Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How To Get Into Trouble in a Foreign Capitol

Besides taking up offers that you should probably have politely declined, there are hundreds of less obvious ways to get into a pickle in Paris, a jam in Amsterdam, sin in Berlin or bemoan Rome.

Firstly, don't sell sleep short. You're going to be jet-lagged and bedraggled getting into Heathrow. It's the middle of the night for you and the last time you did something remotely coherent in the middle of the night was college. And even that was turning down the second horror feature with the frat brothers you were hanging with.

Lately the most intelligent thing you've done in the middle of the night is not pee down your leg. Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean your mental facilities are running on "Oh Boy" brand cranial stimulator. Give it a rest, go to bed for a few hours. The uncurbed dog crap on the Seine walkway just by Notre Dame will be there waiting for you. Take my word on that.

Secondly, dress the part. Become a plainclothes advocate. The American I ran into in the London Tube wearing a HUGE stars and bars t shirt with Civil War battlefield sites stitched in and "Remember the Glory of the South" was as much a beacon as was my friend Ian with a "Mr. Thirsty" shirt in New Orleans. The former was an asshole magnet, the latter was soliciting local wallet removal services.

Thirdly, speak quietly. Accents are a dead giveaway. Especially if you're from York, Charlotte, Marseilles or Essen. Loud voices get noticed worldwide no matter if you're complaining about chocolate pudding on the left bank, or twenty p for a pee in Tulierres or insisting ze red cahd hass not been put zere in three card monte on Fifth avenue.

Try not to stand out. Blend in. Say just enough to get you through the situation at hand. For example, the customs agent in Madrid, even though he sports a MONSTER cocaine pinky nail will sooner process you and your polite "gracias" than he will your pointing and asking where in town you could fill such at thing.

Likewise the car service driver jabbering at you for being five hours late will quiet if you politely ask him where you might draw Euros for his tip. "Listen up motherfucker, Newark was a goddam icecube" may curry less of his favor.

Sometimes blending in does not necessarily involve sticking to the letter of the law. Don't clutch that 50 centimes piece at the men's room at the Eifel tower, waiting for Claudine to get off le telephone with her girlfriend. Just march in and merde, mon ami. Jacques doesn't have a problem with it, why should you?

Make an effort at the local language. Speak slowly in England. Cough "Cote D'Azur" into a napkin in Paris and then excuse yourself in English. The waiter will appreciate the effort at his tongue even though you just hacked through the only tenth grade French you remember. Berlin? Listen, we won both wars. Speak English dammit! At any rate, modern German is evolving into what essentially is English with und and ja interspersed on occasion.

That's about it. Don't stand out. Don't paint a cultural target that is aimed at by the local corrupt constabulary, the colorful village ruffians or sporting gals from the red light district. But above all else, try never to take a CD narrated guided tour. With a spinning player hanging from your neck, a curious expression on your face and headphones on you'll look like a Borg escapee.

Take my word on this.

Bunny on.


Blogger cog said...

don't forget the guy who thinks a local will finally understand English if it is spoken at abusive decibel levels.

9:56 AM  

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