Foreign Affairs

So I’m standing in line at a taco truck, as we city-folk do, and the big, beefy Anglo ahead of me is being all jolly and friendly to the Mexican dudes in the truck, and I wish he would choke. “Hola, amigo!” he says. Dos chicken tacos, no sour cream. I’m trying to lose this belly – I’m too gordo,” he chuckles. “And for my lovely senorita here, two – I mean dos – beef tacos. How do you say ‘beef’ in Spanish? Oh, bueno! Dos carne tacos. Muchos gracias! So where are you guys from: Baja? I’ve been to Baja. No? Oh. You were born here? Muy bien! Me too! How do you say ‘Diet Coke’ in Spanish?”

Apologies to El Tonayense taco truck near the Best Buy. Click on the picture for a link to their web site.

Apologies to El Tonayense taco truck near the Best Buy. It wasn’t me I swear.

And on it goes. By now I want to hit him with a burro. Not only is he being a dick to dudes who are totally capable of spitting in our tacos, but he’s making the painful transaction last about three times as long as it needs to. By the time I get up there I’m frothing from the ears and totally flustered.

“I, uh, want a tripe taco. Dammit, not tripe. I mean chicken. Chicken taco. And a, what the hell, gimme a tongue taco. Yeah, tongue. Chicken and tongue. Spicy? Bueno. Shit, I mean great. Thanks!” Having thus in my mind placed myself in the same loser category as the doofus before me, I slink off and down my perfectly fine tacos without really tasting them.

On my own, I would have probably ordered everything in English, which they are clearly perfectly capable of understanding, and maybe – maybe – said “gracias” as I left. I’m never really sure if that’s appropriate, but what the hell. It is a taco truck.

It’s like when I’m at a sushi restaurant. I always duck my head in an awkward bow at the waitress or maître d’ when I enter or leave. What do they think of that? Do they care? Do they even notice? I do not bellow “Domo Arigoto, Mr. Roboto*” at them, which is pretty much the only Japanese I know other than “Gorjira!**”

"'Ere we go,'ere we go, 'ere we go! 'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go-oh!"

“‘Ere we go,’ere we go, ‘ere we go! ‘Ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go-oh!”

In England, which it turn out is an entirely different country with its own customs and cute l’il government and everything, I was also totally out of place, despite having at least a passing acquaintance with the language. People said “cheers!” to me and I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. It was like “aloha” (another word I would hesitate to use) in that it could mean “hello,” “goodbye,” “thanks,” and “let’s have eight pints of bitter and a big plate of Indian curry and see how far we can vomit,” and I never knew for certain which.

They had other weird customs too. On Friday nights Nottingham was overrun with packs of roaming men and separate packs of roaming women staggering from pub to pub and bellowing friendly obscenities at each other when they met in the streets. When not bellowing obscenities they would sing the “’Ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go!” song at the top of their lungs. It was fun, yet terrifying at the same time.

But I digress. The point is, I like other cultures a lot. I enjoy their food, their quaint customs, their tasty raw fish and huge pints of warm and excessively alcoholic beer. But I’m incapable of being anything other than what I am – a moderately awkward middle-aged, middle-class white American dude. Most people that I’ve met are okay with that, as long as I don’t pretend otherwise.***

This is amazing 3D chalk art from England, another thing which freaked me the hell out.

This is amazing 3D chalk art from England, another thing which freaked me the hell out.


*”Thanks a lot, Mr. Robot”


***Also I stay away from countries that the US has bombed in the last 25 years. Fingers crossed on Syria…


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2 Responses to “Foreign Affairs”

  1. E. B. White Says:

    I very much appreciate the apostrophes you put into “’Ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go!” A lesser man would have given up after the second “‘ere’.” That is probably why those bands of roaving English girls yelled obscenities at you. They recognized a real man when they saw one.

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