Wednesday, September 19, 2007

So sad!

“It’s over,” I announced glumly to a friend arriving home late last night.

“Kels,” she said sympathetically. “He’s a communist. Don’t let him break your heart.”

“He’s a communist. I’m a Republican,” I added, sullen.

She shook her head. “It was never meant to be.”

And it wasn’t. My love affair with Ken Livingstone is over. But, I have to admit it was beautiful while it lasted.

Sure, some would have said that it was doomed from the beginning. He’s the 62-year-old Mayor of London. I am a thirty-something, middle-class American. He made a name for himself by defying Margaret Thatcher at every turn. I happen to think that Ronald Reagan was a fairly decent guy. But, you see…Ken Livingstone made the buses run on time and that’s enough to make any girl weak in the knees.

London’s a pretty decent city. In fact, I think it might be the best city on earth. I mean, I heart New York with the best of them and DC, Chicago, and LA are all pretty darn great in their own regards. I have a soft spot for both Moscow and Paris. I wouldn’t shirk the opportunity to pass through Bangkok, Toronto, Nairobi or Singapore again. But, London is…well…London. And Ken Livingstone made London work. No, I should rephrase that. He made the buses run on time which disguised the fact that the city doesn’t, in fact, work long enough for me to fall in love with it.

For those of you who don’t know London well let me tell you that one of the greatest aspects of the place is that public transport is functional. By that, I mean, it transports the public. (I don’t have very high expectations of public transport, obviously). It gets masses of people from here to there and from there to here and that’s all it’s meant to do. I do not expect it to be comfortable, to be convenient, to be timely or affordable. If it is any of those things that’s a plus but not be expected in your ordinary day. Anything designed to provide a service for several million people is doomed to be slow and inefficient – at best. Just look at the U.S. government.

But Ken, not being dissuaded, introduced a plan that gives free public transport to the elderly, handicapped and children. He reduced transport charges for those on low incomes. He introduced a charge for people who drive into London during the day which cleared the streets of congestion so that buses weren’t getting stuck. He insisted that Londoners use a sort of debit travel card called Oyster so that people could get on buses quickly and keep them moving. It was a beautiful thing. It was, in a comparison that I’m sure he would dislike, Rudy-Guliani-esque.

Some friends thought my love would wane when striking Tube workers shut the underground down for three days. Nothing doing. I stood at a bus stop in central London trying to complete a journey that normally took 40 minutes but that day took 2 ½ hours. “What do you think of Ken now?” a friend asked. I shook my fist and said, “Let ‘em strike! We don’t need them! Ken’ll take care of everything and in the meantime we’ll take the bus!” And by “we” I meant me and the rest of London who were probably less enamored with the situation than I was. But I stood by my man.

I stood by him until tonight when, the situation became intolerable – coming home from work the trains were all delayed. I was annoyed but chose to overlook this. Love requires some give and take, after all. But then, I had to wait 40 minutes for a bus. 40 minutes! My commute took me nearly two hours and there was no strike to blame it on. Someone needed to bear responsibility and that person was Ken.

In the grander scheme of things, people have broken off relationships for reasons less trivial than a 40 minute wait for the bus so I feel somewhat justified. Ken, obviously sensing the cooling of my ardor, sent me the paper, ‘The Londoner’ today which announced that the London bus fare has now been reduced by about 20 cents per journey. I softened a bit but my resolve remains. He’s simply going to have to try harder to win me back.

“You hear that Ken? I want Bus #1 running on time!!”


Ken said...

I'll see what I can do.

mrs livingstone said...

He's taken.

But I don't really like him anyway. He's losing popularity big time and that affects me too.

Anonymous said...

Boris said...

Kelsey it's me you really want. Wait till I'm major and I'm yours.

David Cuthbert said...

Here I thought women were so darn complicated. Little did I know it's all about the transportation.

Tony Blair said...

Reckon you can ask Ken for a job? I can drive a bus.

Oh, and do you have any idea how far the Davieses live from where yoo at?

Danielle said...

You're still a Republican?