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|To Be British|
|Written by Cindy-Lou Dale|
|Wednesday, 06 February 2008 05:11|
It saddens me to say that Americans are constitutionally incapable of getting a joke, and clearly wit is not as venerated a quality in America as it is in Britain. It’s not that there aren’t Americans with an active sense of humour, just far fewer and when you encounter one it’s a little as I imagine it must be when two Masons recognise each other across a crowded room.
So you may understand how it pains me to have to explain irony in articles I write. An editor across the pond recently asked me to tell of the most embarrassing moments I’ve had whilst travelling/doing my job.
I started the article off by telling of an experience I recently had on an aeroplane to north Africa. I leaned over to get something out of my camera bag and just at that moment the person sitting in front of me threw his seat back into full recline, I found myself pinned helplessly in the crash position. It was only by clawing the leg of the man beside me that I managed to get myself freed. The editor asked that I elaborate further – he didn't get it.
Another scene the editor could not grasp happened on a flight to the Middle East where I knocked a soft drink onto the lap of a Rabbi sitting beside me. The flight attendant cleaned up the mess, mopped down the Rabbi, then brought me a replacement drink, which I instantly knocked onto the Rabbi again. Till today I don’t know how I managed to do that. I only recall extending my hand towards my fresh drink and watched helplessly as, like some plastic movie prop, it mercilessly swept the plastic cup from my tray onto his lap. The Rabbi looked at me with a stunned expression and voiced a curse that began with ‘oh’ and ended with ‘sake’ and in between words I’d never heard a man of the cloth utter. "What were the words in the middle," the editor asked.
I always seem to have disastrous encounters with public toilets. Like the liberating experience I had in a futuristic, automated toilet at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. After feeding it the required coinage, the door opened automatically and I walked into a newly disinfected wet floored toilet. Actually, the whole toilet is decontaminated and dosed with disinfectant following each use, leaving a wet seat. If I could read French I might have understood the sign that explained what I was about to experience. It told that I had only ten minutes to ‘go’, after which the entire cubicle, and everything in it, is doused in green disinfectant then hosed with clean water – which is what happened to me. Then to add further insult, the door automatically opened, exposing me, gasping and spluttering, jeans and knickers around my ankles, to all of Paris. I kid you not, the editor asked why my pants were around my ankles.
My closing paragraph told how much I ached to be graceful and how I would love just once in my life to rise from a dinner table without looking as if I have just experienced an extremely localised seismic event, get into a car and close the door without leaving ten inches of coat outside, wear light-coloured trousers without discovering at the end of the day that I have at various times sat in chewing gum, ice cream, cough syrup and motor oil. The editor asked me why I would sit in such things.
And I quote: “Please explain what these things that happened to you actually mean”, he had asked. “My readers won’t get it.” Needless to say I withdrew my article.
Okay, so maybe this is an extreme case and I should not brush all Americans with the same tar brush, so I won’t, but I’m seeing this trait more and more regularly. Recently I read an American glossy containing a brilliantly written article, penned by a British author, which was littered with the editors bracketed comments throughout, explaining the irony.