On my first trip to Scotland in 2006, I was being a serious traveller. I would pack as much into every day as I possibly could. So in addition to being serious, I was also tired.
While in Scotland, I made my home base Edinburgh and sort of branched out from there. I went up to the Highlands, spent a day in Glasgow, one in Melrose, and one in Rosslyn, among others.
If Rosslyn sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the home of Rosslyn Chapel, the one that’s mentioned in The Da Vinci Code as being the real location of the holy grail.
SIDENOTE: The Da Vinci Code was still very new the year I went to Rosslyn. In fact, I went to see the movie at a cinema in Cork, Ireland on a rainy day just a week or so after I visited Rosslyn Chapel.
Anyway, I wasn’t going to Rosslyn for the holy grail. I just wanted to see the beautiful chapel. And it was. It was absolutely incredible. One of the things I miss most about living in Scotland (and really, anywhere in Europe that I’ve visited) is the amount of history you can feel everywhere you go. Canada’s a baby country. One that doesn’t value its historic buildings. We have almost none of that and it drives me crazy.
But this story isn’t about history. It’s not even about Rosslyn Chapel. It’s about a bus trip.
Rosslyn is really quite close to Edinburgh. It’s so close that you can take regular city buses there, which is nice and affordable. So after my visit, I found my bus stop and got on the bus back to Edinburgh’s city centre. I was pretty exhausted, so it felt good to know that for the next half hour or whatever, I could just sit on my ass.
The bumps in the road were starting to make me relax a little too much. I felt like a baby in a car seat being rocked to sleep. My eyelids felt heavy. The bus would go around a bend and my head would bob, side to side, until I’d catch myself and force my eyes open again.
Don’t fall asleep, Beça. You’ll miss your stop and wake up in the middle of nowhere. (I would do this years later without falling asleep…) Or in the middle of Leith. And if Trainspotting taught you one thing, it was to avoid Leith.
SIDENOTE: I’ve never been to Leith. Is it nice?
A couple of stops later, two guys who might as well have been characters from Trainspotting got onto the bus. They were both tall and just broad enough to be physically intimidating, fairly well built, and they were both wearing the stereotypical “NED” uniform: track suits, white sneakers, and chains. Their hair looked dirty from excessive use of hair gel (and maybe it was dirty too, who knows) and they both looked pissed off.
Oh yeah, and also, one of them had a tank of a pitbull on a chain leash. He looked pissed off, too.
Of course, they sat right across from me, and of course, they stared at me with deadpan expressions on their faces. I tried my best to avoid eye contact. Mind you, I was also trying my best to keep my eyes open.
DON’T FALL ASLEEP, BEÇA. YOU’LL NEVER WAKE UP AGAIN.
SIDENOTE: I was 19 and had an over active imagination.
YOU KNOW WHAT: No, I’m 26 and I’d still be somewhat (less, but somewhat) worried if the same thing happened today.
Guys, I fell asleep.
I’m not talking like, drifting off for a few seconds. I’m talking ASLEEP. Completely dead-to-the-world asleep.
I woke up 20-30 minutes later. My head was balanced up against the window of the bus. My purse wasn’t even on my lap: it was next to me on the seat, totally unguarded. My arms were limp at my sides. There was some drool on my cheek. My mouth was dry. (Was I snoring?)
I realized what had happened and tried not to make a scene. I looked calmly out the window to figure out where the fuck I was. I recognized the area. Phew.
As I put on my best calm face, the following was going through my head: “Okay, thank god you’re alive, but you’ve more than likely been robbed. You need to look to your left – but don’t look look – and see if the guys are still there. Also, check your purse, because all of your shit may be gone. On the count of three. 1….2…
It was as though no time had passed. The dudes were there, expressionless as ever, still staring at me (through me?). The dog stared at me, too. He looked bored. My purse was untouched, unopened. I pretended to look for some gum and found that everything was where it should be. I was in one piece, albeit a little embarrassed that I had been drooling all over the bus window for half a hour. (But it’s okay, those buses have seen worse.)
A couple stops later, I got off the bus and continued on with my day.
It wasn’t until a week later I realized that my iPod was gone.
They hadn’t touched me. That was the day I learned you shouldn’t stereotype people just because they look like the stereotype. I should know, right? (But also, I learned that sometimes you’re just lucky, because anyone on that bus could have robbed me that day.)