Today I came across an obnoxiously patronising American man. No, he was not called Mitt. As a matter of fact, I have no idea, what he was called, but I can think of a few colourful words I can call him.
I met this chap at WH Smith’s in a part of London set to be the centre of the world for the next three weeks, home of the London 2012 Olympics, Stratford. He was buying two bottles of water along with some confectionary, all set for a tour of the Olympic Village and perhaps tonight’s opening ceremony. So far, so touristy. It was what happened next that caused me to think up some colourful names for him.
When the salesman on the till told him he could have a bottle free if he bought a copy of The Telegraph, Chuck, (or Barry, or perhaps Mitt) said he did not want the paper. When the salesman explained it would be free as part of a deal if he bought the paper, Chuck proceeded to protest in quite an obnoxiously loud manner he would not need the paper.
At this point, Chuck went on to carry out the obnoxiously patronising manner of slowing down his speech as if he was speaking to one hard of hearing or of lower intellectual capacity that some native speakers of English often assume when speaking to a non-English speaker of English. Yes, the salesman was Asian as as far as accents go, he had quite a heavy accent, but he had to this stage fared well by explaining the deal to Chuck.
Perhaps, on second thought, the salesperson should have slowed down his speech as Chuck then proceeded to argue he could surely use the deal to get one of the bottles for free as he was buying two. At this point it was not only the salesman but also the gradually growing que of stiff upper lipped Brit commuters that were getting more and more exasperated over Chuck’s antiques.
Chuck then went on to ask, quite loud, I might add, “Am I not making myself clear?” seeking some sympathy, his plea fortunately falling on deaf ears and glum faces. Until he realised he was fighting a losing battle.
I do not want to make this an issue of us vs. them, as often, as the British we can be accused of covert racism and prejudice, but we are very rarely so mocking of someone’s difference – whether it of accent, race or religion – especially when we are in the wrong. Yes, the British undertones of elitism and prejudice can be frustrating, but not as much as such a public and obnoxious display of one’s righteousness turning into theatrics of mockery. Personally, I’d take British passive aggression any day.
With millions flocking to London for the Olympics at a time when we need to practise more tolerance in dealing with fellow humans from diverse parts of the continent getting together in London to enjoy a once-in-a-four-year spectacle, I do hope this storm over a bottle of water is not a sign of what may become a daily occurrence coming to a newsagent near you in the next three weeks.