Being an American abroad is how you learn what’s really important to your very existence – not only can I say, “Crank up the a/c!” in six languages, but I can also double your monthly water bill in a week – and a great way to subject your Americanism to the magnifying glass that other world citizens keep at the ready. It doesn’t take long for them, and you, to discover some uniquely American quirks.
I once lived in France with a French family, and as an All-American girl, I was the dark side of the moon to them. Soon after my arrival, my French hosts took me to dinner at an Italian restaurant. I couldn’t finish my enormous pizza, so I asked the waiter for a doggie bag. Even though my French was fine, something was getting lost in the translation; the waiter looked at me as if I’d just asked for a goat and a pair of sequined clogs. Why would I need such a bag, he wanted to know. “For the dog? Was something wrong with your meal?”
The French family scrambled to patch up this flagrant insult to the chef. “She’s an American,” they pleaded. “She doesn’t know what she’s saying.”
“Sure I do,” I insisted. “I’m going to take this food home and eat it later. It’s just an expression.”
The waiter stormed off. Minutes later, the chef stomped up to the table to ask what in God’s name I planned to do with his food and a filthy dog.
“You people don’t do this?” I asked. “Take the food home?”
“Mais non!” they cried out in unison. “You’re not poor! You leave the uneaten food on your plate.”
“Whaaaaat? And miss out on cold pizza for breakfast?” I countered.
“We’re so sorry! We’re so sorry! She’s American!” the family told the chef, as if I couldn’t help myself. In a snit, our waiter hastily wrapped my leftover pizza in a piece of aluminum foil before unceremoniously showing us to the back door.
I love everything about being American – doggie bags and all. So this 4th of July, I’m going to cue the Lee Greenwood, fire up a sparkler or two and swell with American pride as I contemplate what makes this country great.
Ice. Whyyyyyyy is this such an unreasonable request? Because in the rest of the world, there are only about 12 ice cubes to go around.
Free public restrooms. Keep it off the streets, people.
Quality toilet paper. No country has nicer toilet paper than ours; that has to affect tourism in our favor.
Cereal aisles that are a mile long.
Daily showers. Deodorant. Undershirts. Febreeze. Nothing wrong with that.
Free shopping carts and baggers at the grocery store.
Smiling at strangers. Smiling’s our favorite. And it creeps people out globally, so keep smiling.
Baby showers. Also, a general desire to celebrate everything. First day of menopause? I’ll order balloons!
Big Gulps! Costco! Mall of America! Super-sized everything (to match our super-sized backsides)!
Drive-thru everything so we can eat in our cars.
Orthodontia. So much smiling to do.
Metric-shmetric. You’ll never hear us say, “Give ’em 2.54 centimeters and they’ll take a kilometer!”
Personal space, which is another way to say “open carry.” Stay out of our bubble.
Court TV. When one of us is bad, the rest of us want to watch.
24-hour stores and restaurants. Because you might need a can of paint or some french fries at 2 a.m.
Tailgating. Have 60-inch flat screen, will travel.
A TV in every room of the house. A TV over the bathtub. A TV in the car. TVs in every corner of a restaurant.
Bye-bye. Sure, there are other Anglophones out there who might stumble across “bye-bye” upon departing, but Americans own this valediction.