Service on the Underground is still majorly screwed up.
It really did have an impressively wide selection. You can pay extra to have your song moved to the top of the list. Just for the fun of it, I selected a 20 minute Yoko Ono song which pretty much cleared the place out.
Day 8. One of the first priorities when settling into a new city is of course to figure out how to get online. It's the way I'm able to update this journal along with a means of communicating with people and machines back home and also of planning ahead. Unfortunately, everyone in my particular part of town felt that the best option was the local easyEverything, a place I've never liked due to their undercutting local establishments and driving them out of business, not to mention the fact that they see fit to block 2600.com for some reason.
All that notwithstanding, they were nearby so I bit the bullet. First, I made sure they had a wireless connection since there was no way in hell I was going to trust their little terminals. This particular franchise is conjoined to a Burger King and the only person who seemed to know anything about the operation was busy dishing out fries. But he assured me that they had wireless downstairs and I made the fatal mistake of trusting him. Naturally they didn't but I wasn't able to ascertain this until I had paid two pounds fifty for an hour. I went to find the guy but he had apparently fallen into a vat of hot grease somewhere. Everyone else at the place seemed almost proud of the fact that they knew nothing. Not only that, but they seemed positively joyous with the news that there was absolutely no customer support anywhere for easyEverything. Great.
Well, to cut a long story short, I found a great little cafe a few blocks away by tracing their wireless signal on my laptop. I got a 24 hour card for less than what half an hour cost on the QM2. And I'm still trying to get those fuckers at easyEverything to refund my money - if anyone can find a customer support/complaint contact, please pass it along. Their website is about as helpful as their Burger King compatriots.
I visited Speakers' Corner at Hyde Park for the Sunday morning speeches that anyone can give. It was a bit less than what I was expecting: a single religious lunatic on a step ladder preaching about Jesus. It got a bit more interesting as hecklers began participating ad eventually a second lunatic found another step ladder and did a counter talk right next to the first guy. It was a bit of fun but I really thought there would be a whole lot more speakers. Note to anyone looking for Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park: it's *not* near Hyde Park Corner. That bit of knowledge would have saved me a bit of walking on a rainy Sunday.
I actually met a listener at Speakers' Corner - a really cool guy who it turns out works for the BBC. Looks like I'll actually get a tour at long last and learn a whole lot about their operations.
The rest of the day was somewhat somber as I took some time to visit various sites of recent tragedy. There was Russell Square, near one of the tube explosions. Only a few blocks away was the street where the double decker bus had been blown to bits. And King's Cross station, site of a horrible fire some years ago and now home to more memories of death, was just a brief walk away. It was like 9/11 all over again. Signs on lampposts looking for missing people who had vanished on the 7th, flowers and candles strewn about near the points of impact, words and pictures in memory of those who had perished. And yet, life had resumed to as normal a level as before. Today I noticed a good deal more policemen than yesterday. They seemed to be at the entrances to all of the tube stations and doing about as much good as New York City cops in the same position. I see it as just a symbol of reassurance to the people. Which actually may not be so reassuring anymore.
The final site I went to was Stockwell station. No tube or bus was blown up here. This was the station where Jean Charles de Menezes was shot to death by plainclothes police who chased him onto a train before blowing his head off. He apparently looked suspicious and for some reason didn't stop when these guys with guns started chasing him. This is a story that has taken on a life of its own here in London. At the station itself, there was a makeshift memorial at the station entrance along with a detectable feeling of anger from the community. Earlier in the day, I had been watching a report on Sky News (a cheap imitation of BBC News 24) where a police expert was pontificating on the fact that cops risk having a suicide bomber blow himself up if he's given *any* sort of warning such as "Stop, police!" So basically what these geniuses are trying to justify is the shoot first, ask questions later style of preventing crimes. The fact that they so horrendously screwed it up the first time should be evidence enough that it's a flawed system. In addition to having to worry about people blowing themselves up, now the public have to be wary of looking suspicious themselves, lest the coppers take them out on the spot.
The people continue to be inspiring in their fortitude. Perhaps the authorities could learn a thing or two and approach these troubled days a bit more calmly and rationally. In the meantime, I'm trying harder than ever not to look too suspicious.