The young Scotsmen waiting to board their flights all have the same haircut: buzzed on the sides, cropped short to middle length on the top. It’s jarring only in its mass coordination, as if an entire demographic decided to replicate a specific footballer.
The officer working passport control is friendly and chats with me about his trips to Minneapolis.
“Welcome to balmy Scotland,” he says, as he hands the passport back to me.
The taxi drive into Glasgow is shockingly colorless. And it’s only after I’m dropped off at my hotel and I explore on foot that I begin to get a feel for the place. All the buildings seem either old and beautiful or old and ugly. Even the modern buildings look outdated. And then grimy exteriors open into softly lit and comfortable spaces, the architectural equivalent of not judging a book by its cover. This is heightened by it being the exact opposite of my Germanic experience, in which the exteriors are meticulous and beautiful, and then open into white and sterile interiors, with cleanliness often coming at the cost of comfort.
I packed for the trip like I do every other Europe trip, only to remember once I arrived that the outlets are different from the Continent. The front desk sends me to a store called Argos, which is in a dingy and nondescript building on high street. The escalator descends into a brightly lit and perfectly laid out grid of computer screens and catalogues. I walk in circles a couple of times and then punch in “converter” into one of the screens and nothing comes up. I walk up to the checkout counter.
The woman behind the counter tells me several times that I need to order from the catalogue, and then when she realizes that either the process or her speech is giving me trouble, she asks:
“What da ya want?” she says, smiling.
“A converter?” I say. “For an electrical outlet.”
“Ah an adapter.”
She punches the purchase into a small tablet, I pay ten pounds, and then she asks me to sit under a banner and wait. Within a couple of minutes, a pack of three adapters is sitting on the counter, and I’m simultaneously impressed with how inexpensive three adapters are and confused with why they would give me three.
As I hike deeper into the city, it gets more beautiful, while the grit remains. The restaurant where I meet my business contacts is a tiny two-story former fish market. I eat haggis for the first time, which pleasantly tastes like pate, and drink malt whiskey. The whiskeys are always one finger, never more. When the glasses of wine come, they look like small fish bowls.
That night I fall asleep enjoying the city, and the conversations, and wondering how the trips in the years to come will play out.