I’ve always had an affinity for Scotland and Ireland. I think it’s a past life thing or something. So three years before I moved to Glasgow to get my master’s, I went to the UK and Ireland on a month-long adventure. I was 19 and I was by myself, which in hindsight seems TOTALLY CRAZY, but at the time was like, totally NBD.
Now, obviously I learned many, many things while I was on this trip,* but for today, I just want to talk about one:
Never travel to small cities on a long weekend.**
I took Bus Éireann (the Irish version of the Greyhound) into Limerick on a Friday, not realizing it was a long weekend.
Now, the other thing you need to know about me is that I’m vegan. I’m also gluten-free now (not by choice – fucking gluten…), but at the time, I was just vegan. (Easy peasy.)
You need to know I’m vegan because I had a hell of a time trying to eat while I was on my trip. Especially in Ireland. THEY LOVE DAIRY. While I was in Ireland, I subsisted on Subway sandwiches (yeah, I was also surprised they had Subway), bananas, and cashews.
But I couldn’t find a Subway in Limerick, and being that it was a long weekend (thanks, bank holidays!), all of the natural food stores*** were closed. So I didn’t eat on Friday…and I didn’t eat on Saturday…
By Sunday, I was starving. Like, literally, my blood sugar was so low that I was an emotional mess, as I am about to illustrate. I wandered the deserted streets of Limerick, looking for food and something to do (that wasn’t closed) that wasn’t the castle, as beautiful as it was.
I was starting to feel really, really sick when I turned a corner and saw it:
OMG. Burger King! I knew immediately that my day – nay, my weekend – was saved. The veggie burgers at Burger King are vegan.^ I was about to have the greatest veggie burger of my LIFE.
I staggered toward the cashier and placed my order. One veggie burger, one order of fries. I handed over the last €5 I had in my possession and waited for my order to be ready, pacing and salivating impatiently. After what seemed like an eternity, they called me up. I snatched my tray away from them like shark attacking its prey and found a table all to myself. I unwrapped my veggie burger and took a huge bite.
Then promptly spat it out.
What the fuck?
Not only was there cheese melted onto the veggie patty, but there were chunks of cheese mixed into the patty itself. The whole thing was also slathered in mayo.
If you’re wondering, yes, yes I did consider just eating the burger anyway, but just a few days earlier, in Cork, I had accidentally eaten some digestive biscuits with skim milk powder in them and I was sick for about three days. I just couldn’t risk it again.
So I did what I think anyone would do, given the situation.
Yup. Totally burst into tears in the middle Burger King in Limerick. Yup. People were staring. I didn’t care; I kept crying. Then I tried to knock some sense into myself by just eating the fries, crying as I pushed each one into my mouth and choking as I tried to chew and swallow through the sobs.
Once I had finished the fries (which took me all of three minutes because they only gave me like, eight fries in total), I left the Burger King and made my way to an ATM to get some cash to buy more food.
The ATM wouldn’t process my request. I tried again. The ATM wouldn’t protest my request. I tried again. The ATM wouldn’t process my request.
THEN I CRIED AGAIN.
I cried and I couldn’t stop crying, and without looking at my watch, I found a payphone and dialed my mom. It didn’t even occur to me that it would be somewhere between three and five in the morning back home, and that when my mom heard me sobbing on the other end of the phone, she would worry.
“What’s wrong?” She asked before anything else.
And then I’m pretty sure I crumbled (see: cried and mumbled) something along the lines of:
She gave me advice. I don’t remember it, but it was good.
Eventually I ate. Then I left Limerick for another city and re-started my frantic search for food.
Lesson learned: Sometimes you just need your mommy. (And the whole bank holiday thing.)
*Like the fact that I can only eat so many bananas and cashews before the thought of them makes me want to vomit, and that the term “en-suite bathroom” doesn’t necessarily mean a toilet.
**Related: almost every weekend is a long weekend in the UK.
***There was one.
^Correction: The veggie burgers at Burger King in Canada are vegan.