When It All Goes Wrong (Glasgow-Scotland)

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I had plans. Fun plans. Go outside and have an adventure sort of plans. Run wild and scream, “Wee,” at the top of my lungs. Okay, scratch that last one. Limp with glee and, if I’m feeling frisky, squeal quietly to myself and hope no one hears. 

Yeah, that’s more my style, but it was going to be fun. It was my happy place. I had a plan, damn it.

Alas— because that adds dramatic effect— environmental shenanigans have rendered my adventure defunct. Instead of hobbling out on a grand outing, I’m at home glaring at my computer with a twinge of bitter disappointment. There’s a sigh, my shoulders sag, and I clutch my cup of tea for comfort.

This is how it goes sometimes. The best-laid plans don’t always go the way we want them to. No, not even if you write it down, print it off, and laminate it. All the coordinating colours of your carefully formulated agenda won’t save it. Those highlighters were a lovely addition, but they aren’t magic wands.

I know, shocking, right? I love nothing more than a highlighted, laminated plan. How many more times can I say plan? Resisting the urge to type three paragraphs consisting of a single word. Resisting! 

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Occasionally, despite our best efforts, it all goes wrong, and then what? Does it ruin the day or the vacation? Do we sit in front of a computer, clutching a cup of tea like a life preserver in a kiddy pool, and lament our woes? 

*Cough* A little too close to home, if you please. 

Or do you stand in the middle of the city square, rain pouring down, throw your head back, and laugh? The kind of laugh that straddles the line between a good old fashion belly and lunacy. People stare, their foreheads furrow, and there’s a fair chance they’re wondering if they should make a phone call.

Am I speaking from personal experience here? Mm, memory lane is fun to visit. Especially when it makes me chuckle. Since my original—what’s another word for plan— Since my day fell through, memories will have to do.

A few years ago, I was travelling through Scotland with a friend. Have you been? It’s a beautiful country! The people are just about the friendliest I’ve ever met. They’re good-humoured too, and some might be quite the pranksters. I can’t confirm the last sentiment, not with any degree of accuracy, but is it a fair one? It’s a hunch based on, what we assume, was a mistaken identity.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This was a long trip. We’d been traveling through Europe and the Uk (including Ireland) for almost a month, and mundane necessities were harshing our happy. It doesn’t matter how far you travel or the distance between home and wherever you may be; you can’t escape domestic duties.

Laundry has to be done. There’s no getting away from it. There’s only so long you can ignore it. Clothes become stiff and odoriferous. For reasons that defy logic, people can’t just walk around smelling whiffy or wearing nothing but a cheeky grin. It’s totally unreasonable. Honestly, what has this world become?

Much to our annoyance, we set aside one day to take care of a rather ordinary task. It was a simple thing that shouldn’t take too long. Right? We threw our dirty bits into a couple of bags and went into Glasgow to find a laundromat. How hard could it be to find a place to wash our clothes?

Why was it so hard to find a place to wash our clothes?  

We hunted high and low. We went up one street and down another. We asked strangers and people wearing official-looking uniforms. Nothing. Everyone looked at us like we had three heads, two tales and spoke in an obscure Martian dialect.

Finding a lost tomb in a jungle would’ve been easier. Sunken treasure off the coast? Give me that snorkel you bought at the dollar store, and I’ll have it topside in no time. Find a mythical creature, teach it the chorus line of your favourite broadway musical, and shock the penguins? Sure, easy-peasy. 

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Find a place to wash dirty clothes? Don’t be ridiculous.

When I say we walked for hours, I’m not exaggerating. On and on we went. Our quest became more frantic. How could there be nowhere to wash clothes? There had to be a place. I know there’s a place. I’ve washed clothes in other countries before. Why is this so difficult?

Desperation was setting in, but a growing sense of inevitable resignation was also creeping. It seemed our fate was sealed. We’d have to get creative and perhaps a bit medieval. Oo, does that sounds a bit ominous? 

We agreed to make one more go of it before calling it quits. We found a hair salon down a quiet street full of people. Surely someone in there would know where we could clean our clothes. Surely they would take pity on a pair of weary travellers far from home.

We walked in and asked if they knew where we could find a laundromat. Silence and blinking stairs. Different countries have different names for things, so we tried everything we could think of: Laundrette, laundry facility, a building with machines that wash and dry clothes. You put coins in a slot, hit start, and poof, the whiff has wafted. Miming. Charades. Sound effects. We tried it all.

“A place to wash dirty clothes,” we said in desperation.

The reply was, “I just wash mine at home.”

Well, yes, that would be ideal, but our homes are thousands of miles away. What do you do when you’re far from home with a bag full of dirty clothes? Just wash them at home, you say. Thank you, that’s as helpful the second time around.

These ladies were very polite, but there was a smirk on their faces, and they frequently exchanged glances. You know, the looks you give your friends when you’re all in on the joke. Teasing is being performed by the collective in a good-natured sort of way.

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Put it another way? We got the distinct impression that they were screwing with us. Fair play, tease the foreigners. I get it. Have your fun. No harm intended, and none taken. Have a blessed day.

Oo, cheeky.

We thanked them for their time and turned to leave. I should say that we had our Canadian flags on our backpacks. It’s a small thing, but we gotta keep connected to our home. And this time, it clued us into the case of mistaken identity. As we walked out the door, one of the ladies whispered a little too loudly, “Thought they were bloody Yanks.”

Rude. For many reasons. Not cool. Can we not mess with people based on their nationality? Not when there’s so many other reasons to do it. Be creative, at least. A little imagination wouldn’t hurt.

It was our turn to share a look. It was a mixture of exasperation, frustration, and bemusement. Had the entire city been in on the joke? Every time we asked someone for help, was this the punchline?

We followed the street out into a city square. As soon as our faces met open air, the sky decided to add insult to injury. It started to rain. No, not just rain but pour down. We would’ve stayed drier if we were under a waterfall. Seriously? Seriously!

We were tired, our feet were aching, and we’d just lugged our dirty clothes through the city to no avail. Sure, a few people had a good chuckle, and good on them. Glad we were able to provide a source of amusement on a dreary Thursday. Looks like we both got a story out of it. Again, fair play, and no harm done.

For us, at that moment, we had two choices: Cry or laugh. Of course, we could’ve pitched a fit, yelled, and stamped our feet, but that’s not how we roll. Tears or chuckles? That’s who we are, so what’s it going to be?

Soaked through the last clean articles of clothing we owned, we looked at each other and did the only thing we could. We started laughing. It started out as a chuckle, tired and over it. It quickly developed into a full-body, double-over, soil-your-pants kinda laugh.

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I can only imagine what we must’ve looked like. Drowned, dirty rats experiencing some kind of breakdown. It’s a minor miracle we didn’t end up in a holding cell. What a sight we must’ve been? 

Tell you what, it’s one of my favourite memories. We still talk about it and laugh until our stomachs ache. A comedy of errors. A day of absurdity. The best day ever? Mm, it’s in the top ten, at least.

Part of the adventure— some of the best parts— happens when everything goes wrong. We had a plan, a good plan, and it fell through. Nothing went right. We should’ve been miserable, but we couldn’t stop laughing, and the day became a favourite.

Looking back, it was a unique and great way to see the city. We went off the touristy roads and walked down streets that aren’t in the guidebooks. We met people who gave us a bit of hassle, but it was all in good fun. No harm down. We got a funny story out of it, and so did they.

When it all goes wrong? It usually comes down to perspective. I like to choose to see the humour in things and let go of the rest. It eases the stress of travel just a bit. Deep breaths, it’s rarely as bad as it seems, and one day we’ll all laugh about it.

And yes, we got our clothes washed in the bathtub of our hotel room. Ah, the glamorous life of international travel.


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