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The Edinburgh Files: Loch Ness & Buses
March 11th, 2009 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I couldn’t hear anything in Scotland, and certainly not on a bus. I had an operation on one ear when I was like eight, but no records exist from that era in time, so who knows what was performed. Mengele could have implanted twins in the canal; I’d have no documentation either way. I think I might have had otosclerosis, but the treatment for it mentions the possibility that you might just get FACIAL PALSY as a side effect. A “side effect”! It would have turned me into a hideous monster, yeah, that’s a goddamn side effect. With that in mind, here are some other fun and famous “side effects” from history: DYING. 

All that really remains from the operation is this garish scar that runs down the back of my left ear. The only people who see it are hairdressers, and as a result, I’ve become a wandering, aimless drifter when it comes to getting haircuts – the ‘Bill Bixby-as-David Banner-from-the-Incredible-Hulk-TV-Show’ of people getting haircuts: always moving on, never staying in one place, always staring down an unfamiliar cannister of blue comb fluid, unable and unwilling to form lasting relationships with women…. who, er, cut hair. 

Not being able to hear anything on the left side isn’t a problem in a culture where everyone drives, and everyone’s passengers are on the right side. Most conversations in my car tend to proceed as follows:

PASSENGER: “This band is terrible. Why is the teenager’s singing so shrill? What band is this?”
ROBB: (minutes of silence as I wrestle with the thing I hate most in life, which is stating the name of fucking pop punk bands)
PASSENGER:  ”… Hoooookay, changing the subject: are you lost, or are y–”
ROBB: “It was (Danger Radio / New Found Glory / Saves The Day / Death Cab for Cutie / The Cab).”
PASSENGER:  ”Okay, this car ride is over.”

Seriously, between the richly unsatisfying conversations, and shame of a grown man listening to pop punk, the doctors would have done me a favor if they spontaneously gave me a two-for-one on the ear surgery and deafied me. All of this came to fruition when I hopped on a bus with Lex, towards the end of the trip. Lex will hop on a double decker bus just for the view! I did love that about him. As someone who loves being on TV, I also loved the fact that there was closed-circuit television on the buses. I was a star!

Lex, like Barack Obama and Jack the Ripper, is left-handed. Nik, my other frequent companion on public transport, is right-handed.  I noted that Lex picked the right side of the aisle every single time, and Nik picked the left-hand side virtually every time. (I never picked a side, because my pedestrian upbringing demanded that I was always the last person in my party to board a bus.) 

Lex explained that evolution has trained us to desire to “defend” ourselves with our dominant hand. A lot of people think that evolution is a process that takes millions of years. Not the case in Scotland! It took one generation of people boarding the bus before this was sorted out: you simply wouldn’t survive long enough to reproduce if you messed that up. Buses… can be brutal! Case in point: at one point, I was on a bus with Nik headed to a town where we would meet and have dinner with her friend, Jonny. I had just sampled something called “Irn-Bru,” and was instantly addicted. The thought of a half-hour bus ride without it was too much. I chugged the can on the bus and was planning on just chucking the can in the bus’s front-mounted trash bin. I wanted to look smooth doing so, and failed miserably: I ended up smacking my forehead on a mirror I never even saw. 

We left the bus and walked down the street. Nik noted that I had hit the mirror so hard, it detached from the bus completely. She said the bus driver was out of the bus, trying to re-install the thing. The entire time, I’m just walking forward, unable to force myself to look back, lest I turn into a pillar salt, or even worse, get yelled at by the driver to go back and help. Anyway, I had fairly nice trench carved out of my forehead, which gave me, Nik and Jonny something to talk about that evening. I give Jonny full credit for being pleasant and charming, and not simply lighting an oil-soaked rag in an attempt to drive back from whence I came.

Getting to Loch Ness required a bus, but not till the end. The first thing we had to do is catch a train to Inverness. And, well – I had to go. You can’t spend four years on a game about cryptozoology and be three hours away from where Nessie is and not go. It even involved taking a train! Nik and I found a section of the train with a table – ah crap, here comes Q and A and — !!

Q: A, you look particularly fetching these evening – have you lost a little weight?

A: Oh, Q. You always know just what to say. (/swoons!)
 

Q: … Let’s get started! Do text games pay anything, A?

A: Nossiree. If making text games paid anything, Robb’d have deducted the trip to Loch Ness as a business expense. The advancing state of computer graphics didn’t just ruin all the scenes with computers in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it — and not to selfishly internalize a sea change in entertainment that cost a lot of people we respect their jobs — forced Robb to spend money on buses and trains to see the monster, without making the expenses involved in the trip the government’s problem.
 

Q: Deduct things!!?? 

A: All right, let’s not get crazy here with all the tough-guy talk, none of us knows how to “deduct” anything.  

 

Q: That it?

A: Yeah. 

 

… All right, I’m back. Loch Ness, at least the part we went to, is in the town of Drumnadrochit. There’s, um, a loch… and a post office… and an exhibit, where you can get the real scoop on the legend. 

Yeah, all right. The exhibit rocked. There’s two of them, and honestly, we didn’t have enough time to see both of them… well, I gotta fix that someday.

As for the rest of the trip?

Like I said when I started doing these, it was the two best weeks of my life. There’s nothing I can do to crystalize the emotions of meeting two people who have become so important to me over the months and years – believe me, I’ve been trying. But I guess, if I had to sum it up – I absolutely loved Edinburgh. I meandered about all sorts of different monsters in this blog post, and the thing with monsters is that the really good ones always keep coming back. Edinburgh? Edinburgh! You haven’t heard the last!

Of meee!!


2 Responses  
  • Needs More Kebab Explanation writes:
    March 11th, 200912:06 pmat

    We gonna get closure on the “kebab” and “chippy” thing, or what?

    Will that be in the Director’s Cut?

    Nobody even reads these comments. I hate this.

  • Jimmy Maher writes:
    March 31st, 200910:42 pmat

    Sounds like a wonderful experience. Your posts reminded me of the first time I went overseas, to London back in 1998. I remember looking out of the airplane window as we descended, thinking over and over in amazement, “That’s ENGLAND down there!” (I was and to some extent still am a huge anglophile, so the idea of actually standing on English soil was a big deal at the time.)

    Well, life goes on, and I married a German girl, and traveling to Europe now isn’t all that different from visiting another state in this country. But, yeah… treasure the magic while it lasts.


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