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Sleepwalking in Scotland

So there I was, sitting on a toilet at Edinburgh University, pants around the ankles and feeling confused.

Everyone warned me about the Scottish climate. They told me to pack thermal underwear and waterproofs and that I'd leave work in the dark and that it would rain and I'd feel shit.

Yeah yeah, I said when I bought my plane ticket. Yeah yeah, I said when we arrived to a bright and crispy April. I yeah-yeahed my way through the following seven months of delicious summery mildness.

Then last month we wound the clocks back and I went a little batty. I never expected it to get so dark so early so quickly.

The morning commute really baffled me at first. My brain kept thinking I was eight years old and going on school trip. When else had I ever been on a crowded early morning bus, headlights leaking all over the street, the aisles all fat with scarves and coats and hats and germs? On my way to the Snowy Mountains, that's when. Why did my fellow passengers look so blank and indifferent? Come on people! School trip! Tobogganing! Paltry snowmen! Hydroelectricity! Can't you get a little excited?

It took so long for my mind and body to connect and realise they were no longer in the Southern Hemipshere. On the Night of the Toilet, I wandered through The Meadows in a daze. Student couples cluttered up every surface. They huddled on benches, leaned against trees, hung upside-down from the branches, joined mitten to mitten with their tongue-piercings clashing. Evidently they figured out it was cheaper to get busy with someone than to buy another layer of clothing.

I'd signed up for a class at the university to make some friends and force myself to write. The first two weeks involved me in the back row with one hand shielding my forehead, pretending to write but actually snoozing. But the third week I was determined to focus, despite having had a shit of a day. It had rained that afternoon and I'd walked right through a huge puddle. An old man had sat beside me on the bus, reading a Spanish phrasebook and interrupting my brooding. As if the 4.30 darkness wasn't odd enough, the rain was like nothing I'd ever seen. It lashed at the windows and I couldn't see anything outside but a mishmash of car lights. The old guy kept muttering Gracias, gracias, gracias in time with the windscreen wipers. The way he pronounced it was grassy arse. Everything felt so surreal and claustrophobic, I wanted to scream.

So I headed into the loos to collect my thoughts before class. I didn't have any business to take care of, but you can get some solitude and it's so much easier to think with your dacks down.

I examined the student graffiti and tried to relax. It was hard to do because this bathroom was rank. The smell was sharp and grotty like nothing I'd smelled before.

I thought about how I liked it when people smiled and patted me on the head when I started moaning about the changing weather. It's so much better than the insane cackling and, "This is NOTHING! NOTHING! Just you wait!". Why can't people let me be bewildered and overwhelmed for awhile? It's a bit of an adjustment from sunlight on tap.

It occurred to me that the graffiti was a lot saucier than any university toilet I'd perched on before. There were the usual knock-knock jokes, a poster for the Trampoline Club, but then there was an awful lot of talk about penises.

And drawings of penises. Lots of those. In various stages of alertness.

Oh boy, I thought. I really admire these Scottish chicks. They know exactly what they want and they're not afraid to draw it in exquisite detail. I wish I could be so bold.

Then I noticed under one particularly spectacular member there was a phone number.

And beneath another was an open invitation to meet in this very cubicle on Thursday night for some unprintable action.

Holy crap.

I was in the Men's toilet.

!

I remembered thinking when I walked in, "Dude, those sinks are sure low to the ground. That's really handy for wheelchair access."

I yoinked up my pants and reached for the door handle, but then froze. I had to wait until the coast was clear. My lecture room was right across the hall, and these people already thought I was a twit for sleeping through the first two classes. I tried not to breathe as I listened to liquid hitting porcelain, zippers going up and down.

Finally I crept to the door and peered outside. The hall was empty. Grassy arse, lord.

I dashed into the lecture room and slipped into the back row, but then had to dash back out as I'd forgotten to wash my hands.

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


16 thoughts on “Sleepwalking in Scotland

  1. Oh dear. Save your energy for recognising symbols and I will also send you some sun – from Queensland at the moment. I don’t think I’d deal with all that darkness v.well either. I used to spend my time in Melbourne *praying* for daylight saving.

  2. After choking on my cereal and having to clean milk from the monitor after reading that I am totally in a fit of giggles and at the same time feel total sympathy for you. Poor Shauny 😉

  3. Men’s restrooms are so icky–I’m afraid I’ve stumbled into a lot of them…by accident! No really!

    Hope your class goes well.

  4. “Men’s restrooms are so icky…”

    Maybe that’s the way it looks, or what you might expect, but I read somewhere (I’m the sort who reads such things and later says “I read somewhere…”) that women’s bathrooms are generally dirtier (more bacteria found on the toilets, handles, sinks, etc.) than men’s are.

    Wash your hands! And don’t touch the sink or door handles on the way out, but shoulder or elbow the door open, or use a paper towel on the handle. Either that, or forget that you even bothered to wash your hands, because you’ve now got shite on your hand from the person before you.

    Or did you mean the drawings are icky? That’s a different story…

  5. Oh Shauny, I’ve done that too! At ANU in the middle of exams one year, when I was short on sleep because fast food employers don’t care about exam schedules. I walked straight in, past someone standing at a unrinal, and didn’t realise what I’d seen until I’d already closed the door to the cubicle behind me…

  6. Oh the fading daylight, I hear you.

    Of course, waking up at 1 pm after leaving a cast party at 5 am seriously does not help matters.

    Nor does three days of incessant light rain over the weekend.

    Why exactly do we Aussies do this to ourselves? It can’t just be to meet people with accents we can: (a) find cute; or (b) laught at.

    Can it?

  7. Shauny, I grew up in Edinburgh, and I hate to tell you this, but it really does get even worse. By mid December your bones will be going soft and you’ll be completely unable to tolerate bright light.

    Now I live in Glasgow which is marginally worse due to more west-coast cloud cover. It’s not uncommon in December for the streetlights to stay on all day. Oh God!

    This is harsh payback time for summer! You didn’t think it would be free, did you? 🙂

    In the meantime, I recommend sunbed sessions. You actually feel like a normal human again for an hour or so afterwards.

  8. i found this page by accident but thought it would give you a laugh to know that my sister wandered in to a blokes toilet, went in to the cubical and didnt realise untill she went to wash her hands and saw a bewildered looking bloke stood having a pee. well what could she do but say “hello” carry on washing her hands, smile sweetly at him and leave like nothing was wrong, she was beetroot with embarrasment when i met up with her!!!!

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