stuck day and the travel day however, my anxiety levels were rather high. As an example, this is what my browser looked like.

I hit refresh on each of those tabs probably every three seconds (except maybe facebook, every five. You're not all crazy updaters). It was like tourettes of the keyboard, completely uncontrollable. Weather updates, airport closures, flight cancellations, I needed to know it all. And what's stranger is that this didn’t dissipate when I finally got home. I felt the need to watch every news update on the increasingly long queues in ‘freezing’ conditions outside train stations. I watched people’s make shift abodes in Heathrow Airport grow more and more homelike the more nights they were trapped (I swear I saw someone mocking up an ikea coffee table in front of his floor bed and silver foil blankets). The overwhelming feeling I had whilst watching this unfold was… SUCKERS! I made it out and you didn’t and I was feeling so happy it wasn’t me. 

Where was my Christmas spirit!? I couldn’t believe my reaction. My obsession with my own travel had morphed into a self congratulatory obsession that I’d done the right thing, booked the right flight, paid the right people, and if I hadn’t done it that way I would have never gotten out.  I WON AT CHRISTMAS TRAVEL!

I’ve tried to move on since then, pay more attention to my loved ones and the Christmas Eve ice skating, but then it started happening IN THE USA. People are tweeting about broken down cars, frozen Grandmas, missing the best xmas ever and instead spending it with Louise from Liverpool (see previous post re: Amsterdam), and all I can think is, IT’S NOT ME! STILL WINNING!!

This, apparently, is what Christmas is all about. The joy of not being somewhere shit, while others are. Tis the season.

London tomorrow, time for less rugging up and more outdoorsy fun. I saw a girl wearing actual shorts today (that spells crazy). Don’t take it that far, but the feeling outside is a lot milder than we have been having. Enjoy the last hours of 2010!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The weather kindness of strangers...

I stumbled upon some kinsfolk this week and it came as quite a surprise to find them not at some sort of weather trainspotting Christmas drinks at the MET (where surely stumbling would be the NORM! Yeah!), but in the single room of a VERY swish Paris hotel. Coming back to number 34 late one night, I entered to curtains drawn, soft music playing and this lying on my pillow.

HOW DID THEY KNOW? For a moment I thought maybe they were incredibly thorough and had dedicated researchers for each of their guests (Mr K in room 204 is depressingly single and here on a boring work trip. Please leave him extra Jack Daniels in the mini bar and a pass to the Moulin Rouge. Gayle in 65 is on her own eat, pray, love odyssey. She'll require an excess of complimentary chocolate and and Mr K’s room number). I’m now fairly sure that kind of attention is time consuming and probably doesn’t involve reading my blog. What it does mean is that this particular hotel leaves this kind note on what to expect tomorrow because they are weather lovers.  This little thought that counts sets this inn apart from thousands of others trying to corner the weather watching market (clearly their aim).

On close inspection what draws us to this little card is the graphics; they really have covered nearly all bases.  Cheeky sun and cloud cover is represented, along with the necessary precipitation graphic (this is the only one that could be a little too ambiguous. I mean, FAT rain? Or little light rain? Knowing the possibilities for rain are indeed endless, we’re letting this slide. For now).  Following the graphics you have the temperature reading and they’ve given you two readings, as is standard. The key difference here is that they’ve presented morning and afternoon. Morning! Afternoon! Squeal!!! How I hate the standard two temperature offering which gives you the daytime reading followed by a random middle of the night reading. Even people up and at 'em in the middle of the night aren’t generally querying the temperature. Morning and afternoon! What sense they make, the French.

On a negative side I was a little put out that the nameless room maid responsible for this treat hadn’t bothered to indicate the wind force, as was set out. To be fair, if I remember the day perhaps there really WAS no wind to speak of, so we’ll let no name off for this one. For now.

Everything about this little card speaks to the aesthetically minded weather watcher. The font size (small and firm), the contrasting colours (in delightful Autumnal flavours), the format that resembles a multiple choice test (which at school were my favourite. God I love filling in a form), all of these finer details give little bursts of formal weather report joy.

In a world of pain, suffering, financial woes and jeggings, it is indeed the little things.  So thank you to whoever committed to this little thought at the hotel's costumer service brainstorming session. Your fight to bring weather to the same level as the breakfast menu is a valiant one.

London tomorrow: I would tick the happy smiling sun, then possibly get a bit freestyle with some imagery around the temperatures. 4 degrees is a pretty fun number to play with...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weather angst

Oh the weather rage I’ve felt this weekend. You’d think with this blog I’d be all loved up and hippy with the weather (take it easy man, it’s just rain!) but no. I am not immune to turning on the weather, using a tone normally associated with seamen, when it comes to the weather adversely affecting my TRAVEL.

I found myself in the setting that has been the inspiration for so many movies, spoofs and reality TV shows, my plane was delayed indefinitely due to snow. I was stuck for what felt like an entire weekend in the multi travelator sporting, limited food but abundance of fragrance offering airport of Schiphol in Amsterdam. Oh the rage. You know the completely debilitating feeling you have when everything is happening TO you and you can do nothing about it? Had it. And the boiling discomfort and frustration, mixed with anxiety that you’re going to miss something crucial if you even go to the toilet? Had that too. I also cursed the day I had ever seen snow and decided it had no real positive benefit on any of nature's ecosystems, so why the hell did it exist in the first place. The very weather activity which you’ve previously read about in glowing, nay nostalgic, posts in this blog became the one reason I didn’t get home until three in the morning, my bestie didn’t make it to a fantastic girls weekend and why I met and had actual dialogue with about 12 random people.

Lets look at some of the players in my little skit, shall we? Me, solo, on 4 hours sleep, getting more and more depressed with each increasing hour, but generally the silent extra. The very angry, profanity favouring, regional English lass (lets call her Louise), the smart, well dressed London male duo coming back from holiday and the group of four Australian 20 somethings heading back from a week of memory loss and greening out.

Louise, for the most part, was the protagonist. She partook in aggressive public conversations with airport staff about the estimated departure for our flight, vocal calls for a mini revolution from those of us not participating, constant pleading for someone to accompany her to the smoking room and finally divulged her life story, played out pantomime style. We were the for 5 hours and her fly was down the entire time.

The male duo were the supporting cast by taking it upon themselves to constantly update the group via the British Airways website and a slowly decreasing in power iphone. They also walked really fast around the airport, doing laps of the perimeter. They were, to be fair, quite handy. And fit.

Our Australian quartet showcased in a bit part, mostly entertaining for having one still ‘greening out’ mate who fell asleep on an airport buggy for three hours and then awoke thinking they had made it to London. The others showed their skills by joining Louise on one of her infamous trips to the smoking lounge, only to leave their luggage there. Luckily the males were on hand to fast walk them back.

Ultimately the very frustrating and inconvenient night turned into an epic story I’ve told at least three times since. Here I am telling it in part to you! Why do we love these stories? We wouldn’t normally take relish in retelling an event that at the time was filled with such frustration, but weather travel stories are generally hilarious. We might not be laughing when we’re in them, but the aftermath can become some of our best material. We’re faced with adversity, we prevail, and the Louise’s of the world become some of the funniest shit we’ve told at the pub.

So I can’t be all hating on the inclement weather, it’s time to change the attitude and have a little foresight. The next time you’re stuck in snow, floods, an insane tornado, get through the angst but remember to take notes. In the retelling, it’s all in the details.

London tomorrow, we are slowly experiencing that deep winter chill where 5 degrees feels balmy. Tomorrow will NOT be tshirt weather.