I’ve been on summer vacation. Two weeks in the Balkans, two weeks on a cruise ship, and I saw exactly one (1) Ugly American. By which I mean the classic big loud complainer contemptuous of local mores, demand everyone speak English and put ketchup on the fwah grass so’s a man can stomach it. You call this coffee? This itty bitty cup? If you picture this guy, he has a huge camera resting on the slope of his gut, because the Ugly American is also a tub o’ lard.
Only one? you say. On a cruise, only one? People who don’t take cruises always say the same thing: Everyone is stupid and fat. People eat and and eat and watch bad shows and look suspiciously from behind tinted windows as the excursion bus drags you through yet another scenic city. People who’ve never taken a good cruise think these things. Those who love everything about it know better.:
Fat? There were Plus-sized Americans on the ship, but also loud Russians with pendulous guts. Quiet Brits with big pink fingers folded over an excess of avoirdupois? I dare say yea. Tiny four-foot-tall Indonesian matrons with the diameter of an elephant leg? Sure. The older the American, the more likely they were to be thin and rangy and flinty - the men always wore caps from a Naval vessel - and the women were likewise compact. The men 30 - 55 seemed more likely to have spread beyond design parameters, but not always.
It’s astonishing that everyone doesn’t drive off the ship in a motorized scooter, straight to the diabetes ward - the profusion of comestibles and the fact that dessert exists in an omnipresent state is one of those things that makes you wince at the though of putting on your “before” pants when you get home. But the promenade deck is always thronged with people Waking It Off, and the gym is packed for the same reason. The excursions help; three hours of walking every day, uphill. (Europe is mostly uphill.)
Stupid? Guests at dinner included a couple of doctors from New Zealand, a retired fine-arts dealer, a fellow who sold boilers to power plants and could speak at length about the coming trend towards compact modular nuclear reactors. Had a late-night bar chat with a fellow who manages an OB-GYN clinic, and learned about the malpractice laws of Indiana. And so on.
Oh, the one Ugly American? We were at a church in Hamburg, which was a popular stop because it had a bathroom. You had to pay half a Euro to get in the loo. There was a machine that changed bills for tokens. There was a big guy shoving a dollar bill into the changer, over and over, getting madder every time it was spat back. Damned thing didn’t take dollars. The look of disgust on the man’s face was profound, but it’s possible he was masking distress. You know you’re far from home when you have to pay a church half a Euro to relieve yourself.
Anyway, the Global Fat Scale: the BBC will help you figure out where you stand. Or sit, I suppose.