Friday, April 18, 2014

Chapter Five: Heathrow

Heathrow had always been Jericho’s least favorite airport. It was huge, dirty, generally unfriendly, and getting through security was an exercise in patience. After funneling through security and customs, Jericho followed a meandering mass of bodies outside to a vast tangle of roads, with a dozen incoming lanes all choked with taxis and transports. Jericho was always amazed how the higher human functions seemed to shut down during travel. People who would normally be out conquering the world strolled about at a pace that might give a ground sloth envy. Conversations ranged from the banal to downright pointless. Eyes glassed over, and a few normally upstanding citizens tried to hide earbuds pilfered from the airline in their pockets. 

Several workers in yellow vests funneled tourists and visitors toward waiting taxis. The world was grey concrete, graffiti, security cameras, and traffic. Jericho had hoped to get one of the small black retro looking taxis that London is famous for, but instead he ended up being pushed toward some kind of van. There was a large plexiglass partition between him and the driver, with a few holes drilled in it for essential conversation. The driver was something prehistoric; six and a half feet of mountainous blonde with a mohawk, goatee, and numerous piercings. He wore fingerless gloves and resembled something like a Viking raider, only more frightening. His demeanor was surprisingly humble by contrast. He shuffled his feet a bit, looking down. “Where’ll it be, gov?” He asked.

“Warburg Institute, Woburn Square.”

The driver crinkled his brow. “That’s a fair piece, sir. Cost you a penny, that will.”

“Well, we better get started then.” Jericho smiled and stepped into the van, which was almost uncomfortably empty. There was at least three feet of space between the plexiglass partition and the passenger area, covered with rubber floor matting. The passenger area was a single vinyl bench seat. Jericho sat, and dutifully buckled his seat belt. After the coach class flight from DC, he was grateful to be able to stretch his legs. The driver heaved his suitcase onto the rubber as easily as an Easter basket, and then climbed up into his cab.

Just getting out of the airport was an adventure of twisting roads, lurching traffic, and a cab driver who had apparently been  dismissed from Formula One for driving too recklessly. The A30 was busy, but flowed along smoothly enough, and after about ten minutes Jericho began to relax a bit more. He thought about striking up a conversation, but was doubtful he could shout loud enough to be heard by the driver. At Hatton Cross the traffic snarled a bit, but soon they were passing nice, upscale subdivisions, and then circling around Henly’s to link up with the A4. Jericho fell asleep somewhere on Horn lane, before the sharp right onto A40 woke him. Jericho drifted off again around Marleybone and only awoke again as they were turning onto Upper Woburn Place. He wiped some spittle off the corner of his mouth.

The gentle giant stepped down and threw the door open with too much gusto, no doubt thinking of his huge payday. Jericho forked over nearly 100 pounds, too tired to convert the currency to American dollars in his head. Jericho decided that either the British penny was of significantly greater value than the American counterpart, or his driver had been using a colloquialism when referring to the fare. “Thanks for the lift.” He smiled and tried to guess what position his driver played. He already knew the sport – rugby.

No comments:

Post a Comment