Aberdeen (reunion with Scotland)
Basically as soon as field camp ended, I had to travel to Aberdeen Scotland to do my Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET) for my new job. When I say I “had to” I kind of mean “I didn’t have to, and probably shouldn’t have, but I wanted to, and did.” I had the option of doing the course in Halifax, which would have made more sense for two reasons: 1. I still had piles of work to do to complete my field camp project in order to graduate school and 2. I was scheduled to go to work on June 12th and thus had limited time to finish school, pack up my apartment and move back to the city. Of course neither of those reasons included an all expenses trip to Scotland. Thus I did the irresponsible thing and went to Scotland at the end of May for six days of safety training, sight seeing and (mostly) drinking.
I had been to Scotland previously. When I was 21 I spent a summer in Edinburgh living with my girlfriend in her parents house. It was amazing. I have always felt drawn to Scotland: the people, the landscape, the deep history. My mother’s family is distantly from Scotland. My grandfather studied surgery at the Edinburgh School of Medicine and my middle name is Macleod. Not to mention I’ve always loved (but should avoid) drinking whiskey and the Proclaimers. Thus my first reunion with the Celtic country in almost eight years was much anticipated.
My company had booked me a hotel room at the Jurys Inn, a hotel attached to Union Square, a giant shopping mall, literally in the centre of the city. The course was held in an industrial park outside of Aberdeen in a place called “Dice”. It meant I had to take a train there every morning. It also meant I had to be up early every morning to get there on time. Thus the motivation to not go out and get wasted every night was high. And on my first night in Aberdeen I managed to do just that: I stayed in and ate some fish and chips in my hotel room flipping through British television. The view from my room was mediocre at best. It looked across the city, but I was up high enough that I could see the medieval architecture that surrounded me. Staring out the window I fell to thoughts of wandering the wind swept streets with scotch on my breath, Robert Burns in my head and a Stuart McBride novel under my arm. The Granite City may seem uninspired, indeed talk to anyone who lives there and they will tell you Aberdeen is just another boring oil town, full of over priced flats and ignorant youth. But look deeper and you’ll find a dark corner full of life, and death and all that goes along with it.
Unfortunately for my bank account, liver and countless bottles of wine, on my first day of the course I met a young Scottish engineer who was driving back and forth each day. He offered to pick me up every morning, therefore saving me about two hours of hassle each day. Not having to navigate the train station and the 25minute walk from the Dice stop to the Falck Nutek building gave me a new found sense of freedom. So each night after the course I would load my backpack up with bottles of wine and or beer and set to exploring the city. With just enough booze the icy wind off the North Sea will actually cradle you as you stumble and drag your toes along Beach Blvd out onto Esplanade and along Aberdeen Beach. The beach stretches for what looks like eternity, punctuated with a Ferris wheel and haggard shops on one side and jetty’s on the other. On the horizon of the North Sea you can watch hundreds of massive construction ships come and go. On my third day in Aberdeen I sat on a breakwater and drank what seemed like a gallon of wine and then just twirled through the cobble streets marveling at the stocky sturdy homes that hug the streets. Homes that have protected people from the fury of the North Sea for hundreds of years. The people didn’t stand a chance but the slate roofs and oak doors remain.
Friday came, and the course ended. On the drive home that day, Stuart (my engineer chauffeur) proposed we go out for some drinks to celebrate. All week he had been talking about the ridiculous salary he made working for BP and how the best use for the money seemed to be lap dances. He had previously suggested a night out touring the strip club scene but I had declined the offer, due to my student budget. I could afford to drink store bought bottles of wine and cheap beers at student pubs, but lap dances and martini’s were a bit out of my price range. On this occasion however he refused to take no for an answer and assured me his salary had plenty of room for another beneficiary. We agreed that oil money is best spent on students and strippers and thus we settled on a time to meet back at my hotel.
Things are fuzzy at best from this memory but I know the evening started at Brew Dog, Scotland’s premiere craft beer makers, basically credited with reviving the craft beer craze through the United Kingdom. I actually can’t be sure what happened next but I know we wound up at The Priory on Belmont Street. From what I recall neither one of us was dressed to be in a swanky martini bar and we were by far the drunkest ones there. But it’s a super cool place inside an old cathedral. The place is decorated with bright neon lights and lots of glass.
Jesus Christ it all started to come apart at the seams after that. We made our way to Club 7, Stuarts pick for a strip joint. I swear to god I must have been cross eyed when I walked in the place because it couldn’t have been more than a minute before I was surrounded by topless ladies all asking me if I needed a drink. Most likely they were the ones who needed the drink, but considering the state of myself, the only thing that was going to keep me on my feet would be another shot of tequila. Who knows how many I actually had. The last memory I have from Club 7 is trying to have a civilized conversation with a Czech girl as she gave me a lap dance. All she kept saying was “You gonna buy me something nice then?”. Who fucking knows what I was saying to her.
We must have depleted the available funds in Stuarts bank account because sometime around 2am I was stumbling through the streets aiming for my hotel, and missing it by miles. Pin-balling down the narrow streets must have given me a second wind because I managed to stumble into another bar. It was a hip club with a mellow scene upstairs and a dance floor downstairs. I pulled up a seat at the bar and started crushing shots and beers. Like a smoke jumper trying to fight his way out of a fire, I was drinking my way to freedom. It didn’t take long for me to strike up a conversation with the girl (or girls?) next to me. Soon myself, her, and her boyfriend were in stitches, crushing more shots and dashing down to the dance floor. It felt like I was trapped in a balloon full of helium and Jell-O. Laughing hysterically as I struggled to keep my footing. Nothing makes sense when you are that loaded. But as long as you are laughing and amongst good company, you are basically invincible.
When the bar closed the couple urged, begged me to come back to their place. For what purpose remains unknown, but I like to think it would have been greasy and hilarious. I guess we’ll never know. One thing is for sure: when I finally returned to my hotel room, the wise thing to do would have been to crush a pot of coffee and stay awake until my 7am flight. Instead I set (failed to) the alarm on my phone and passed the fuck out. Obviously I awoke in a god damn panic far too late to catch my flight. Still like a burglar in mid heist I threw all my stuff in my bags and raced out of my room and off to the airport.
I had missed my flight in miserable fashion and the only solution would be to pay 1000$ (that I didn’t have) to get the next flight home. Like a real genius, instead of calling my family for the money to get me home, therefore keeping work from knowing that I got shit faced and missed my flight, I emailed an HR person from the company, and explained that I had been mugged on my way to the airport and had missed my flight. Who fucking knows (who fucking cares) if they bought it, but they did promptly get me a flight home.
I learned two (way more than two) very valuable lessons on that trip: 1. NEVER agree to a 7am Saturday flight in a foreign country. 2. Strippers make brutal small talk.
Hadn’t even started working for the company yet and I was already down one strike. Not too bad I’d say. In retrospect it was simply an indication of things to come.