Living in Edinburgh requires an attitude adjustment. I’m so used to people being rude and unhelpful I’ve totally forgotten what nice is. My years in London have conditioned me to not even expect it any more. Every situation dealing with another human being is approached with the expectation that it’s going to be a hassle, voices may be raised and if it’s on the phone, there’s a pretty good chance the F bomb shall be dropped.
In the short time I’ve been in Scotland, I’ve had five separate incidents of friendliness. And I’m calling them incidents because they felt so strange to me, they may as well have been interactions with aliens. I almost expected Mulder and Scully to make an appearance after each one. I swear, there’s so much niceness being thrown at me, I might have to wear a raincoat to avoid being drenched in it. Well, that and the wet stuff from the sky.
Driving to Edinburgh from London, I was supposed to first go to the Big Yellow storage facility to unload most of the van, but as you can read here, there was no way that was going to happen after eleven hours on the road and five hours before that packing and cleaning. The next morning, one of the ladies from Big Yellow rang to see if I was alright, because she knew I was driving and the weather had turned bad. They already had my money, so I figured it wasn’t secretly about a possible lost sale. After I hung up I had to admit to myself this was just a complete stranger interested in my welfare… being nice.
A couple days later I was buying two things in HMV. One of them scanned up as zero. So the guy said “I didn’t see that” and gave it to me for free. Hello. Unheard of. Well, in London it would be unheard of. Then again, HMV has just gone kaput, so maybe the soon to be unemployed staff don’t really care much about the last weeks of HMV’s profits.
Then a lady in a shop gave me change of a £20 note for bus fare, without expecting me to buy anything from her. I was about to walk out after figuring out they didn’t sell bus tickets, because it just didn’t occur to me that someone would change my note for me, but before I could, she offered to change it. When I asked if I had to buy something first she said “No, don’t be silly”. She could have said “No, don’t be a Londoner”.
Later still, when realised I didn’t have any money left on me except a few coins, the lady in a pet store let me have some cat litter without paying and just said “Come back later with the money.” I actually stood there for a few beats, silent, trying to fathom what she meant, like she’d just turned into Brian Cox and had tried to explain the universe to me.
Seriously, what planet is this Brian?
The biggest bucket of nice was yet to come though. I was quietly panicking about the possibility that real estate agents might turn their nose up at a prospective tenant who is an unemployed bum – albeit a cashed up one – and wondering what lengths I’d have to go to to make sure we’d have a place of our own to collapse in each day and recover from all this exhausting niceness. But it was a waste of a perfectly good stress session. My new landlord not only didn’t want work/character/friend references, copies of bank statements or assessment of our suitability as dwellers in his… err… dwelling… through a barrage of personal questions, but he didn’t ask any questions at all. Not one. And even though the ad said no pets, when I asked, he said a cat was fine.
What the what????
So it seems this nice business is contagious. I’ve just had a phone call from a new neighbour, asking us to feed her cat while she’s away. A neighbour who’s never met me – and wouldn’t before she left – as we missed each other by half a day with my move in and her move off to the airport. She’s trusting me with not only her belongings, but also her 2 furrballs. But I guess, like she said, it’s not like she doesn’t know where I live.
Maybe this is what the world used to be like. People were chilled. People/neighbours helped each other. Shopping/work wasn’t all about procedures, rules, profits. Quid pro quo Clarice. Tit for tat. Is my level of amazement a sad indictment on what living in London does to some people? Was it actually like this in Australia too and I’ve just forgotten? Is this why people from Europe always rave to me about how friendly everyone in Australia was when they went there on holidays?
Well, whatever the answer is, Scotland – so far you have my big fat stamp of approval. Now if you’ll just give me a job when I start looking next week, I’ll be yours forever. Well, not forever forever, just until the Italian Villa comes. So forever for now. Then you’ll be a very close second. Really close. Promise.