It is hard to explain my dislike of flying. Yes, I have those typical moments of fear, or rather, lack-of-control anxiety, during take-off and landing, but that goes away quickly, and is non-existent when I’m reading/listening to a really good book. (In other words, not paying attention.) My dislike is more about… feeling trapped in an uncomfortable seat for hours, hours that cannot, really, be counted on, as they are in constant flux, determined by weather and the whims of air-traffic controllers. It is about being surrounded by strangers when one has no social skills. It is about having to follow illogical and outdated rules, enforced by idiots, explained by no one. And that no one else seems to care that the rules make no sense.
Unfortunately, that is going to be the memory I take away from the flight from London to Edinburgh this morning. The memory of almost getting into an argument with an incurious, rule-following, high-heel wearing flight attendant. (Seriously – is showing off your calves really worth ruining your feet? Now, I love the way a pair of heels make my legs look as much as the next girl, but I don’t work on my feet all day. You do know that heels were invented to keep feet in stirrups, right? You can take that anyway you like.)
It was raining when we landed, and I realized we didn’t bring an umbrella, but it was ok because it feels like it ought to be raining in Scotland in December. Will was crabby and tired because the seats on the plane to London from Philly sucked and he didn’t sleep and he hadn’t had a cigarette in 14 hours. I only slept because I drugged myself up like someone going into major surgery.
So, neither of us were at our best when we got the funny-looking play money from the ATM then got into a cab. But our moods swiftly took an upturn. The first moments of being on the wrong side of the road in the UK are always thrilling/scary, like roller-coaster rides, where you know it is all fine, but it feels so dangerously wrong. The cab driver talked about the weather and about the failed attempt at Scottish independence, (“The people voted with their fear, not their dreams.”) and told us a funny story about the dysfunctional tram system the city of Edinburgh has (sort of) installed.
His brogue wasn’t too heavy, so I only missed one word in five, but the story goes that to get the local populous happy about the years long project that would make a mess of the city, they would start it off with a grand celebration: they’d roll a trolley down a small section of track, and break a bottle of champagne, make speeches, that sort of thing. Well, the big day arrived and the trolley was brought in, only to find the track was the wrong gage, the trolley wouldn’t fit. Apparently the people in charge of procuring the trolley never spoke to the people laying down the track. Head shaking and finger pointing ensued, and no champagne was drunk. (But probably lots of whisky later.)
The story is funny, but being told that story by a true Scotsman with his rolling brogue in a British cab, on the wrong side of the road, in the rain, in Scotland… well it was a wonderful moment. And that is why we are here, on the other side of the pond at Christmas. To have those little moments, to add to the story database. So that next Christmas, we can sit around with friends and family and say, ‘Remember that cab driver in Scotland…”
Hopefully I’ll forget all about the idiot flight attendant.