Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Being from a rural Maine town, I thought my bus riding career was over after my junior year of high school. That was when I retired from Kathy’s bus and took my talents to my deceased grandfather’s cigarette-scented Hyundai Santa Fe, which I recently totaled on the plains of Saratoga, Wyo. (Although that’s a story for another day, I must pause here for a brief moment of silence in loving memory of Tamantha Mae Santa Fe. To friends and family she was simply “Tammy.”). But now that I’ve been thrust into city life as a study abroad student in Aberdeen, Scotland, I’ve come to rely on buses in order get anywhere further than the University of Aberdeen campus. Frankly, I’m not sure if this marriage is going to work.

Firstly, a tip of the Tam o’ Shanter to all the bus drivers in Scotland. Their ability to navigate extremely narrow cobblestone streets with parked cars on either side is nothing short of astounding. Recently the bus I was on confronted another bus head on and there wasn’t enough room for either bus to go forward. So my driver had to back up about 30 meters (metric ‘til I die) and basically parallel park in order to let the other bus pass. I looked around at my bus mates, feeling an urge to stand up and offer an ovation of some sort for this mind-blowing feat, but it was clear that it would take far more than that to impress them.

The bus requires exact change, which is typically two pounds (sort of like dollars) and 50 pence (sort of like cents), and they also require a familiarity with how the change in Scotland works. My first time boarding the bus I proudly presented the bus driver with what I thought was a two pound coin and a 50 pence coin, but turned out to be a two pence coin and a 50 pence coin. So as he’s sternly explaining in a thick, incomprehensible Scottish accent something that might have been along the lines of “you’re one pound, 98 pence short,” I was just shaking my head telling him that I had no idea what he was saying and what could POSSIBLY be the problem? Finally he took pity and gave me the pass. Know your coins, kids. That being said, where’s the reasoning for a one cent coin AND a two cent coin?

The city of Aberdeen is extremely passionate about its football (soccer) team, which currently sits in second place in the Scottish Premiership. Recently I attended their match against Kilmarnock, a historically lowly side that sits second from the bottom of the Premiership standings. My friends informed me that it could be a bloodbath in favor of the Dons (the nickname given to the Aberdeen football club, likely due to The River Don, which runs through Aberdeenshire and into the North Sea) but it was nothing of the like. Aberdeen struck early for a 1-0 lead but conceded a goal right after halftime. The game ended 1-1, about which the Aberdeen faithful were none too pleased. With about five minutes left in the game, an Aberdeen defender gave the ball up at midfield, which triggered a roar of displeasure from the crowd and an “Oh for fooks SAKE lads!” from an angry Aberdonian at the top of the stadium.  While I wish the lads in red had seen a better result, a stadium full of screaming, angry Scotsmen is worth its weight in gold.

The pool society beckons (more on that next week), and so does a pint of BrewDog. Until next time, Black Bears.