Tuesday, June 08, 2004

aye, 'twas frightening, but 'tis a bonnie country wi' bonnie lads and lassies o'er there..

one day last week while I was out and about, I almost dropped my house keys, and with the position I was in at the time, they would have fallen down a grate and into a stormwater drain. This almost-an-incident reminded me of my first day in Glasgow, Scotland, which had the potential to be a very disastrous day indeed.

It was Friday October 25th 2002, and the girls and I had just arrived in Glasgow from Manchester on an overcrowded Virgin train. After paying almost £50 for a train ticket, the girls and I ended up sitting on our luggage in a carriageway along with several other disgruntled passengers. Amarina, aged seven at the time, was feeling very unwell and spent most of the three hour journey sleeping on the floor with passengers making their way around her. Bonnie, who was also off-colour and two days short of her second birthday, slept on my lap part of the way and played on the floor for the rest of the trip.

On arriving at Central Station in Glasgow, we were met on the platform by my cousin Louise, who had just finished a stint working in Loch Lomond and was staying in Glasgow overnight before catching a flight to London the next morning, and had arrived in Glasgow an hour or so before us.

It was about 3.30pm when we arrived and we caught a cab to the hotel to get settled in there.
After making all of the necessary arrangements at the front desk, we started to pack the luggage and children into the elevator to go up to our room. I had carried the luggage into the lift and Amarina was pushing Bonnie in her stroller. Instead of putting these things into my bumbag (a backpacker's must-have accessory), I had in my hand: my VISA card, 2 room-key cards and some info about the hotel.

Bonnie's stroller was halfway over the threshold of the elevator when the doors started to close.. I leapt forward to open the doors and everything that was in my hand fell to the floor of the elevator. I glimpsed a card disappearing down the shaft and while ushering the children through the doors, had the fleeting thought: "I hope that was a room-key card." This thought was shattered, however, by Louise's shout: "Your VISA card!" I responded "Holy Shit, was that my VISA card?"
Louise replied that yes, it was and convinced me to take the children and luggage up to the room while she sorted it out at the front desk.

At this point, I should mention that my VISA card was my ONLY source of funds whilst travelling. I had no way of accessing the money in my bank account without this card.

Trembling somewhat, I got the children settled into the hotel room, sorted out whose bed was which, etc, whilst worrying about what would happen if my card could not be retrieved from the elevator shaft. Louise came to the room a short time later with the message that the lovely lady at the front desk was going to call the elevator maintenance people to come and look at the situation. For legal reasons, the hotel staff were unable to attempt to retrieve my card themselves, even though they had looked and could see it sitting at the bottom. She said that I would get a phonecall from the front desk to let me know what was happening.

The first call I received was to inform me that the elevator maintenance people would be on their way as long as I agreed that I may have to pay up to £80 for the retrieval of my card. At the time, this equated to approximately $240 Australian dollars, but there was no alternative, and so of course I agreed.

The second call was to inform me that the elevator maintenance people were there and had told her that my card was retrievable and it would cost me £50, I had to agree to this amount before they continued. Again, I agreed.

A short time after the second call, I received a third call from the front desk lady informing me that she had my VISA card in her hand and that she had told the elevator maintenance people that I was travelling on my own with two small children and they decided to waive the fee! I have never been so grateful and thankful and relieved and appreciative!

This was the beginning of my love affair with the beautiful country that is Scotland.