Sunday, December 18, 2005

First Prize in the Lottery of Life?

Due to the protracted distractions of multiple visitors, coupled with persistent flu-like symptoms which I'm still hoping are not of the avian-induced variety, the R.A. has been on an unforeseen temporary hiatus.

Fortunately, the material for this week's post more or less delivered itself to my computer screen in the form of some lively ripostes regarding my blog on a thoroughly entertaining British expat forum. Many of the postings demonstrated more about that infamous British "sense of humor" than I could ever hope to articulate myself, so I thought I'd share some of those here.

BritGuyTN: "Did anyone else notive [sic] that this silly tart complained about paying for sewage? is london the only place she has been apart from new york?... another candidate for needing a helmet before leaving the house."

RA: This is the second time I've had the humorous distinction of being called a tart (BritSpeak for promiscuous person), which I have to say is a rather curious choice of insult to hurl at a complete stranger in cyberspace. The previous time was at a cocktail bar when an unseemly drunk man launched himself on me at the coat check and his equally inebriated girlfriend slurred this invective before making a beeline to get sick on the sidewalk. I must admit, it does makes me feel like I've really arrived here, sort of like in the fourth grade at Irving Elementary when Latrelle Jackson would bestow the name 'honky' on only the people he secretly admired.

Rushman: "I was taking it all with a pinch of salt until the stupid [bleep] started knocking the East End. For her information, the "Angel" tube station is not in the East End. It's in [bleeping] Islington...NORTH LONDON. Just the self important ramblings of another American with a crap sense of tradition, history and geography and importantly, a complete stereotypical lack of understanding another culture."

RA: And to think before now I thought we New Yorkers held the torch for being defensive and self-righteous...clearly, it's time to pass the baton.

AntJen: "Sounds like she has already picked up 1 british habit she doesnt realise - moaning about something and not doing anything about it."

RA: Well, short of making like a Brit and just stabbing everyone that annoys me or alternatively drowning my troubles in drink, I opt to use my blog for a therapeutic outlet. Certainly if I could wave a magic wand to single-handedly improve the quality level of things over here and implant a motivation gene in the large percentage of the population that lacks one, I wouldn't hesitate.

While the English are certainly notorious for 'whingeing' amongst themselves, in other parts of the world, people actually complain straight to the source (i.e. the government, the transportation authority, the store manager, the landlord) and this is the impetus for much improvement and innovation. (As a personal aside, I think you'd be amazed how easy it is for foreigners such as myself to get action over here in the Land of Inaction, simply by speaking up and not being satisfied with "it's not possible" or "sometime next month" for an answer.)

Neil: "And how can she be so critical of the tube, when the New York subway is infinitely worse - at least in the tube you have computerised signs telling you when the next train is coming (in NY it can be difficult to know if you're standing on the right platform); and you have an easy to read map; and you can get from one side of town to the other without having to go uptown on one train to then get another one to take you downtown again."

RA: This could be the subject of many a blog in and of itself--suffice it to say that while we don't have fancy computerised screens in NY telling us when the next train is coming, that's generally because our trains actually do RUN so such a system would be an egregious waste of the money that's better spent on maintenance and new subway cars. I think I can speak for most New Yorkers when I say we'd rather be on the move than standing around watching a computer screen tell us when we might be moving.

Things have actually gotten so dire here recently that they've started making Tube announcements letting passengers know when there is "good service" on the trains, as opposed to the old announcements telling us when there's a disruption. No doubt some savvy soul in the head office clued-in to the time (and voice) saving practicalities of this strategy.

BigDavyG: "Its a bit rich that she complains about public traansport [sic] and she seems to be paying $500 for her tv license - looks like someone has her figured for being one of those "dumb americans".

RA: Let's see, I'm not sure what riding public transport and paying for a TV licence have in common, unless you're honestly theorizing that I'm so rich that I actually pay the mandatory TV licence so why should I be stooping to ride public transport?! I don't even know where to go with that one. And yes, of course everyone here knows not paying for the TV licence is only a problem if you get caught--just like shoplifting or illegal cable hookups in the States--but the fact is, it does happen to be the law (and not even one that I agree with), which it appears you're advocating we spendthrift Americans should be breaking.

If, as Cecil Rhodes once observed, "To be born English is to win the first prize in the lottery of life", I think I might do best to pass up this year's lotto jackpot and squander my savings at the craps table.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not being funny, but why do you live here when you seem to detest it so much? Is it because of work or a partner or what... ? It seems rather masochistic if you could just as easily live in NYC.

BTW, you seem to be saying that Brits are more defensive than others when their country is slagged off. I would suggest that Americans are much, much worse in this respect.

10:35 AM  
Blogger The Reluctant Anglophile said...

Well, it would seem masochistic if indeed it wasn't under duress...the last time we moved over here for me to go to grad school and now this time my husband got transferred, so there really wasn't much say in the matter. If opportunity knocks, you usually have to let it in if you want to get anywhere, even if means immense sacrifices in the short term.

I think some, or perhaps even many, Americans are equally defensive and wear blinders about alot of things pertaining to the US of A, however I truly have a hard time imagining them getting so irate as to resort to such vehement displays of name-calling and crass putdowns over what boils down to one person's experiences with things like TV licenses and utility bills.

cheers, RA

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but your comments about utility bills and TV licenses are not exactly one-off criticisms... they seem to be part of an ongoing indictment that everything about Britain and The British is terrible. I'm not sure you've ever said anything positive about the country or the people. I should think American netters would respond with at least as much venom if a similarly one-sided portrayal of their country were given. Even criticisms of the Bush administration seem to have been taboo until recently. Compare that with the complete roasting Tony Blair got in the last election.

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi RA,

Red rag to a bull! Are you sure this is really going to be therapeutic for you? I'll keep quiet at the other end for your sake, but I'm sure somebody will notice eventually. Then it could be one of those Cry Havoc incidents.

On your post, I notice that you feel a necessity to sanitise it by removing the swear words from the original text. What is it with the Yanks and their inability to use these words or see genitalia on public media? Where does this strange hang up come from? I was watching a Discovery Channel ditty the other week about a guy working in a pet groomers. They considered it necessary to blur out the dog's dick on screen while the guy was trimming round it. Weird! Yet watching somebody off-load an AK-47 magazine into a previously living human body is perfectly acceptable over here.

On these differences, I don’t know whether you are the member of any of the similar boards. I always think that an excellent thesis could be made between the USA forum of and, say, The differences are stark and vivid.


4:04 PM  
Blogger The Reluctant Anglophile said...

Hi FB,

Well, blogging is a lot cheaper than the exorbitant cost of shrinks over here, so I figured it was worth a shot, as a stop-gap mechanism anyway.

As for the swear words, I personally use them way too much myself, but as I know that there are a few teenagers of friends who read my blog, I try not to use them on here. Puritanical, perhaps, but I don't want to engender ill-will (at least amongst the people I know!) That is highly bizarre about the DC doc.; even they must be falling prey to the christian right-wing zealots overtaking the country. First the brouhaha about Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, then Howard Stern's on-air castration, and now even lower animal species are not safe from the wielding of the black bar...where will it end?

I did not even know existed but I am certainly going to go check it out...A comparison of the two forums would CERTAINLY be interesting.

Speaking of which, as none of the three English people I know had heard of the term Brenda, I decided to ask someone in politics at the House of Lords about it and they seemed none too pleased with the question...instead rather, this person seemed to be at a sort of shocked loss for words and mumbled something about people affectionately viewing the Queen as a housewife--in any case, I still haven't obtained a satisfactory response.

cheers, RA

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi RA,
Chuckling here about you using the Brenda word in their lordships’ digs. Surprised you got out alive! As you appear to be stumbling, I’ll give you a clue: Private Eye. You won’t find too much on the web since its heyday was long before, so ask around and try your local library as well. Those educated in public schools and forty or over may be your best resources.

Which brings me round to the three friends! You need to get out and about more. Get a dog or join a local night school class or something. You will not get very far understanding the society in which you find yourself stranded by observing from the outside like a tourist. Some effort, please! It will both improve the quality of your understanding and, thus, your writing.

On the nutty religious right over here, I think there is light at the end of the tunnel. Personally, I date it back to the Schaivo shenanigans. Since that date, the regime hasn’t seemed to be able to put a foot right. Now the traditional right is splintering from the hate brigade in their party (no doubt with an eye on the upcoming midterms), the end is nigh. Wonder whether we’re all going to be treated to an amusing (well at least for the rest of the world!) impeachment of the shrub before his termed uprooting?

6:55 PM  
Blogger The Reluctant Anglophile said...

Great, you're getting me into trouble over here... I thought Brenda was a term of endearment so decided it would be ok to ask the friend of a friend who's an HoL clerk who was kind enough to give me and some friends a private tour of the in return for his kindness, it sounds like I must have asked something very insulting, which explains his shocked and pained expression. I'll have to keep digging, hopefully without offending anyone else in the process.

As for the three British friends...I do get out I do get out quite a bit but either a) I seem to be constantly putting my foot in my mouth as above, or b) the people that are friendly and sociable always end up being australian, irish or south african.

Interesting thoughts about the rightists splintering from the hard core fanatics--if only that turns out to be true, and if only they WOULD impeach the shrub--god knows they've got enough basis for it now.
Merry Xmas,

12:34 AM  

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