“Hard left, soft right.”
That was the driving ethos provided for the trip. “Just remember, it’s opposite of what you’re used to. You just have to remember to take hard lefts and soft rights.” Easy, right? Nope. This purveyor of information left out a few things of significance which I shall now share, beginning with this fallacy:
“You’ll be used to it after an hour or so.”
Oh, God no. You will continue to be freaked out sitting on the right side of the car with a steering wheel staring at you and cars flying past on your right. Period. To this, I’ll add a few more:
- They don’t warn you about the roundabouts. Why? Because no American would ever, EVER voluntarily rent a car and drive there if they knew, in advance, of this medieval automotive torture device.
- They count differently. By this I mean the Scottish Rules of the Road Number One starts at a different place than an American number one. Having your rental car GPS instruct you to, “take the 4,876th exit to the left,” on a roundabout only matters if it also tells you where exit number one lives. If you miss your count, you will find yourself bouncing east and west between Edinburgh and Glasgow for hours while trying to go straight north. Trust me.
- So, pretend you are okay with sitting on the right side in terror, capably managing the unavoidable roundabouts (remember, these exist only to frustrate you), have your counting skills set to common core status, and are feeling pretty good about things. Okay, fine. Now, travel between any two cities not called Edinburgh or Glasgow and you will learn another dirty little secret. You know those things we call highways and freeways and four lanes and two-way surface streets? Forget them. You will find (usually) paved goat, sheep, and hairy Beatle-like cow trails. If you meet oncoming traffic you will find yourself involuntarily playing a game of chicken and praying that one of you has one of those three or four ft. pull offs on their side. You will fear death. You will need a toilet. Which brings me to …
- Let’s say you find a major carriageway with paved roads and multiple lanes. Great. Have to use the bathroom? Tough cookies. While they do have myriad pull outs for tossing garbage, lowering your blood pressure, getting feeling back into your fists that have been embedded into the steering wheel, you will likely not find a toilet. Why? Because screw you is why. Roads are spotless, the country is beautiful, and the air is clean, but you ain’t gonna find a roadside toilet. Ironically, those myriad pullouts are marked with large signs with a ginormous “P” emblazoned on them. Scottish humor, I suppose.
- Still feeling courageous? Once you escape the south end of Scotland and wind your way north to the highlands, you’ll learn something else. Road signs are now bi-lingual. Gaelic and English. Nothing like one another. Since you learned to read top to bottom you’re in for another surprise. Gaelic first, English second. Even though they are different colors on the signage, your eyes will see (and your brain will try to decipher), “An t-Ath Leathann” before it recognizes “Broadford” directly beneath (and by now waaaay back in your rear-view mirror). But don’t worry. You’ll soon find a roundabout in case you missed your turn …
It’s all about the adventure.