Wednesday, May 20, 2009
From the buildings to the transportation, London is red. The color shows proudly on the coats of royal guards as they stand paralyzed and patriotic for their country. Old bricks reflect a rustic burgundy that holds firm the history of the city. Rich scarlet blood spilled on the land soaks the past and remains in the present through the stories of beefeaters and historians.
Red flows through the streets of London. The buses are red, the phone booths are red and the faces of confused tourists are red.
I am foreigner traveling through London; yet, red has already tainted my experience in the city.
From the moment the other students and I landed, red greeted us and carried us forward. After we stepped off of the plane, Ryan’s red hair caught the attention of our five jetlagged faces. He stood near baggage claim, giving us a warm welcome which we had no energy to reciprocate. In his hand was a Flip video camera. A blinking neon red light gave evidence that he captured the sad scene.
Carrying large backpacks and wheeling heavy luggage, we never thought we would recover. The seven-hour flight across the pond left our eyes blood-shot and itchy. We moved slowly.
I walked alongside the rest of the group in the direction the tube (London’s version of the subway). Ryan retrieved our temporary one-day passes as we made exhausted and amusing conversation with each other.
Faded cherry colored the passes. This red is the access card to the life of a Londoner.
We stood in line to enter the tube. We stood some more. We stood a while longer. Something was not working. A red neon X that lighted the entry sign did not seem very positive. Indeed, the ticket machines decided to stop working.
Out of one of the few acts of London kindness, the man behind the gates allowed everyone to enter without swiping their ticket. We moved forward. Soon, I along with my 30-pound backpack, were smashed into a seat on the very cozy tube.
Ryan attempted to amuse us with London history and our day’s itinerary. Our blank stares and jetlagged faces were the most energy we could muster to meet his efforts.
The English accent heard over the tube speakers announced our stop. We sauntered out and moved our bodies towards the gates while being told to “mind the gap” (last year over thirty injuries occurred on the tube because people got stuck in the gap between the tube and the platform).
We started what seemed like a very long walk to the Ithaca London Center. After meeting and having tea with the staff there, we entered our lives as Londoners. We had to find transportation to check in at our flat.
We had to catch a bus. The two-stacked buses radiate a classic red, vibrant and exciting. My eyes moved to the top of the four-wheel creature, enticed by the upper stack of seating. I suddenly felt a shot of energy. We swiped our card and climbed the stairs to the top.
Something was a little strange about this bus though. It was packed but there was no hustle or bustle. More specifically, there was no conversation. No one was talking. Everyone sits silently on the buses here.
Then, I spotted two fire engine-red telephone booths. There was no one inside either of them.
Itching for my cell phone ever since my landing, I realized that new rules for conversation apply here.
A bright color inspires distinctive isolation. Londoners differ in this way from Americans who appear to be loud and connected at all times.
In London, Red is focused and controlled, purposeful and bold.