Monday, June 25, 2007

In Which I Cause an International Incident

I wouldn't call me a patriotic person. I cringe during the Independence Day celebrations when I'm forced to listen to that awful Lee Greenwood song. But, I do have moments of national pride from time to time, most often when listening to classic rock tunes . . . although the Brits hold their own in that department, too. I justify that by telling myself they were all largely influenced by the blues and other black American music genres. But Americans do, from time to time, cause me to stand up tall and proud.

That said, every now and then I just lose control and become That Person, That Ugly American who just can't grasp that he or she is not in Kansas any more and things just aren't going to happen here they way they do in Peoria or Detroit or Cincinnati. I dread these moments. Most of the time I am respectful about my host country. I recognize that I am the guest here and that it is up to me to learn to fit in.

But today the heat must have gotten to me.

I took the kids to that little Scottish place. You know? The one with the golden arches and the Happy Meals? It was over 40C according to the car thermometer. I don't even want to know what 40C is in Fahrenheit. I think my head would explode. To get a rough estimate, double 40 and add 30 to it: that's the Fahrenheit ballpark. Yeah. It's hot.

So I step up to the counter and ask for two Happy Meals. Chicken nuggets. No sauce, just ketchup. Milk, please. Yes, milk.

She looks at me like I'm Crazy Lady here. Milk is new on the local Happy Meal scene. You never see milk on restaurant menus.

"We got any milk?" I hear her yell in Slovak, having determined that the cooler in the front, where they have plenty of beer is devoid of milk.

"I'll bring you your milks," she says, handing me the rest of my order. No problem. This is common. They usually trot right out with the missing item in just a few moments.

When she arrives, she has two boxes of apple juice.

"Terribly sorry," says she. "No milk. Juice, ok?"

And then I uttered the three words that convinced her that I am utterly and completely Out of My Mind. I said . . . you might want to sit down, it's that shocking . . . I said, "Is it cold?"

She shuddered visibly. "No." Of course not. It's for children after all. Cold drinks equal painful death by flux.

"Can I have cold ones?" I venture.

"I don't have any cold ones." She's looking at me sideways and backing away slowly.

"Oooh! I know!" I have an idea. Once upon a time I worked at the Scottish place. "Ice! Can I have some cups of ice?"

Huh? She's unclear. But that's my fault because I don't know how to say ice in Slovak.

I hop up from the table and gesture that she should follow me back to the counter. I point at the ice bin conveniently located under the fountain drinks. It is full.

"Ice!" I'm starting to get excited. "Can I please have cups with ice?" I'm thinking I may get pushy and ask for THREE cups of ice since my own Diet Coke came with nary a cube.

She goes behind the counter and hands me two small drink cups and what we in the industry called a "courtesy cup" (think Dixie cup) with about four ice cubes in it.

And that is when I lost control. In my defense, I was good natured and laughing, but in her estimation I had, as of this moment, gone barking mad.

"Oooh, no!" I, perhaps, began to raise my voice here. "Ice! Cups of ice! It's hot and we are three people!"

She looked confused. Her colleague, with a manager tag, leans over to see if he can help translate.


I did not reach, Homer Simpson style for her neck, but I think she caught that intent in my tone. By now she is quickly shoveling ice into the drink cups, one eye glued on me in case I leap over the counter and attack. Manager is laughing.

"IKNOWIKNOW . . . CRAZY AMERICANS AND THEIR COLD DRINKS . . ." I'm beginning to ramble.

She hands me the cups of ice and backs away. I am effusive.

"Oh, thank you so much! Thank you. Have a lovely day. Thanks! GIRLS! Look what I got for you!"

My children cheered: for the first time in I-can't-remember-when, I was their hero. It's too bad I probably can't return to that particular Scottish restaurant for the rest of the summer.


Blogger bosozoku said...

hello, i am a foreigner living in Bratislava too. I like your blog its fun, only i think its missing pictures to image your thoughts..

8:37 AM  
Blogger syferium said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

looool! im slovak but i gotta say you are absolutely right about MCD´s! The kids working there always screw something up. ALWAYS.

1:07 PM  

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