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Tell us about a time when someone had you completely fooled, where the wool was pulled right over your eyes and you got hoodwinked, but good. Was it a humorous experience or one you’d rather forget? What was the outcome?

In Feb. 1969, I turned 21. I had a group of crazy but caring friends. We hung out together daily, between doing those droll things like studying. None of us had a great deal of money, and even though I was going abroad to university, my family wasn’t well-off, but in those days, it didn’t cost that much more to go to college in Scotland than the U.S. That affected my decision to stay beyond my “junior year abroad”, and finish my degree there.

I did have some odd paying jobs for pocket change — which the Brits found very amusing: an American without money to burn, and a student working while going to college (most of them just didn’t do that, nor were they expected to by their families).

In the December before my birthday, over Christmas, I stayed in St. Andrews and took a job as a nursing assistant at a nearby maternity hospital. My shift was 12 hours overnight. A van came to take town employees the few miles out of St. Andrews into the country to a small hospital set in parkland. It had been a grand mansion for one of the whiskey magnates, and while its utilitarian function had diminished its grandeur, it still had fine bones, and the most beautiful central staircases of any “home” I’ve ever been inside. For a holiday job it was pretty good — I got two meals a day there, transportation both ways, and a cheerful atmosphere. I even saw a baby being born — or would have if I hadn’t started to feel faint and run out the grand front door into the fresh air!

So I lived like a hermit for three weeks, working overnight and sleeping by day. Of course, when everyone came back after the break, they had all had relaxing, real Christmases with their families, and felt sorry for me that I had worked. (I didn’t.)

When my birthday arrived in February, I knew we would celebrate, but on my birthday afternoon when I returned from a class, my friends were in my room (not unusual). When I entered, there in the corner was one of those shiny silver Christmas trees they had found in the basement somewhere. It was decorated of course, somewhat strangely with 21 little wrapped packages. Each package contained a cigarette, which was a treat because they were hard to fit into a tight budget (some of you may not appreciate this). There were other gifts too and a bottle of cheap bubbly we shared. It was not only the best surprise ever, but one of the most thoughtful things friends had ever done for me. In my mind’s eye I can still see that 4 ft. silvery tree and it’s decorations and feel the warmth around me.

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