In honor of Scotland's vote on their potential independence from the United Kingdom today, I am going to tell you a little Scottish tale.
Ever the planner, Jen researched some day trips for us to do outside of Edinburgh and Dublin before we left. She came across the Hairy Coo group, which as you can see, has quite the TripAdvisor rating despite its concerning name. Though I was horrified by the name, Jen is always finding fun things for us to do, so I went with it no questions asked (other than WTF is a hairy coo and do I really want to know the answer to that?).
So our first morning in Edinburgh, we got up bright and early to be at the meeting point before 8 a.m. so we could head out and explore the Scottish Highlands. Mercifully, we were looking for something called the Ness Bus, and not the alarming orange Hairy Coo bus. I wasn't feeling great, but as our stint in London was a little bit less than relaxing, I thought after I had some coffee, I'd be fine.
Now I have to warn you. This post is going to get...well...straight up mean. But I think it's necessary to really set the scene for you. First, a little background -- as you may have noticed in previous posts, I am 110 percent charmed and delighted by English accents and any derivatives of them. And I can't not laugh when I hear a little British kid (like the "Charlie bit me" kid). I mean, it's just so adorable and funny!
So Jen and I were endlessly entertained by the little kids in London. I completely lost my shit laughing when a little girl behind us on a double decker called a driver outside "naughty." Whatever, you had to be there. So, I also kept quoting a couple lines from one of my favorite movies, "Love Actually." One is when Jamie (Colin Firth) goes home to his family for Christmas and massive amounts of relatives of all ages greet him excitedly at the door and everyone is all like "Uncle Jamie, we love Uncle Jamie," until Jamie decides that he wants to fly to Portugal that second and propose to Aurelia, with whom he has never had a fluent conversation because that happens (yes, I am a feminist who likes rom coms; it's my fatal flaw). Anyway, when Jamie is like, peace out bitchez, one of the kids goes "I hate Uncle Jamie!" And so of course, I repeated this at random intervals in London with a faux British accent, and Jen and I would dissolve into giggles because we're adults.
What does this have to do with the Ness Bus, you ask? We didn't know it at the time, but my quoting that line incessantly was fucking prescient. Our driver and tour guide's name in Scotland was Jamie, and we didn't hate him at first. But...well...
He handed us a rundown of our day on a shitty xerox, and off we went. When he spoke into the microphone the first time, I of course started laughing because he sounded like Fat Bastard, and he was, well, fat, and I am a very mature adult. I mean, honestly I probably wouldn't have even thought twice about it, but the man was out of breath sitting still in the driver's seat. Like I was getting concerned, you know? He had to pause mid-sentence to take a breath.
Anyway, he informed us we had a ways to go before the first stop, and so I passed out for one of many bus naps that day. We stopped first in a tiny town called Dunkeld, and Jen and I picked up mini pies to eat for lunch. One was a macaroni and cheese pie. Scotland, you are doing it right with the pies (shout out to Joe Ornstein!).
We got back on the bus to set off for a Dalwhinnie Distillery tour, and as my condition began to deteriorate, so did my opinion of Uncle Jamie. When he wasn't dully reciting facts about Scotland into the microphone, he inexplicably left it on, treating us to the sound of his heavy breathing. Audible breathing is one of Jen's pet peeves, and mostly I only notice it when people do it in work meetings, but in this case it must have lulled me to sleep (again) like a soothing soundtrack of fake waves hitting a fake shore.
I woke up from this nap feeling downright flu-like, and we got off the bus for the distillery tour and whiskey tasting. Jen and I had been expecting to do some hiking so I was wearing workout pants and freezing my ass off. Finally, we went inside and began the tour. This is where I began to hate our tour group.
First of all, the distillery tour guide told us like 16 times that we had to turn our phones and cameras off because if, on the off-chance, something emitted a spark, everything would blow the fuck up, but naturally, this one chick didn't listen and kept snapping photos everywhere.
Secondly, there was this obnoxious girl who kept asking questions. OK, so asking questions is not a bad thing, but you know how there are some people who you think just ask questions for the sake of asking questions, and not because they really care? Do you know who I am talking about? Like they do it to sound interesting and smart.
Four years at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study a.k.a. the School of Choose Your Own Pretentious Prick Adventure cultivated a hatred for these people in me like none other. Do you want class to end 10 minutes early or do you just want to hear yourself talk? The rest of us want to leave. The Dalwhinnie situation was similar. Are you really that fucking passionate about the mechanics of boiling dirt or can we just go taste some fucking whiskey?
After that, we got back on the bus and to be honest with you, the timeline of the day as I relay it to you will be a bit fuzzy. I was delirious and it all blended together. Unless there were beautiful mountains to look at (which there were most of the time, but not all of the time), or Uncle Jamie was panting his way through fun facts about different Scottish clans brutally murdering each other, I could not stay awake to save my life.
However, several times I was jolted awake by a number of unpleasant occurrences. Every time Uncle Jamie went to say something, he would adjust the mic and it would make a loud farting sound. When he wasn't talking or breathing into the microphone, he put on a Scottish playlist. Clearly, he should have borrowed from us. We're not sure if it was his music or a Hairy Coo-mandated mix, but holy shit, there were shrill ass bagpipes happening. The sound system was horrendous. It sounded like he was playing it off his phone and holding the phone up to the microphone, and the result was tinny, manic bagpipe hysteria.
At one point Jen told me she thought she was going to be sick. Like vomit sick. Uncle Jamie was speeding his way through through the mountains, taking the hairpin turns like a freaking BOSS, and between her motion sickness, the crazy bagpipes, the smell of the not-NYU NYU girl's salami (??!?) sandwich, and the fluctuating temperature on the bus, Jen was trying her best to keep the pies in her stomach.
At some point after what felt like several hours trapped in this moving hellscape, we arrived at Loch Ness, where we got on a little boat. Normally, I'd want to sit on the top outside and take photos, but it was freezing and all I wanted was some hot tea. Jen and I sat inside and listened to the voiceover tell us about Loch Ness and the Loch Ness monster. I bought some tea from a bar on the boat that also sold whiskey-flavored condoms.
At one point, this guy, who I am pretty sure was drunk, educated us on these screens that showed the topography (or something) of the Loch. This is really unremarkable except for the fact that at one point he asked us a question about what we were seeing in the television screen in the corner of the boat. Freaking not-NYU NYU girl got up and stood fucking three inches in front of the screen so she could try to answer the question. No joke, no one else could see. It's like how 2- and 3-year-olds are in their egocentric stage of development so they don't even think about how people can't see around them, except this girl was definitely in her 20s, and even though I didn't give a fuck about what was happening on the television, I wanted to smack her.
Anyway, we got to see the Loch Ness Monster (and her baby?) and she was all like "Hey guys, wait up!" Video proof here.
Then it was back to the bus. I asked Jen what time we were supposed to get back to Edinburgh and she said 8 p.m. I looked at my watch. It was 3 p.m.
"FIVE MORE FUCKING HOURS ON THIS BUS??!!?!"
At this point I couldn't breathe, and I almost started crying. We did have a stop at Glencoe where some real shit went down between the McDonalds and the Campbells back in the day, and the mountains were truly magnificent. Jen and I thought we'd be hiking these mountains, but nope, 10-minute photo op and Uncle Jamie herded us back onto the bus of death.
I asked Jamie if we were headed back, but he said there were two more stops. I looked at Jen in horror. I just couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't fathom that we had spent the better part of eight hours on this horrible bus and I just wanted to be back in Edinburgh as soon as possible.
As we were headed back, I was awakened by the microphone fart sound and Uncle Jamie asked if there were any "Game of Thrones" fans among us. Then he paused. And breathed.
And breathed some more.
And Jen and I started laughing uncontrollably because it seemed there would never be an explanation for why he asked about GOT, and at this point we couldn't even stifle our giggles. We were laughing at Jamie, and he probably knew it.
And he breathed.
And then as we passed a castle in the distance, he informed us that was Winterfell. And so we saw Winterfell in a 3.7-second glimpse, which may have been a highlight for me if it was, you know, more than 3.7 seconds and I wasn't confined to a moving metal tube that was singlehandedly incubating evil germs in my head.
We made another stop and met a famous hairy coo named Hamish. So basically hairy coos are cows with bad haircuts. Which leads me to believe Scots just don't know how to spell "cow." Or Scots are just fucking with all of us, and they call them cows and just snicker every time they hear a foreigner say "hairy coo."
As we headed back on another long stretch to Edinburgh, Uncle Jamie passed around around a clipboard with surveys for feedback on how the tour was. He assured us that everything was confidential and that the surveys would be destroyed once the feedback was received. Um. Why, Jamie? Is this top-secret ultra sensitive government information? Will we have to kill you if you tell anyone that we ranked your storytelling skills as "poor?"
Jen was pissed at the quality of the tour and starting to worry about the quality of our next day trip out of Dublin. But she wasn't too harsh with Uncle Jamie, because as she confided in me, she felt bad because he was fat and married and breathing heavily into the microphone and so she felt she couldn't give him the very lowest scores that he deserved.
She would live to regret this decision.
By the time we neared Edinburgh, her small, alarmingly incontinent bladder was about to burst. We were supposed to be dropped off at the main train station, but Uncle Jamie offered to make an additional stop beforehand if it was closer to some people's hotels. It wouldn't be closer to ours, and Jen looked at me, wild-eyed with fear.
"Staci, I don't know how I'm going to make it. I am going to pee in my pants. IT'S HAPPENING."
I tried not to laugh, but I couldn't stop. All I could do to make her feel better was try to distract her.
"Look Jen, there's a Primark! Think of all the cute, cheap clothes we're going to buy!"
Uncle Jamie asked again if anyone wanted to get off and everyone said no. With menace in his eyes, he met Jen's eyes in the rearview mirror and said, "I think I'll stop" ::takes breath:: "here anyway." Then he turned the rearview mirror away.
As she told me later, at that point, Jen was strategizing the best way to piss herself. Should she stay in her seat and do it? Get up? She wouldn't have to worry about ever seeing these people again. I shit you not, she looked like a wild animal. She reminded me of a cross between my sociopath cat Edgar at the vet (and when I take him to the vet, they have to gas him, otherwise he tries to go on a killing spree) and my father when he is hangry and has to wait for a table at a restaurant.
We passed the train station where Jamie was supposed to let us off. She looked at me in horror and stood up to relieve pressure on her bladder. We finally stopped outside of a swanky looking hotel and she bolted off the bus, probably while it was still moving. I couldn't keep up with her, but I didn't want her to wait, so I tried to pantomime through the window that she should go into the hotel and I would meet her in there. But she didn't see me. She just paced around wildly looking for anything resembling a toilet.
Finally I got off and pulled her into the hotel. There was some frosted glass in the entrance, and she wasn't thinking clearly. I don't know what the fuck she was looking for but she bent down to try to see under the glass and looked like a mad woman casing the next joint she was about to rob. I could see the people at the front desk looking at her curiously.
"Jen," I said. "Come on, let's go in and ask where the bathrooms are."
"Can you -- is there -- bathroom," she stuttered to the first hotel staffer we saw.
The woman looked at her, laughed and said "Yes, we have a bathroom and you can use it. I've seen that look before."
Thank god for the kindness of Scottish strangers.
That's the story of the tour from hell. We can't in good conscience recommend you do a Hairy Coo tour, though according to TripAdvisor, other people have had great experiences on it. But we are happy we got to see the beautiful Highlands, and on the whole, we loved Scotland!
So Scots, whatever you decide today, we wish you the best. Scotland, if England e-mails you and asks you to meet up in London for coffee, and you know it's a toxic relationship, just say no! Fuck that crazy toxic dude -- er, country (I'm not projecting or anything...). You're a grown woman; you do whatever you want. I salute you.