It’s a little after 9am. Thick orbs of morning sunlight are bouncing off the snow in the garden. I’m standing cracking eggs into a bowl and swirling lukewarm coffee around a mug as tinny hold music bleats at me from across the room.
I’d half given up on getting through to anyone at the insurance company long ago, when my coffee was still hot. So I’d stood up, hit the loudspeaker button, and carelessly left my phone unattended on the windowsill like one of the many thirsty plants I’ve accidentally murdered over the years.
“Hello, this is George speaking. How can I help you today?”
I drop the whisk in the bowl and scoop the phone up.
“Hi, yes, hi. I filled in a form online for a quote and…”
The conversation continues as most conversations about insurance do: slowly, tediously, monotonously. Unsurprisingly, it also continues as many conversations of Scottish people who talk to non-Scottish people over the phone do: with great (and somewhat awkward) difficulty.
There are some minor misunderstandings, which are absolutely not on George. He is incredibly patient and repeats everything I’m telling him to make sure he’s got the details correct. George is committed to doing his job properly and wants to get the information right the first time. George is a good guy.
It’s not his fault the Scottish accent is — as is almost universally agreed by the rest of the world — kind of difficult to understand. There are jokes about this from long, long ago that have persisted throughout the years and continue in different formats today: sketches in Scottish comedy shows, bits in Scottish stand-up, tweets across Scottish Twitter.
The thing that makes it funny is we know there’s some truth in it. We know we sound a wee bit ridiculous sometimes, but we just don’t care. I’ve spoken about Scottish slang and how distinctive and wonderful it is in the past but our accents are something else entirely.
The longer I stay away from home, the more I see our accent through a rosy, romantic lens. And let’s be clear: it is not a romantic accent. If you Google “romantic languages,” I guarantee “GLESGA” won’t be one of them.
Sometimes when we’re out at the weekend and I feel compelled to loudly declare my love for my husband to him across a crowded bar, it comes out sounding like a death threat because of how guttural and aggressive we can sound, especially after a few (read: eight) pints.
“AH PURE LOVE YE,” drunkenly shouted in Glasgow is your pal falling into you in the middle of Sauchiehall Street at 3am and throwing their chips everywhere before whiteying violently in that wee corner at the Tesco bank machine.
“AH PURE LOVE YE,” drunkenly shouted elsewhere in the world in the presence of those unacquainted with our dainty vernacular probably sounds like an ancient war cry.
Anyway, back to my phone call with our beleaguered hero, George.
The small fuck ups we’ve somehow managed to make already in the early stages of this short call are undoubtedly, undeniably, indisputably my fault. My inability to form proper sentences before pouring a large cup of strong coffee down my throat — combined with my accent and the fact that I have a slight hangover from the previous night’s ill-advised red wine and doughnut binge — is the real issue here.
We stumble through a few repetitions of letters and numbers as George goes through his checklist and confirms my first name, surname, address, and phone number.
At this point, I’ve listened to hold music for longer than I’d like and tested my knowledge of the phonetic alphabet several times over. I am sitting in my kitchen with a hangover, defeatedly drinking cold coffee and feeling like I may be the most difficult client poor George has dealt with all morning: possibly all year. I am very eager to get off the phone.
George tells me he’ll email me an insurance quote within the next couple of hours. Then he says:
“I like your accent, by the way.”
And that’s all I needed to know.