15 April 2007

North American Scum

"Oh I don't know, I don't know, oh, where to begin. We are North Americans."

Everyone should live at least part of their lives abroad. Aside from all the obvious horizon-broadening it does by introducing you to new places and people, one of its most educational aspects is its gift of your new identity as the foreigner. Although it’s a negative lesson, good comes from it. You start to have more compassion for outsiders everywhere.

"And for those of you who still think we're from England, we're not."

I was at a friend’s birthday party last night where I met loads of wonderful people with whom I stayed up drinking until nearly dawn. But there was one guy there that, when I met him, I thought he was joking with what he first said to me. Having heard my accent, he asked, “Whereabouts are you from in Canada?” So I said, “Oh, I’m not Canadian, I’m American. I’m from Chicago.” Immediately he plainly stated, “I hate Americans.” It was funny so I wrly replied, “Yeah, me too.”

"I hate the feeling when you're looking at me that way 'cos we're North Americans."

As the night went on, I started to see that it wasn’t the good-natured joke that I thought it was. Every time I saw him, he shouted “Hey, American Dave” or “Look everybody, it’s American Dave!”

It was actually mildly amusing the first 20 times, but a few “American Daves” later and it was drifting into the arena of the annoying. It was annoying because no one likes being defined by their otherness. It’s insensitive and it’s rude. It stopped being funny when I realised he was laughing at me, fixating on my nationality and judging me for it instead of taking any time to get to truly know another human being.

I’m just Dave. And even that’s just a word my parents decided to apply to me many years ago. I want to know you and part of that is where you were born and the places you’ve lived, but most of it is who you are now. When we meet, just be real and keep it that way and we’re cool.

"So where's the love, where's the love, where's the love, where's the love tonight? But there's no love when the kids are uptight."

His story was mostly just drunken stumbling and a silly nickname. Writing about it makes it sound like he was really malicious. I don’t think he was a bad guy, just ignorant, drunk and obnoxious. Unsurprisingly, he nearly Jimi Hendrixed himself in the middle of the night ‘cos he partied like such a rock star.

"And yeah, I know you wouldn't touch us with a ten-foot pole 'cos we're North Americans."

The night was still young for me, however, and I was only mildly offended by Mr. Sick. Fortunately, my next random conversation would intensify those feelings so that I could fall asleep feeling like a proper second-class citizen.

I was talking to an English girl during my DJ set and she asked, “Do you know what we call Americans?” Not knowing, and willing to play along with her guessing game, I asked the obligatory, “No, what?” So she happily beamed, “Septics!” I was confused so she explained “like Septic Tank”. And, understanding, I said, “Cockney rhyming slang. It rhymes with ‘yank’ and it’s the tank that holds your shit. That’s funny stuff.” With alcohol impairing her sarcasm detector, she laughed gleefully, “Haha, yeah, you’re a septic!!! You’re a septic!”

I always knew I was full of shit, but damn, “septic”? It’s kind of great because it sounds like something out of a sci-fi film:

It’s the year 2375. It’s been three centuries since the last of the polar ice melted and left the earth a scorched wasteland. There are now enclosed cities that artificially support growing crops and raising wildlife. Each is an oasis encased in glass and only the wealthiest can afford to live in them. But there are still some people on the outside, in the irradiated wilderness. They are diseased and insane. Rumour has it they are cannibals since there isn’t anything else left to eat out there. Inside, they call them “septics”. Occasionally one breaks into one of the cities, but they are caught within moments. All it takes is one good shot to the head: if you kill the brain, you kill the septic.

As previously noted here, learning new slang for the word “toilet” is awesome. New racial slurs to apply to myself… eh, not so much. Viva hate!



I shouldn't have read this while intoxicated. Next thing you know someone is going to try to convice me that soccer, oops - football - is a sport. Hiccup.


And I know where I missed the "n". White Castle will do that.

Dave Knapik said...

I'll defend to my death bed that it's football, not soccer. You play it with mostly your feet. Soccer is a silly word that makes me think of suburban mothers and minivans.

It's the greatest sport in the world and if I'm lucky, I'm going to South Africa in 2010 for the World Cup. It will be fun, however, to for once cheer on Argentina, for example, instead of England.

I've been unable so far to decide which football team I want to support here. None of the London teams inspire me at all. Then I realised that I just needed to think outside the box: I was restricting myself to English teams.

I think I'm going to be a Barcelona supporter. I love the city and Spanish people always welcomed me to their country. Come to think of it, I speak Spanish well, so why didn't I move there instead? It's much nicer than this island. They have this yellow thing in the sky there called the sun, too.

Ali da Hodza said...

Oh how embarrassing - I apologise on behalf of my backward compatriots for such insulting behaviour.

We are a small-minded bunch and sadly our history and geography teaching is way off base, so arseholes like those you encountered think it is OK to deploy their ignorant broad-brush anti-US feeling as insulting ad hominem attacks.

It's strange because we all know the stereotypes about hicksville ignorance towards strangers, but I have never encountered anything other than damn nice, polite and friendly behaviour in the US, and nothing that would compare to the insults you describe. And in London too! So much for our cosmo city.

I know you're a right old anglophile, flat cap n'all, and I really hope you don't let this experience change that.

Barcelona? Pah! What do they have except culture, food, sun, Europe's best football , architecture, history, the glorious Spanish language, Catalan defiance, wonderful streets, pretty girls and a sophisticated urban identity?

Why don't you and your better 'arf come round to my house for a re-balancing dose of anti-English sentiment - we do it really well down in the 'hood ;-)

zhao said...

damn. i hope i don't run into any of that in berlin! i'm from china but after years in LA i think i have a surfer accent :/