Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Most Embarrassing London Moments

Yes, this is recycled content. Apologies to anyone who's read it before! If you haven't, please feel free to revel in my humiliation. Enjoy!

Strangely, both incidents occurred my first few months in the city. Maybe they seemed more embarrassing because of my heightened sense of being a fish out of water. But in or out of familiar waters, they were embarrassing nonetheless.

Embarrassing Incident Number 1: Pride Cometh Before a Fall

I'd just arrived in London the week before and was trying my best to find a full-time teaching job for the following September. The day before, my agency called to tell me that a posh private school out in Surrey would like to see me for an interview and have me teach a class. BINGO! I didn't know much, but my limited experience with supply teaching in state schools had already convinced me that private school was the way to go. The only problem was that I knew hardly anything about the British educational system and their many acronyms, and I struggled to pull together a lesson plan.

My anxiety about what to teach meant I sorely neglected the question of what to wear for the interview. That morning, after spending hours on the Internet trying to figure out how the heck to get to Esher, of all places, I managed to throw together black trousers and a black blazer, completing the ensemble with my high-heeled black boots. With photocopies for the class, lesson plan, and well groomed exterior, I was ready.

Sadly, that didn't last for long. As I neared the Highgate tube entrance - a series of ten stairs leading down into the ticket hall - my heel caught in the cuff of my black trousers. I struggled to free it but the jerking motion only served to propel my body forward. With horror, I felt myself falling head first down the stairs. My nicely presented lesson plan and meticulously prepared hand-outs hit the grimy stairs and streamed down as commuters trampled them under dirty soles. As I fell, I managed to break my downward motion by grabbing onto the railing - but not before my head slammed into the side of the wall. I slid down a few steps before coming to a complete stop about half-way down the stairs.

So there I was, one week into my London adventure and on my way to an interview for my first teaching job, lying prostrate and bloodied on the stairs as people stepped over me. Ah, London!

Note: Actually, some people did stop to ask if I was alright. I had a massive bruise on the side of my head and scrapes down my arm, but other then my injured pride and a splitting headache, I was fine. As for the job, well - I didn't get it. I managed to retrieve my handouts and did a passable job teaching the lesson, but it certainly wasn't my best effort.

Embarrassing Incident Number 2: Southwest Trains Freebies

When you think of Southwest Trains, you certainly don't think of freebies. Exorbitant train prices, delays maybe, but nothing free. Well, I got more than I bargained for.

I'd been in London for almost three months supply teaching and the school-year was just ending. The British school-year ends in July, which to me is just plain WRONG. Yes, there are extra holidays throughout the year, but summer vacation to me has always meant July and August. After three months of constant supply teaching in Godforsaken locations such as deepest Essex to darkest Hackney, I was ready to call it quits.

Many of my jobs necessitated the use of the overland rail system, and I became very well acquainted with Southwest Trains. For this particular school, I had to take two Tube lines and then connect with an overland train. It was an arduous journey that took me through many of London's busiest rail stations.

After a long day teaching, I leaned back into the bright red seat, hoping the journey would go smoothly. It was a nice bright day - actually warm, no need for a jacket for once - and I was enjoying watching the greenery flash by the window. We reached my stop and I got off, dodging the commuters and tourists with my 'I'm a Londoner, I know where I'm going' attitude. Onto the Tube, crowded as usual, and down the street to the flat.

I slumped onto the sofa in the lounge, drinking in the wonderful silence of home. The Man handed me my wine and gave me a strange look.

'What's that on your back?' he asked, puzzled.

'What do you mean?' I moved to the mirror quickly, imagining all manner of horrors. Spit, pigeon poo - on the London Underground, it could be anything. But nothing prepared me for what I saw.

There, covering the whole top half of me as neatly as if I had placed it there myself, was the Southwest Trains velcro cover for their headrests. The massive logo and emblazoned name left no mistake as to what it was or where it could have come from.

I had just travelled across half of London with a head-rest cover attached to my back. And NO ONE told me!

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