Filling the interest gap

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Well Mike doesn't think there's anything interesting about his summer in Beijing, apparently. "When something interesting happens I'll write," he says. So just being there doesn't qualify.

I apologize to readers for this. I had thought this summer might provide for some fun reading, but I was wrong.

So, I'll try just this one time to fill in the interest gap by saying I was in London when the bombings happened on Thursday; I just got home at about 9pm last night. I was visiting the Ministry of Defence (yes, that's spelled correctly--that's how they spell it, no matter what Microsoft Word thinks) and an announcement came over the intercom at about 10 am saying there had been 3 explosions in London, and asking everybody to stay in the building until they knew more about the situation.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is the British equivalent of the Pentagon. It's in central London, on Whitehall in Westminster, and thus quite close to the bombing sites. It's a huge, recently renovated and supposedly "bomb proof" building, although I suppose it's always just a matter of how large a bomb one uses. I've never been to the Pentagon, but those who have been to both places say the MoD makes the Pentagon look like a dump. After the bombings the north door of the MoD was locked although, oddly, the south door was left unlocked. Go figure. The phone lines were jammed, and another announcement came asking us not to make any unnecessary phone calls.

Information trickled in to us. There was an open area outside the room we were meeting in, in which a large flat screen TV was mounted high on a wall. It is constantly tuned to a news program, so during our frequent breaks we stared at it. For quite a while we thought there had been only 2 deaths; more and more were reported as the day went on. The Brits tried repeatedly to call out on their cell phones, but the cell phone lines were also jammed.

As of about 3pm they were still asking everybody to stay in the building, but no more announcements came after that, so at about 5 we left, exiting by the south entrance since the door we had come in on the north side was still locked. (This may not seem worth mentioning, but because of the layout of the building and the surrounding area, it meant quite a long walk.) The trains and buses were shut down in London, so a couple of the guys we were meeting with couldn't go home. Hence, we went to a pub and the Brits drank us all under the table. Great for international relations.

We were supposed to have more meetings on Friday morning, but they were cancelled, and we headed to the airport early, not knowing how long it would take to get there nor how long it would take to get through security. Neither turned out to be a problem, and I spent about five hours wandering around the "duty free" shops and reading. I had brought Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (author of The DaVinci Code) on the trip, and it's hard to put down, so the time went by pretty painlessly. (Made even more painless by the fact that "travel time" is "work time" for me, including time spent in airports, so it all goes on my timecard. I don't get paid overtime since I'm on salary, but I'll be able to take next Friday off.)

This afternoon I found out I am in some trouble with my boss for not having called to let him know I was okay. I relied on DTRA (Defense Threat Reduction Agency) to do it, since I was accompanying a DTRA Program Manager on the trip, but apparently they didn't bother. Nice. (The only person I called was my mother in Arizona. I wasn't able to call until about 5:30 London time-- 9:30 am Arizona time. Fortunately she hadn't yet turned on the TV.)

Oh, one other thing about the trip-- on the plane going over, across the aisle from me was a yellow labrador retriever, and I have never in my life been so impressed by a dog. He had been trained to be a service dog and had passed all his tests, but had then been given to his owner by a volunteer organization. She paid $150 for him. He was at least a $1000 dog--probably the most beautiful yellow lab I've ever seen, and he'd had thousands of dollars worth of training. I'll never know what the deal was--the lady was fairly young and she wasn't blind or handicapped. He laid at her feet throughout a six-hour flight. He never made a sound. Halfway through the flight she gave him something to eat and he ate while lying at her feet, tail wagging. In Heathrow airport I saw her at the luggage claim area and I spoke with her. She said that the dog is about 3 years old. He was wearing a harness, and she said that when he has his harness on "he knows he's working", which is why he was so well behaved. Still, his behavior on the flight had impressed even her. I was too polite to ask why she had been given the dog--maybe she has some condition that is not evident, and needs a well-trained companion dog.

There are probably fifty people from that flight who are looking into buying yellow labs today. Lol--I should let them spend some time with Saint and see how they feel about it then!


I am pleased that you were out of harm's way in London. I enjoy reading your blog, you sound like a very interesting person with a delightful sense of humor. Keep writing!

Thanks Mona, it's nice to get some feedback. :)

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