01 June 2009

The reputation proceeds us.

A glimpse into my traveling journal.

Copenhagen International Airport.  22 May.  Waiting for the international flight from Denmark to Atlanta to board.  Homeward bound.

The stereotype of "the Ugly American" is alive and well, for good reason.  I'd like to think that I'm not one of those people, but I probably am from time to time, just like the rest of the population.  

The United States has a restriction on carrying liquids on to a flight, no more than 3 ounce bottles, and only what can fit into a quart size zipper bag.  Fine.  I abide by the rules, even though they're a) stupid and b) don't do anything to keep us safe on flights.  C4, the world's most explosive device, can look like a solid bar of grey soap, but you can bring solid soap on board no problem.  You can't clear security at any airport with a big bottle of water.  But you can buy a bottle after you clear security, or fill your own bottle from a tap or water fountain, noooo problem.  You can also buy larger sized bottles of shampoo or hand lotion or liquid soap or soda or whatever at the shops inside the airport after clearing security. Yep, this makes excellent sense.  Why the rest of the world jumped on board this boat of insanity, I have no idea.  But they did.  Even flying within Europe, you can't take more than the prescribed amount of liquids for a flight within the US.  Gah.

I drink a whole lot of water.  Lots.  Every day.  I like water.  I'd rather have water than almost anything else (except coffee) most of the time.  Airplane rides always make me parched.  Instead of buying a bottle of water in those BPA-plastic-fossil-fuel wasting containers, I have a Nalgene that I fill up, usually from a water fountain.  

Copenhagen airport has you pass through security, and then a second checkpoint at the gate, where only ticketed passengers for that particular flight can sit in a waiting area.  Once you're there, you're there.  No running elsewhere to buy a book.  Fortunately, there was a restroom at the gate, although it was sans water fountain.  So I went to stand in line for the bathroom, knowing that tap water would be available.  Not my preference (especially from a bathroom sink, although public restrooms in Scandinavia in general are really clean) but not going to kill me, either.  

Of course, there was a long queue for the ladies room.

There was a group of Red Hat Ladies traveling home to Pittsburgh.  There was a group of college kids from some school in (I think) Idaho.  They were all Chatty Cathys.  One of the Red Hat Ladies decided that since there was no queue for the men's room, she was going to use it.  She told the rest of the people on line so, loudly.  

I'm not opposed to using a men's restroom (or a handicapped stall) when there is no line for those facilities and there is a line for the ladies'.  I am opposed to you declaring it for all and sundry, at the top of your lungs.  Say it with me:  TAAACKY!

Directly in front of me in line was one of the college students, and she was full of complaints.  The food on her European trip hadn't been to her liking.  It was colder in Denmark than wherever she had been last.  It was raining.  Europe is full of pay toilets, which had both surprised and annoyed her through her travels.  She was thrilled that the airport restroom didn't require a payment.  Her group had been in Europe to study European religion, both before and after the Protestant Reformation.  She hadn't been impressed with Europe's cathedrals, or the various local guides they'd had in said cathedrals.  (I should note here that she had been in Europe for all of two weeks.  Um?  Not enough time.  And she wasn't impressed with Notre Dame or the cathedral in Vienna?  WTF?)  She told me all of this with no prompting and no questions from me, other than a raised eyebrow and occasional "mmm-hmm".

She also was very annoyed that the airline required everyone to be at the gate an hour before departure.  That was the biggest complaint; sitting still in one place for an hour.  They're not even boarding, ffs, why do we need to be here?  Whine, whine, whine.  I can't keep my mouth shut (who knew!) and I felt the need to explain to her that we need to be there before the plane takes off because 200 people are going to board, and that takes time - you ain't the only person on the flight, sister - and if you get there and board the plane at the scheduled departure time, along with 200 of your closest friends, the flight?  Will be late.  Ohhh.

The line moves forward, slowly, even with everyone using either restroom.  College Girl goes into the men's.  When she comes out, the water in the sink was still running.  I glanced at it as I walked by, and thought that it was an automatic tap, one of the ones with a heat sensor or motion detector.  So I didn't turn it off, because I thought it would turn itself off.  When I came out of the stall, though, it was still running.  Grrrr.  Waste of water, environmentally irresponsible, rude....pick any one of those, and you have enough to really irritate me.

When I returned to my team in the waiting room, College Girl was a few seats away, and I heard her telling her friends (again, loudly) that she never turns off the taps in public restrooms because she's just washed her hands and the sinks in public restrooms are sooooo dirty, you know?  Someone else will turn it off.  Whatever.  And like, I don't want, like, to get germs on my clean hands and stuff.  

Much eye-rolling from me ensues.  She wasn't paying attention to me, and I didn't want to get into an argument, so that's a good thing that she wasn't watching.  Her thoughtlessness and very self-centered outlook were annoying.  It also embarrasses me when people that I share citizenship with act like that: loud, full of complaints, bratty, self-centered, and a closed mind.  Yeah, things are different in Europe.  It isn't America.  The Europeans operate a little differently than the Yanks.  That does not mean that you should be passing judgement on the way of life in another country.  And things like that are the reason that Americans have such a bad international reputation.  

I do realize that some of my irritation was misplaced.  A convenient target and outlet for other feelings I can't do much about.  When I'm leaving Sweden (OK, technically Denmark this time, but just across the bridge from Malmö, Sweden) I'm always tired, a little bummed because I never know when I am coming back to Scandinavia, and dreading the trans-Atlantic trek home, as it is long, boring, and usually crowded.

Thankfully, College Girl and her compatriots were way in the back of the plane, and I didn't have to listen to their inane chatter over a 9 hour flight.  The Red Hat Ladies sat by us, though, and man!  As we were boarding, they were rude and impatient with everyone in front of them in line stowing their luggage in the overhead compartments.  Simmer down, sweetie, it takes all of 30 seconds to shove a carry-on up there, and no one is taking "your" space for their bag.  I promise.

Hm.  I think it is time for me to either get some sleep, or lock myself in a room alone away from other people for a while.

here endeth the entry.  A note after getting home, though:

The college kids all applauded and cheered when we got on the ground in Atlanta and the pilot or the lead flight attendant said "Welcome to the United States" which I thought, again, unnecessary, tacky, & loud.  But I realize my interpretation of that behavior -- which is that they were cheering because Europe was just so different than home, so awful -- is unreasonable.  They were just glad to be home.  

As am I (mostly) to be perfectly frank.  I just wish I was able to visit Sweden more often, preferably on an annual basis.  For more than the two weeks of vaca I'm allotted.  That'd be nice.

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