I should have listened to the birds.
When I left Kelso in the wee hours of the morning to drive to Edinburgh Airport to catch my flight home, at least five birds flung themselves from the hedgerows in front of my car. This included one huge pheasant I had to swerve to avoid.
It was like the birds didn’t want me to leave, or they were warning me, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I awoke at 4:30 a.m. – too early for breakfast at my B&B, but with only an hour’s drive to Edinburgh — plenty of time to catch my 8:30 a.m. flight.
My B&B host had given me excellent written directions to the airport (plus I had looked it up online), so I felt confident in my ability to find my way.
Everything went fine until I got closer to the airport and had to rely on traffic signs. The signs had all read “Edinburgh International Airport” (this way). But when I got to a huge roundabout three miles from the airport, suddenly the sign just said “Airport” with the name of a town below it that started with an “I.”
Now, in Minnesota, our airport has two terminals – one for domestic flights and one for international flights. Clueless Minnesotan that I am, I thought maybe I missed a sign for the international airport. So I decided to go around the roundabout again to make sure I didn’t miss a sign. That’s what roundabouts are for, right? You can just keep driving around in circles until you find your correct exit.
The problem was, I was so intent on reading the signs that I neglected to notice the freakin’ stop lights INSIDE the roundabout.
I had been in roundabouts that had stop lights for entering the roundabout, but I had never in my life been in one that had stoplights inside it. I didn’t even know that was possible! Whose bright idea was it to put stoplights inside a roundabout??????
Needless to say, I ran a few red lights and had a crash. Two cars entering the roundabout on a green light weren’t expecting a clueless American not to obey the traffic signals and crashed into me.
After some yelling (one driver was really pissed, the other not so much) we were able to limp our cars over to a safe spot and wait for the police. That took about an hour. During that time, I was able to overcome my clueless shock and figure out what happened. My mouth was so dry! I also spoke with the not-so-mad driver and asked him which exit to take for the airport. (Which was the one that just said “Airport,” duh.)
The police officer was courteous and interviewed me first since I had a plane to catch. Luckily, my car was still drivable, so I was able to climb back inside and continue on my slow, cautious way for the last three miles. Once I returned the car to the rental agency, got done with apologizing for wrecking it, and filled out the required reports, I had an hour before my flight left.
I trotted from the rental car agency to the Aer Lingus ticketing desk, worried that they would not allow me on my connecting flight to Dublin with such a short time window. A bit of my Kelso Luck must have still been left because they said I could still catch it. By the time I made it through security, it was time to board my plane. I sprinted to the gate number printed on my ticket, but the gate was empty. Deserted. Nada.
I stood there, panting and sweating. Over the loudspeakers, I heard my name being called. The voice said the doors to my flight would be closing in a few minutes. I didn’t catch the gate number, though, and ran around in circles looking for a flight directory sign. I found one, but couldn’t find my flight number on it. So I ran back to the original wrong gate and looked around. It seemed like there were people a few gates down, so I ran there. It was the right gate!
I was the last one on the plane before the doors closed. I apologized to the flight attendant, but he said it was okay, I hadn’t delayed the flight. I found my seat and heaved a relieved sigh. It looked like I would be making it home to America today, after all. But I was uncomfortable, what with all the sweat and a huge thirst.
I asked if I could have some water, but the attendant said I would have to pay for it. (The flight to Dublin was so short, they figure people don’t really need water, I guess.) I didn’t feel like telling him my car crash sob story, and it pissed me off that I had to pay for water, so I just told him to forget it.
I endured, thirsty, hungry and de-stressing until my flight reached the Dublin Airport – home to drinking water fountains and breakfast. By now it was 11:30 a.m. I drank a lot.
Eventually, I reached Minnesota – glad to be alive, and even gladder that my son was picking me up from the airport so that I wouldn’t have to drive.
I was a little worried that my crash would make me skittish of driving in America. But when I drove myself to work the next day, it was just like riding a bike (you never forget how). So easy! And OMG, the roads in America are so wide! The drivers so (relatively) courteous! The signs so easy to interpret! If anything, I’ve had to guard against having another crash because I am too complacent.
I began this series of postings by apologizing to all Scottish drivers for the rough start my friend and I had driving in their country (see Cruising in the Crawler Lane). And I shall end the series with the same apology.
I am sorry, Scotland, that my lack of U.K. driving savvy endangered your citizens. I am relieved that only cars got hurt, not people. I would love to visit your country again. But the next time, I’ll let somebody else do the driving. 🙂
I should have listened to those birds.