Some things America probably just needs to keep to itself. Among these, I'd suggest episodes of "Kath and Kim," our noseless Michael Jackson, and select tourists.
I have a tale to tell you about that last one.
About a decade ago, one of my buds and I took a trip to England. Oh, we had it all planned out for maximum vacay enjoyment!
Five glorious action-packed, Guinness-marinaded, art-infused, wax-museumed, Royal-Guard-pestering, tea-in-the-crypt-sipping, brass-rubbing, Tube-riding, Harrods-shopping, standing-stone-seeing, toad-in-the-hole-eating days in London, Bath and Stonehenge!
If ya don't need a holiday to recover after you come back, it just wasn't a good vacation!
Included in this trip were a couple of tours: a London city tour, a tour of the Tower of London, and a boat ride down the Thames.
And it was over the course of them, we encountered the... er... rich multi-dimensional tableau of American exported humanity.
I've often wondered why it is that the people who seem to know the least about things are the ones who always have so much to say on these tours?
Like the college girl who was chatting away to her boyfriend for most of our city tour, making it impossible to hear what the tourguide was saying. By St. Paul's Cathedral, as the guide showed us where the building was damaged due to Hitler's bombs, she paused long enough to hear the guide mention "World War II."
That's when she hit the guide with her contribution to English history:
"Well, England wasn't really involved in World War II... You know, like, not one of the major players...?"
The tourguide's mouth dropped open like an astounded codfish. But I imagine it wasn't the worst thing she'd heard during her career.
The worst thing might have been from a couple that my friend and I dubbed "The Plaids."
Mrs. Plaid was a 60-something lady in a plaid skirt and blazer. Mr. Plaid, a sixty-something man in plaid sports jacket and hat.
I imagine they thought they would blend right in once they got to Scotland.
The Plaids were a loud couple who, like the college girl, used speech as a soundtrack to life. Within five minutes, everyone in London knew all about them.
They were from the midwest and given the scope of their European tour, it sounded less like they were touring, and more like a whirlwind takeover.
They'd already been able to check off Italy, France and Spain from their list, they said, and once they hit the UK, they were headed onto Norway before heading back home to Flatland, USA.
Herb Plaid fancied himself a skilled photographer. Yes, he'd spent an evening with his high-tech photography equipment trying to get the Eiffel Tower to hold still and say "fromage." Herb was a perfectionist, Doris Plaid said.
"He also took pictures of that famous river there... you know the one... what was it called?... The Seen?"
So, as these sorts of things go, it wasn't much of a surprise that, when it was time for our boat ride down the Thames, we found the Plaids placed at our table.
We strained to hear the guide over the loudspeaker as Mr. and Mrs. Plaid oohed and ahhed over boats and bridges and ducks and oh, stray Newcastle bottles... Mr. Plaid pushing us aside with his telephoto so he could get the perfect shot.
And then we came to the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. The guide announced them over the loudspeaker and pointed off the proper side of the boat.
The Plaids, however, were still talking, so it took a moment to register. We had just passed the Tower of London when when Mrs. Plaid got really excited:
"Look! Is that it? That must be the Tower of London."
"There! There, see?? Up ahead!"
"Oh yes! There it is!" And Mr. Plaid leaned all over us again to get a shot of...
"The Tower. A Thistle Hotel."
It was printed on the side of the building in bright lights.
It's since changed hands. Which is nice, really. Because that means the Plaids had forever captured on film the deep enlightening history of... a hotel chain.
So tell me, folks, about your funny tourist experiences!