Category Archives: Scotland

Your Smalls are Killing Me

Jack leads tours to Scotland. We are about to start one with eight guests and two artists accompanying the group. Here are the chronicles of our adventures.

And there was evening – a lot of it, because Scotland is 5 hours ahead of the US and we flew into the night – and there was morning, but we managed to stay awake until 9 pm Scottish time before collapsing into 12 hours of blissful horizontal sleep – and that was the first day.

We don’t remember much about that day, except that we dumped our stuff in the hotel and headed straight to Stockbridge, the mecca of Edinburgh’s thrift stores. It was a fun day of lightly reentering society post-flight, having a pub lunch, buying a few silly things, and people watching.

The real fun came Sunday afternoon. While Jack connected with Mary, the first of the tour members, I met an old friend in Grassmarket for lunch. Bun and I had worked together 20 years ago on storytelling events; she was the president of the board for the charity I set up to do school storytelling around special needs and multiculturalism. Bun is a gifted textile artist who made her own yurt and enjoys organic dyes et al. so we had a grand time whooping it up, catching up, swapping stories and generally returning to the silly days of the gig economy.

Scotland’s economy doesn’t look so bad – a few gaps in the smile of Princes Street, the main high-end shopping area, but otherwise untouched. We went for tea with old friends Barbara and Oliver in their secret walled garden right in the heart of Edinburgh, and met another tour member to get supper.

Nepalese food, so I got my beloved momos, while Jon and Jack devoured every bite of their macho spicy curries. Since there was a gelato place next door and excellent gelato is, sad to say, hard to find in Central Appalachia, no silly questions were asked about whether and what for dessert. We made a beeline. (BTW honey greek yogurt gelato is delicious if you ever see it as a flavor.)

That’s when the texts started: Kirk had arrived for the tour, but his luggage hadn’t. Since we were one night each in hotels for the next 10 days, he typed ruefully, he never expected to see it again but had given them the address of the last night’s hotel. Which meant he had the clothes he was wearing, and his electronics.

The boys had a nice drink at the bar while the hotel told me how to take a bus to the 24-hour Tesco’s (think Walmart meets Family Dollar). Jet-lagged and lightly buzzed from his first Scots whisky, Kirk followed me onto the Airline 100 bus and we hit the Tesco’s. Hard.

Of course you can’t buy even cheap jeans without trying them on. And there was no one on the whole second floor where the clothes were. But I spotted a dimly lit bathroom hallway and suggested Kirk duck back in there to try them.

That was the first time we set off the alarm…..

No one came, so we found a clothing rack that stuck out a bit from the wall, and I stood guard while Kirk dropped his shorts and pulled up the jeans.

That was when the woman and her husband came up the escalator, took one look at us, and went straight back down.

“Hurry up,” I said to Kirk. “Security will be here any minute.”

“Well I don’t want them to catch me with my pants down,” Kirk quipped.

We found the requisite smalls (undies and socks) and a warm sweatshirt, which he promptly pulled on, taking the tag off so we could pay for it.

We found everything except a hairbrush, which a kindly overworked employee informed us could be located in the chips-n-dips aisle, and lined up to pay. None of the cash registers were staffed – by now it was 10 pm and just starting to get dark outside—and the sweet overworked woman running the self-checkout only had to help us twice because we didn’t know how to work the machine. She also showed us how to take off the security tags from the clothes, including the sweatshirt Kirk had on, once we’d paid.

We walked out through the alarm and set it off. In Scotland, underwear are called pants. She said, “It’s the pants” and we said “No you took the alarm off those” and she looked at us like we were Martians to be pitied and ripped the tags off the cardboard holding the undies—I mean pants—and waved us away. Poor woman, it was hard enough flying solo without two hapless Martians gumming up the works.

The bus driver had been alerted by the driver who took us out to Tesco’s (helpfully pointing out all the things we needed to know about how to get back on later) and said “Oh you’re the lost Americans.” He helped us find the right stop back to the hotel. Everyone, even the poor harassed Tesco’s attendant, was nice as ninepence.

And thus ended the second day, about 11:30 pm, with Kirk successfully outfitted, quite literally.

The tour hasn’t even started yet…..

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Edinburgh LAUNCH

All I’ve got to say is, those hearings in DC had better have some consequences.

Our journey to Edinburgh started today, with lightning at Knoxville airport. As soon as the thunderboomer passed, they herded us swiftly onto the wee flying pencil—

—and we sat there. Finally the sweet flight attendant (Malachi) said he was very sorry, we would have to deplane as Dulles DC had a ground stop.

“A whodewhat?” someone asked, but we were ushered off the plane into the terminal. At the end of the queue came our pilot, who sat next to us and began explaining what was happening.

“Someone of a senior nature, a former president or VP, or perhaps the current secretary of state, is flying in for those hearings. Someone who doesn’t use the White House planes but can’t just fly in without security.” He paused, and chuckled. “And if there hadn’t been that storm, we would have gotten in just ahead of them.”

As it was, we sat in Tyson McGhee for three hours. It’s not an entirely unpleasant place to be, and the people trying to get onto later flights were nice as could be, as were the flight attendants telling them there was nothing they could do about it….

The plan reloaded about 5 pm, with a few less people and perhaps a little bit more attitude. Drinks were free, said Malachi. They were very sorry about this whole Dulles thing, and would get us there using a couple of tricks and shortcuts.

These apparently involved turbulence, but the drinks were free.

We landed. The two German guys across from me began to discuss the fact that their plane was still there, just two gates away. Our plane did not deplane. They discussed breaking a window and making a jump for it. Our plane did not deplane.

Malachi began to look concerned. It turned out, the airport was short a few “rampers,” people who help you get off the flying pencil and then get your oversized carry-ons.

The German guys noted that their plane had pushed back from the gate. “Well, we can spend a weekend in DC shopping,” one said. The other sniffed.

Beside me, a woman standing in the aisle glanced at her watch. “My flight goes in 15 minutes. It’s four gates down.”

“You might still make it.” I tried to sound encouraging. Malachi said into the phone, “Well can they hurry? These people have been waiting a long time.”

Two men in yellow safety vests began to manually push a set of stairs toward our plane. They had to angle them four times. At this point, the Germans, the woman who was going to miss her flight, and Jack and I were laughing hysterically as the two men repositioned the stairs for a third try.

“Does someone want to tell them they have the brake on at the back?” said a guy waiting in the aisle. The rest of the plane erupted into laughter.

“Don’t break my window!” One of the Germans yelled as they rammed forward, once again off kilter, and everybody hooted.

We got off the plane, eventually, and stood around waiting for the baggage that had been taken from us to be returned.

I held up the book I’d been reading on the plane. “Anyone want this? I’ve finished it.”

The lady who would have made it 15 minutes ago extended a hand. “I believe I’m going to be on the night train to Long Island,” she said. “Something to read would be lovely.”

A bunch more guys in yellow vests appeared, one with a piece of paper from which he was checking things off in a brusque manner, face like thunder. Then he threw his pen–a pilot 5.1–across the tarmac. It flew straight and true.

After a moment, I picked it up. “It’s a nice pen, anyone want it?”

One of the women smiled. “My plane is taking off now. I don’t believe I need a souvenir to remember this journey, but all the same, it’s a nice pen.” I handed it over.

“At least someone has a pilot,” muttered one of the Germans, and we all cracked up again.

And so begins our journey to Scotland. Stay tuned for more misadventures….

….and yo, Washington dignitaries, all those nice people missed their flights for you. You better come up with the goods.


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Filed under humor, Life reflections, reading, Scotland