I read a great Article over at The Good Men Project about a father who had a brush with the law thanks to his son and the straight faced Canadian border guards yesterday. In the comments I wrote that it reminded me of a great story from the archives of my own stupidity, so here it is for y'all:
When I was 19 and my baby brother was 18, we decided to go on holiday together for a few weeks. After a fuck up with the air-line we failed to make it to Germany, so instead hopped on a train to Scotland to start our tour of the UK. We had some cash, a tent, some clothes, and a commitment to having a good time. We had some fun in our first week, meeting a couple of French guys in Glasgow (1), taking amazing photos in Edinburgh (2&3), and getting pissed more than once.
I called up the Yellow Pages, and got the number for a local hostel. I called them up and then things got weird.
Me "Hi, my brother and I are looking for a hostel to stay the night"
Them "OK, how old are you both?
Me "18 and 19"
Them "OK, and how long for?"
Me "Just one night"
I was put on hold. They came back on and asked me what our birthdates were. Where we were coming from. If we're sure one night will be enough. He tells me I need to talk to someone else, and puts me through to another person who asks all of these questions again, and asks how we'll pay for our room. I tell her by cash. She tells me they need to put me through to a specialist. A specialist to book a hotel room? I should have been concerned but it was getting late and we'd been on our feet for 8 hours.
The 'specialist' asks me the questions again. He's concerned for us, I think because I explained that it is getting late and we can't find a camp site nearby. He asks me what our home address is, and notes it's from Essex, not Crewe. He asks about our relationship (we're brothers, remember?) and about how long we've been travelling. This doesn't seem relevant, but I presume that it's just a really fussy Hostel service.
"And, why did you leave home in the first place?" He says.
I'm shocked, and ask him to repeat that.
"Why did you leave home? You ran away ten days ago and have come all this way, so there must be something you're trying to get away from. We need to know this to go in your case file."
Still shocked I ask what he thinks is happening here. I tell him we're on holiday seeing the country, we're here by accident, but by choice. He tells me that I'm talking to Social Services, and they've started a case file on two runaway teenagers who are running out of money and need help. I feel the ground fall away and realise that there has been a miscommunication of considerable size here.
In the end we straightened things up, they deleted the report, I apologised and we got a train to Holyhead where we stayed in a tiny camp site by a river and walked 3 miles to buy cider to make up for being our misadventure. I tell this story a lot, because it makes me laugh. But until now I have never told it in a place where my mother, whose address we gave Social Services, could find it. I'm sorry Mum, but you drove us to running away. Apparently.