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The "The Knowledge" Issue
All you have to know about this week between my mother-in-law’s death last Friday and her funeral yesterday is that it was a graceful and joyous celebration of her life. Also, that my poor, in-a-daze decision making made me think that somehow a regularly scheduled two-day trans-Atlantic business trip, which I have been doing four times per year for many years, would go as smoothly as it’s ever gone and be no problem at all. Well, thank you British Airways for my series of SNAFUs which ended with an unanticipated overnight stay at the delightful Heathrow Sofitel on the eve of my mother-in-law’s wake.
Unable to land at Heathrow in time to make a the last flight out to New York, I diverted to London’s City Airport, a solid hour’s journey to Heathrow in the best of times. This was not the best of times for many reasons. Plus there was a Tube strike. So, I hopped in a London Taxi to get from one airport to the other. A mere 2 hours and 10 minutes later, I had learned quite a bit about my London Taxi driver.
To the best of my The Knowledge, I had the only London cab driver in history who has ever—EVER—asked his passenger if she knew where the destination was. This might also be the only human being in recent history, let alone a professional driver, who has never used a GPS mapping system and asked repeatedly, “what is the blue line for?”
After circling Heathrow for quite some time, unable to follow the blue line and understand that the Sofitel at Terminal 5 was “at” Terminal 5 but was was not going to be located at the passenger drop-off, curbside *of* Terminal 5. Further rattled, my certified London cab driver stopped the taxi on a median, put on the hazards, jumped across the road and ran to a speaker box at the entrance to a parking garage— yes, the Terminal 5 parking structure. He pushed the button and had a long, long conversation with the attendant repeatedly asking whether his taxi “would fit” in the garage. Apparently, this professional driver had also never entered or exited a parking lot or parking structure which had a ticket-giving machine with a gated arm either as a professional or simply a human being who had ever gone to a mall, a shopping center, or any other commercial garage.
After successfully not in any way shearing off the roof of the taxi, I dared to ask whether he had also managed to ask the attendant the directions to the Sofitel from the parking structure. He kind of seemed surprised, like he forgot that that was the goal, and kind of hysterically said, “I have no idea what the woman said!”
I literally couldn’t wait to exit this taxi, and using the blue line on my phone and both my eyeballs said, “I think you need to make a right turn, RIGHT HERE, right after the sign on the right that says “Sofitel.” The one we have passed three times.
No joke, there was a gated arm after the sharp right turn leading onto the Sofitel driveway and…parking structure. We got through that some time later. I sprinted past the bellhop to reception and, quite literally, the last thing I heard this supposedly-legendarily-expert-at-his-job London taxi driver say in a loud, plaintive voice was “How am I supposed to get home from here?!”
Which, incidentally, sounded uncannily like the iconically tragically accented Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins — so it came out more like “ ‘ow um Oi supposta get ‘ome fruhm ‘eahre?! ” Which is, frankly, also how I felt.
But I did get home in time and had time to instruct you to take a sharp right into the clearly marked LZ Sunday Paper driveway and peruse the most important news of the week for women in the world: Politics, Business, Health, Pop Culture, The Arts, Sports, and more.
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See you next Sunday, I think from D.C. — any tips? restaurants? places off the beaten path?
Have a good week,