A One-Apple Day: Our Intro to the Tube and Half-Price Tickets

June 30, 1997

Lisa had an episode in the cafeteria this morning. She wanted two apples, but one of the workers said, “No, only one.” It was mildly embarrassing, as any mistake would be. It felt like being scolded, and none of us was prepared for that. Ah, this is Europe — not the land of all you can eat. And apparently not the land of cafeteria workers who don’t give a shit.

After my shower and breakfast, the first order of business was to get a Tube pass for the next six weeks. Unfortunately, we got to Russell Square Station during the rush hour. Sarah still needed a photo, and we waited in line to be told so. So we decided to go get the photo and let the crowds die down a bit.

We wandered around, trying to get a feel for our immediate environment. Took some pix near the Gandhi statue in Russell Square [it was actually Tavistock Square]. Found Dillon’s bookstore and Birkbeck College, where we would have most of our classes.

Tried again to get the Tube pass at Russell Sq. Station. Waited in line to be handed a form to fill out. Waited again to fill it out and turn it in with our photos (and our credit cards). And we finally had our tickets to the grand old city!

Hopped on the Tube to Piccadilly. Loads of  people, advertising, shops, restaurants, theaters … We walked around a bit, window shopping. (I’m so nervous to start spending money!) Saw Madonna at the Rock & Roll Wax Museum. Saw an incredibly busy and loud video game palace called Sega World, or something. Ate lunch at Schlotzky’s Deli somewhere between Piccadilly and Soho. Fumbled our way to the half-price ticket booth at Leicester Square.

It is not, as was officiously explained by a passing Londoner, the Half-Off Ticket Booth. “Half off what? No, indeed. It is half-price. Not half-off!” I find Brits can be full of these linguistic shots over the bow against us Americans.

All this was just an introductory visit, of course — there is so much to see and do, it’ll take all 6 weeks!

Bought stamps and post cards. Got dinner at Commonwealth after I wrote my first assignment.

At dinner, Lisa tried to put shredded cheese on her salad, and a worker grabbed the serving spoon out of her hand and sternly said, “No. You must choose.”

Apparently, one can have either cheese or salad but not both. Lisa was shaken up, having made two food line errors in the same day. Poor girl! I thought it was hilarious. She doesn’t want to enter the food line first anymore. She wants me and Sarah to go before her so we can make some mistakes instead!

After dinner we decided to see a movie at the Renoir, an art house cinema nearby. Ended up choosing a Finnish flick called Passing Clouds. Robotic acting. Subdle humor doubtless missed in the subtitles. Good movie about the Finnish economic recession and the triumph of the human spirit. Well, that’s what the ad said.


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