US Diary

1. Frankfurt – Newark

After security at the Frankfurt airport, in an Italian restaurant with a fine selection on the menu, the American family seated nearby ordered burgers and coke. We also overheard bits of their conversation. (This was easy: they were loud.) At one point the father, a bald man with a wrestler’s physique, looked at a TV on the wall displaying news of Obama’s visit to Germany and said, “History will judge Obama as one of our worst presidents, just you wait and watch.” His son, a lanky teenager sitting opposite, began to protest, but was promptly put down. Biting into his large hamburger, the father said, “The burger’s good, don’t ya think?”

Near the gate came further intimations. The ladies restroom my wife entered had only a single cabin, which was locked. As she exited a large white woman standing nearby spoke: “I’ve been waiting outside, excuse me!” No one could have known this before entering the restroom, but my wife was too stunned to respond. Then, another woman sitting a little away came up and said, “I’ve been waiting too!” This woman’s accent also was American, and (my wife concluded) so was her attitude. In the moments of emotion that follow an unpleasant social encounter, my wife and I agreed that people of that country seem to carry a sense of entitlement wherever they go. Displaying this inside the US was bad manners; outside, it was comical. My wife wondered if we would visit the US if her parents were not living in the country. Probably not, I said.

Not a propitious beginning to a three week vacation in the US. But things only got better from here.

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