For me, a small inconvenience of being far from home is that I can’t pay for everything the way everyone else does.
Because I don’t have a chip and pin credit card.
The fact that I have to sign for purchases is like having “I’m an AMERICAN!” written in magic marker on my forehead. I try to carry a pen with me because it helps cashiers to be less irritated about the extra step of having to file away a piece of paper with my signature on it.
Most checkers very carefully compare the signature on the back of the card to my signature on the receipt, looking at me with raised eyebrows, as though having a signature card at all is enough to raise suspicion.
All around me, my fellow UK shoppers pop their cards into the machine, punch in a pin number and receive a receipt.
My signature card card means I cannot pay at the pump for gasoline. Or petrol, as we call it over here. I have to get my pump authorized and then walk inside after pumping my petrol to pay.
Side note: In the UK, when you pump your gas, they don’t have those little clicky bits (that’s a technical term) that allow you to just turn the pump on and let go of it. You actually have to hold the pump the entire time you are pumping the gas. Even if it’s cold and rainy. I know that this does not sound like that big of a deal, but sometimes friends, it’s the small things that make you long for home. One minute you’re pulling into a tiny petrol station and holding the pump for five minutes to pay four times what you’re used to in order to fill up your car and the next you’re dreaming of the giant Pilot stations along Interstate 40, where if you do go inside, you can get a soft drink the size of a small child for less than a dollar and shop for a Navajo blanket. If you want.
Recently, when I went inside a station to pay for my already pumped gasoline, I handed my card to the checker and said, as I often do, “My card is a signature one. Sorry.”
He looked up when he heard my accent, “Whoa. You’re a long way from home.”
“Why, yes, that’s true. I am far from home.”
“Did you come to Aberdeen for love or for money?”
“Oh definitely for love!” I said.
What a funny way to ask someone what they are doing here.
We chatted for a minute about the South and dreadlocks. I signed my receipt. He took it without checking the back of my card.
I went home and told my family that I got to tell someone that I came to Scotland for love.
And since that day, when I encounter the stranger things about living in Aberdeen, or I feel a bit of dread about the winter, I remember why I am here.