I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is about American tourists that winds people up. Right now I’m sitting at my gate, waiting to board a flight to Chicago, and a middle-aged, wheelchair-bound American to my right is providing me with a check-list.
When I offered my seat to him and his wife he stared at me and declared drill sergeant-like with excessive volume: “No. I’m going to stay right here.” His wife was a lot more polite but frankly she hasn’t stopped talking (in an excessive volume) for about ten minutes while he complains about the PA system being too loud, the line at the coffee shop being too long and the wheelchair being uncomfortable. Ooh, and now he’s just asked his wife to get him some lime water. Best of luck with that – still or sparkling completes our O2 range over here.
Then there’s the fifty-something, baseball cap-wearing men who walk with a college campus swagger that long stopped being apt. In fact wearing a baseball cap three decades after your first beer is as appropriate as Betty White swanning around in a mini-skirt.
I’m thankful for the re-emergence of Betty White. She has become the go-to punchline for any (playful) age-related barb.
From what I’ve seen it does seem to be some tourist-related persona rather than just a blanket American characteristic. True to say that Americans in general can hardly be considered unassuming in their nature but give a middle aged former frat boy a passport, a plane ticket, and a massive camera that can photograph the moon’s surface and their base personality becomes amplified.
Of course many of these men probably did national service at some point too. That would undoubtedly explain why they come across so regimental, loud and demanding. It may also account for their seeming attempts to camouflage with the boarding gate walls by uniformly wearing beige.
Maybe I think they stand out because when I’m visiting other countries I don’t tend to walk around with a sense of entitlement and propensity to complain that they do. But perhaps when I’m 55 and struggling to come to terms with the Rupee exchange rate or the Tokyo transport system, I’ll too be a complete and utter pain in the arse.
And – now I think about it – that PA system is freaking loud.
Update: As if things couldn’t get more absurd, the wheelchair guy wore a fuchsia sleeping eye mask during the flight.