I’ve done a lot things the wrong way since arriving in Edinburgh. From not looking at the correct side for oncoming traffic before crossing a busy street to handing a clerk a 10 pence coin instead of a 50 pence coin (and looking at her awkwardly for some time wondering what was the matter).
Fellow traveler Andrew Eilola noted how people walk on the sidewalk here without staying on a particular side. When he studied abroad in London last year, he learned to stay on the left. Here in Edinburgh, however, people just walk wherever they want to, so bumping into people occurs quite often.
These embarrassing encounters occur — at least for me — on a daily basis. But for once I’m glad about getting things wrong.
A few days back, I hopped on a not-so-crowded city bus with a pass that we were given on the first day, ready to ride it anywhere. I wanted to discover more of the city, to see places that I wouldn’t have easily encountered on foot. And I certainly accomplished that. I took the bus all the way to the garage, completely unaware of its last stop. Since I was sitting on the first seat of the second level, the driver was unable to see me, and assumed everyone had exited the bus. So when I encountered the bus driver after he had pulled into the garage, he was startled — to say the least.
Sure, the experience was a bit scary. But I am glad it happened. Because I made that initial mistake, when I got another bus headed back to the hotel, I paid special attention to the stops, and I even discovered an on-screen indicator of upcoming stops. Doing it wrong the first (or second, or third) time helped me get it right the next time.
In class today, Karla and Andrew told us to reflect on how staying in Edinburgh for 10 days is different than staying in town for, say, 2-3 days. When one first arrives in a city, everything is unfamiliar and new. But after only a couple of days, you adjust, able to navigate the city, or at the very least, find your way back to the hotel. Since we’re staying for 10 days, however, we’re in a unique position. We’re able to, in at least some small ways for a short time, feel more like a local.
Making mistakes (even the really embarrassing ones) is the best way to immerse myself in the city. When someone, like the bus driver or store clerk, points out that I’ve done something wrong, I take note. With every mistake and subsequent change of behavior I learn how to live in the city.