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…..