Remote Year Month 3: London was Hell

August 9, 2019

The England-Pakistan cricket match was 8-and-a-half fucking hours.

That was just Day 1 of 5? I guess it was 42 and a half.

Only one team batted. It made baseball look like a 100-meter dash in which all the runners were shooting fireworks at each other’s balls.

Nothing happened all day.

Cricket sucks. London sucks. Everything sucks.

We lived in London for Month 3 of Remote Year, and relative to our first two months, everyone thought it sucked.

We lived in a “co-living” space called The Collective. It was a glorified adult dorm.

Despite sharing a “collective” building, we felt distant. Our “two-room apartments” only shared a “kitchen” (hallway with a stove). The rooms were jail-cell sized.

Our two 6-foot-5-plus remotes were troopers, but surely felt like giraffes in birdhouses.

We lived in the ‘burbs, an hour walk-and-Tube away from Real London, there was little food nearby, and most of us escaped whenever possible, spending too much money then retreating to our rooms alone.

After a night out in Prague or Belgrade, you’d wake up with a pounding headache at 2pm, since you were out ’til 6 (you left the party early), and begrudgingly look at your wallet.

You’d smile when you realize 8 hours out cost you $20.

In London, you’d wake up at 9am, clear-headed, feeling good about your restraint — only to find you spent $150 on two cocktails, a sensible meal and an 11pm Uber home.

Really, I went to a cocktail bar where the cheapest thing on the menu was £20 ($26). They said James Bond was written there, or some other tourist propaganda.

London was a lonely, expensive month. London sucked.

I hurt my ankle badly playing soccer — er, football. I went to Urgent Care, and the doctor told me I was fine, but, it wasn’t my ankle — it was my Achilles.

I didn’t get it. My ankle hurt. Two months later, I’m maybe at 70%.

The doctor was dumb. London sucked.

I couldn’t even get Harry Potter play tickets! Sold out for eternity.

Say the word “London” in our group, and you’ll hear “THE CRAPLECTIVE.” Our minds focus on “sucky things about London,” and we bond over complaints.

Expensive, cramped, lonely, restricted, no designated workspace, broken elevators — the list never ends.

When I was done with my probably-wrong consultation at Urgent Care, the receptionist goes, “You’re free to go!”

I didn’t pay. I’m not sure if free British health care is supposed to extend to visitors, but it did for me. My friend got the same treatment.

What if I asked myself: What was good about London?

Crazy talk. You’re telling me there were good aspects of living in one of the world’s most dynamic cities?

Oh, shit. Right. I lived in fucking London for a month. How many Americans can say that?

My mind doesn’t want me to ask what it liked about London. Answer anyway!

Book of Mormon, kid goat at Borough Market, Indian food everywhere, getting to live in one of the world’s coolest cities for a month, cool bars, markets everywhere, parks on parks on parks, great accents, foreign familiarity.

That list is long, too.

The Cricket match didn’t actually suck.

I knew what I was getting myself into. Google exists, as does my British friend.

He told me to buy a radio, so I felt like a local, smiling at the 8-and-a-half hours of British commentators trying to fill the time. The manufactured drama was familiar — like American sports radio — yet the accents and topics were novel.

Except for the Trump jokes. That’s all anyone fucking talks about.

I made a £20 bet. It took me 10 minutes to understand what and who I was betting on. I guessed. I won.

I hung out with 20 good friends, because I’m around 70 people who will agree to do new things, had an amazing time, drank too much beer and ate a good burger called “The New Yorker.”

It was a top-five day on Remote Year.

Even hearing “batsmen” over “batter” makes you laugh when you pay attention.

I was watching soccer — er, football — at a bar — er, pub — with friends — er, mates — and when the Brit yelled “HAVE A POP!” instead of “SHOOT!” I nearly lost it.

That was my month in London. New experiences with a familiar bent.

Oblique nostalgia, if a corporate buzzphrase helps.

Oh, it turned out that cocktail had four shots in it. Not a bad deal.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

London will probably be the worst month of Remote Year. I would tell the company to reconsider its inclusion. I’m sure they already know.

But why let ourselves have a miserable month … for something we signed up for?

I could complain about London being expensive, but if I didn’t know before signing up to live in London that it was expensive, I’m an idiot.

I could complain, but aren’t I just hurting myself for no reason?

I got to live in fucking London for a month. It was awesome.

That’s some feel-good bullshit.

People had rough months, and I’m sorry. It will probably be my least favorite month.

Just because you can’t control the life around you doesn’t mean you ignore your feelings, or refrain from speaking up when your words have power. Remote Year should know that London wasn’t optimal.

But letting that affect my one month there would be idiotic. I had a good time. I’ll have fond memories.

Before the year, I chose to enjoy Remote Year. I’m not going to bitch about a good month, just because it wasn’t perfect.

When life gets expensive and suburban, get to work. London was my most-productive month. My book about writing books is done. Check it out.

Remote Year is the ultimate exercise in impermanence.

Every month, we get a new set of external surroundings. We can’t change them for a month. Then, a new, totally different set will be forced on us.

We get them, and react.

We can either: Try to force our preferences on these external surroundings that don’t give a fuck, or adapt.

Month 1: Prague.

70 new faces, cheap beer everywhere, close quarters … react by being extremely social and drunk.

Month 2: Belgrade.

More spread out, laid-back culture, dirty streets … react by dialing down the drinking and doing some hard thinking and writing in cafes. Fit right in.

Month 3: London.

Cramped in the suburbs, with expensive fun an hour away. Hole up and work 75% of the time, ball out the other 25%. Then get the hell out.

We sprinted to the plane to Lisbon, rested and ready for a Praguelike month. It would be another social, drunken sprint.

The biggest group of us stepped off our van onto “Pink Street,” the craziest, tourist-infested, party street in Lisbon, and I figured my prediction would be accurate.

Trying to fit your surroundings to your preferences is a recipe for misery.Accept them. Then, if there’s something you can do about them, do it. If not, adapt and choose happiness. Or drunkenness.

I’ll need another break when we get to Rabat.

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