Scotland, Part III: The Scottish Character

One of the reasons that I so enjoyed my trip to Scotland was because of the Scots themselves. I like them. They are unpretentious. What you see is what you get with a Scot. And they enjoy some of the more famous stereotypes about themselves. I was standing outside of a pay toilet when a man walked up and said in the distinctive Scottish burr, "Is that thing working?"

I said, "Yeah, but you'll have to pay 20p to get inside it."

He snorted in derision. "That'll be the day, when a Scotsman pays to go to the toilet," he said.

We both laughed, and he ambled off, presumably to find a suitable facility in a less pricey neighborhood.

I've not quite figured out the whole relationship between Scotland and England, despite having read all I can find about it. Essentially it boils down to a thousand years of the two populations intermingling, beating the snot out of each other, exchanging royalty, signing treaties, breaking treaties, beating the snot out of each other some more, and then intermingling some more. Go figure.

There was not an individual I met who was not willing to stand around and chat, and some of my favorite memories of Scotland will be of the long, wonderful conversations I had there.

I spent a couple of nights in a hostel, and I must say that I loved it. The hostel was a gathering point for travelers, a bit of a community center, overtly friendly, and overtly counter-culture, minus the drugs. It almost made me think I was back in Berkeley. Again, far different from the hostels I have stayed in America.

The people of Scotland are more reserved than Americans, even the notoriously taciturn New Englanders I live among, and despite my shy and retiring nature, I could tell at times I was accidentally being the brash, noisy 'merkin.

Such as the time I finally reached the top of a particularly nasty hill, after just hammering my way up, at which point I threw my fist into the air and let out a bit of a war-whoop. Nothing that I would bet 90 percent of the Americans reading this haven't done before.

I also stopped to catch my breath, and a few minutes later, a man came out of the nearby lodge to chat with me. For the next 10 minutes he proceeded to very humorously bust my chops for my very un-British outburst. It was one of the funniest interactions I had there. (The ride down the other side of that hill was a hoot, by the way).

Finally, one of the things that consistently impressed me, was the ingenious use of technology. As an American, I'm used to thinking of my country as being the most technologically advanced in the world.

I'm afraid I had to re-think that one. It seems that the British have far surpassed us in their civic implementation of technology.

For example: Solar-powered parking meters that you can pay either by coin or by cellphone. Or traffic signals that are intelligently controlled by radar constantly monitoring traffic patterns. Or pay phones from which text messages can be sent as easily as making a telephone call. These weren't big-city Edinburgh features, either. I found such innovation in small towns as well as large.

There are more, but you get the idea. We have some catchin' up to do.

All told, I would go back to Scotland in the blink of an eye, and, in fact, I hope to do so. After all, I've only had the chance to explore one small slice of this most beautiful country.

Yeah. I'm going back there.