-Day 9- The Longest Train Ride Ever
Stanraer looked like a large provinciality that tended to enjoy its solitude. Low buildings stayed close to the coastline, their presence interrupted only by steeples proclaiming themselves above the otherwise even rooflines. From our ship, it gave the impression of being a very large fishing village, though I have little evidence to back that up; it could be famous throughout Britain for its rampant drug use and booming pornography industry. However, I had no plans of sticking around to find out that sort of information, since I was planning to see other parts of Scotland. Thus, I needed to find a train. Fortunately, there was a station nearby. Fortunately, there was a train waiting. Unfortunately, everybody else on the boat also needed a ride to the nearest major city.
I entered the train to Glasgow to hear the melodious tones of some tone-deaf old bastard singing a thoroughly unintelligible song at the top of his lungs. I figured that he would eventually tire out, since he was putting a lot into it and I didnít think his tired old body would hold up that noise level for long. However, he continued on for several minutes and, from this out-of-tune cacophony, I determined that there was a refrain repeating itself. I thought to myself, "Well, at least Iíll know what heís singing about."
As I made out the words, "Weíll never surrender, never surrender, never surrender to the IRA," I thought to myself, "Oh, shit." Two and two had finally been added and I did not like the answer at all. As my mind comprehended just who all these people were and what they were returning from, I realized I had no desire to be within a mile of them, much sharing a train for the two hours it would take to get to Glasgow. On top of that, one never knows how extremist groups are going to feel about foreigners, though they generally seem to be against the concept. I decided I was not going to open my mouth to so much as breathe. Fortunately, though the train was mostly full, I had a pair of seats to myself, sparing me the risk of conversing with any of them.
As the train pulled out of the station, I took a look at my travelling companions. There was a skinny little guy who was memorable mostly for wearing a pair of earrings that I think he stole from Disneylandís Pirates of the Caribbean. There was one high school quarterback type sitting farther up in the train who I would have pegged for nothing more than that, had it not been for his friend, a hulkingly large type with an unnaturally round, shaved head and half-closed, dangerous looking eyes. I remember him distinctly because he looked to be exactly the sort of person who would beat the shit out of somebody because he liked the wrong soccer team. The one female I saw on the trip could have been an actress, supposing you need to cast somebody for the witch in Hansel and Gretel. If I had to guess, I would assume she was missing teeth. However, that would not compare to the even worse part of her mouth: the voice that came out of it. Overall, they were a haggard-looking bunch, which was not surprising, considering they had spent the last week or so in a field attempting to be righteously indignant.
It quickly became clear that the only person on that train who did not have a plentiful supply of booze for the trip was me. And despite the fact they were all slamming down drink after drink, it was having no noticeable effect on any of them. Occasionally, the old bastard would try to rally the crowd with some alcohol-induced rendition of another God-awful song about killing the IRA. Then the Wicked Witch of the West would yell something to someone else and I would be subjected to her voice once more. The rest of the train would react by attempting to fight through their exhausted stupor with more booze. Things were bad, but I could deal with it. After all, Iíd been around rednecks before.
And thatís what these people were: rednecks. And I donít mean rural Ohio rednecks, Iím talking about Deep South rednecks. Sure, the place was Scotland and not some Alabama backwater and the accents were Anglo-Irish instead of drawls. And for some reason Mikeís Hard Lemonade, various ciders and Hooch were the drinks of choice for the Ulsterites, whereas rednecks would sooner commit hara kiri than drink something other than whiskey or beer. They were loud, they were annoying and they had that same weariness about them that tells the world they were working-class, salt-of-the-earth type folk that would get out of their mindless, menial jobs in one of two ways: they would reach retirement or die before they got there. For that reason alone, I decided I would go Zen and just not allow them to bother me. Then, about midway through our journey, we arrived in a place called Ayr.
As we pulled into the station, the old crone asked some young kid, who was probably going outside for a smoke, where we were. The kid returned to report that they were in Ayr. Medusa immediately yelled to the entirety of the train that she knew the area, she knew we werenít near Ayr, Ayr was nowhere near there, she knew Ayr and it wasnít close to there. All the while I was looking out my window at the platform and seeing signs posted every twenty feet that said "Ayr" in large, easy to read letters. I checked out of the windows across aisle and it was likewise well-labeled on that side. For the entire time we were stopped in Ayr, she demanded we were not there. And for a goodly portion of the ensuing tracks she insisted that Ayr was nowhere near us, though that turned out to be only slightly true and that was only because weíd passed it. Each successive repetition of her protestations was like adding Tabasco on my dislike of her: One drop isnít that much. However, as you add more and more in a seemingly never-ending flow, the totality of it is someone who is about to boil over. I began to hate her. As a result, I began to hate the people sitting with her for bringing her. As a result, I began hating everyone on the train for having some activity that brought the people sitting with her that brought her to be on the same train as me, such that I would have to listen to her vile, cracking, cackling voice spitting out from the gaps where her teeth used to be as she vehemently denied that we were exactly where a train station full of signs plainly told us we were.
As the scrawny little pirate moved a flag, on which I clearly saw the letters "UVF", from one pack to another, I felt contempt. As that miserable old man began another refrain about holding onto Northern Ireland, my stomach knotted up. When the Gorgon renewed a conversation being yelled to someone else three seats away from her, I felt a gnawing anxiousness to get off the train immediately and despite the fact it was moving at the time.
Even after we had arrived and disembarked in Glasgow Central, I could hear the sound of that womanís voice ringing in my ears like a nightmare that doesnít fade upon waking. I walked to the Glasgow Queen Street station to catch a train to Edinburgh. As I looked over the rail schedules, I assembled the best plan I could come up with.
I returned to Glasgow Central and got the holy hell out of Scotland.