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Prior to August 1995 I had never been on an airplane. I rode in a helicopter once at a fair, but never a plane. So when my grandfather and mom asked if I wanted to accompany my grandfather to England and Scotland, I was slightly uneasy about the idea - not because I didn't want to go, but because it would be my first plane ride. And a heck of a ride it would be at 7+ hours across the Atlantic. All I could think about was, if I don't like this, I've got to fly back.
Luckily flying didn't bother me one bit and I was able to enjoy about two weeks in the UK without the constant worry of flying home weighing on me.
I have a ton of photos from this trip, but two of my favorite memories from the trip have no photos attached with them what-so-ever.
The first one occurred at a traditional British pub. We were somewhere outside of Birmingham, which if you are unfamiliar with the lay of the land, is located in the middle of England, about two hours north of London. I had gone to the pub with my grandfather and his brother-in-law Geoff after dinner one night as they wanted to grab a couple of pints. As I walked up to the bar, the bartender asked me what I would have. Before I could say anything, he suggested a pint of Bass Ale.
"But I'm only 16," I said.
"I didn't ask," he replied.
"Just a Coke for me, thanks." I was a good kid. Maybe too good, because a cold pint in a pub with some strangers sounds really good right now. But truth be told, I just didn't like beer back then. When I got back to the table, I think both my grandfather and Geoff expected I would have a beer in my hand. That may have been my first opportunity to have a beer with my grandfather, but it luckily wasn't my last. We would talk over many pints between then and when he passed away at the age of 92.
A week or so later we were in now in Glasgow, Scotland. We had just spent the day visiting my grandfather's home town of Coat Bridge when we got off of the bus and popped into another pub for dinner. They brought us some water and menus and a few minutes later our server arrived to take our order, and this was the first time I experienced a language barrier while traveling.
Yes, we were in an English speaking country. Yes, she was speaking English. But I could not understand a word she was saying. Her Scottish accent was so thick she might as well have been speaking French.
My grandfather ordered and then she looked at me. I still didn't know what she was saying, but I figured it was my turn to order since she was starring at me. I placed my order and then it happened - she asked me a question. I was completely lost. I politely asked her to repeat herself, and she did. But we got no where. This went on a couple more times before finally my grandfather shouted, "she wants to know if you want chips with it."
"Oh, sorry, yes please," I sheepishly said as I handed her my menu.
Since my first trip overseas in 1995 I have traveled to places where they speak Chinese, French, Korean, Norwegian, Malaysian and more...and to this date I have never had a harder time understanding someone as I did that poor server in Glasgow who was technically speaking the same language as me.