Monday, March 12, 2012

Confession time again, I was once an UGLY AMERICAN.

My oldest son, William was asking about my overseas trips yesterday.  I'd love to say I've been a huge world traveler but truth be told, I've only made three trips abroad and all to the same destination - the British Isles.  The last trip I made was over to 25 years ago and that was during my honeymoon with my first husband, Jeff.  We had a lovely time but unfortunately on our final day I have a confession to make...I became an UGLY AMERICAN

My first trip was to London and surrounding areas during the Christmas holidays.  I was fifteen years old and had saved every penny the summer before working at my father's business.  I attended this amazing experience with my foreign language high school teacher and other various students (not that I needed to know Spanish for this trip.) I had a wonderful time; however, it began my awful fear of airplane travel thanks to a little Polish lady and horrifying turbulence.

The second trip was a ten day excursion during my senior summer with a group of friends and a few chaperons.  We were initially scheduled to perform the musical, "Godspell" throughout Europe but due to some fundraising difficulties, the show and the tour fell apart.  What did end up happening was about fifteen sexually active, European age drinking teenagers travelled to England, Scotland, and Ireland for ten days with about four to five adults who allowed us the freedom to roam the city streets of London, Glasgow, and Dublin when we weren't on tour buses. Youth in Great Britain; our first taste of freedom.

Now finally, the "Ugly American" story.  Jeff and I had, for the most part, scheduled some of our honeymoon on tours, but since I had seen much of London several years before, we took our time the first week roaming the city on our own. 

We were never very good financial planners.  (If you're a dedicated "Rambling Lunatic" reader then you may have picked up on this from past blog stories.)  In my relationship with Jeff, I took care of the money.  My idea of balancing a checkbook was to round the dollar amount up and when I lost complete control of how much money we had, I'd simply open a new account at another bank.  I thought that made sense.  At the time, Jeff was even worse than I was.  He once saw money in the account and pulled it out never thinking I had written checks against it.  We bounced thirteen bills that month.  No bueno (no good).

Anyway, we spent a little too much money the first week in London so by the end of our trip, we were literally sustaining ourselves on bags of potato chips and sodas.  We were broke.  When we arrived at the airport on New Year's Eve we were ready to go home.  I was hungry, dammit!  Of course, I flubbed the check-in time.  The clerk took one look at us and shouted, "RUN!"  Thank God we traveled with duffel bags. 

So we ran through Heathrow International Airport...Fluffy Girl and Tall Guy who Smoked Two Packs of Cheap Cigarettes a Day.  As we ran, we dropped our passports, nice people picked them up, and passed them along for us.  Huge groups of Asian tourists stood stock still in the middle of the way.  We barrelled through them and apologized as we did; two hippie Americans running for their plane.  Fluffy Girl's face was flushed because her duffel bag was too heavy and she started feeling fluffier with every tourist she encountered.  Tall Guy's lungs started to give out on him but he was healthier than Fluffy Girl.  He was pulling her along.  THEY MADE IT!  The plane was still docked to the gate. 

But where was the Custom's dude? 
He just left?
Get him back! 
Page him, please! 
He's just around the corner, isn't he? 
He can come back?! 
What do you mean. he won't come back? 
This is stupid! 
That is our plane! 
We have no more money! 
I refuse to sleep on the floor! 
I hate this fucking place! 
You are not going to keep me here another moment! 
You can't get the Custom's dude over there to say I can board this plane? 
What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Oh, it was nasty.  I was nasty.  The entire time I had been waving Jeff's marble tipped souvenir cane in the face of the front desk clerk, a puffy faced, bald-headed little Englishman.  When he refused my pleas for the last time, I had thrown everything (except the cane - I think I held on to that in case I needed it for self defense) - my duffel bags, which exploded exposing my dirty laundry all over the airport floor, my coat, and my purse - which also exploded.  I became the dreaded, UGLY AMERICAN.

I have to hand it to my ex-husband, he handled it like a professional.  While I was weeping, clutching at the window glass watching our plane depart from the gate, Jeff managed to get us a local hotel room, a taxi, and rebook us on the next day's flight.  We used our American Express card - which we had forbidden ourselves to use but at this point it seemed like a moot point.  He wiped my eyes and somehow managed to get me back onto an airplane the next day.  Quite honestly, I don't remember any of it after scratching my nails down the window, perhaps I saw the pilots laughing at me...I can't be too sure. 

I'm giving it a few more years before I make another attempt to travel overseas and I think I'm definitely going somewhere other than Great Britain.  I'm certain they still remember me over there.  How horrifying.