Winter break passes by fast, doesn’t it? You’re at home, watching TV, eating everything in sight and spending countless hours figuring out how to pick up the remote without getting up. Before you know it, you’re back at UR, wading through snow banks and uttering phrases like, “I didn’t know turkey could look like that.”
Or perhaps you’re studying abroad in London instead, and generally having the time of your life.
That’s right folks – I’ve been in London for over a week, and I’ve decided I’m never going back to UR. This trip has been a barrel of laughs from the start. It began at John F. Kennedy International Airport. My grandmother, aunt and mom took me to the security check, hugged me goodbye and then watched me walk away. I tried my best to look cool, sophisticated and well, European. Surprisingly, I wasn’t all that embarrassed at my grandmother’s cheering and yelling. I like being treated like a float in a parade.
Plus, my grandmother got a jump-start on a theme that would quickly establish itself from the rest of the crowd. When I travel abroad, I try very hard to blend in with the culture, but this time it seemed impossible.
For instance, take the doors in my dorm building. I watched my peers struggle with the door and haughtily thought – in a French accent – “Stupides Americains!” only to pull and pull at it without it budging one bit. My mentality immediately changed to – in a Texas accent – “Damn Europeans don’t know how to make doors, shucks.” A very attractive Spanish man started obscenely gesturing at me, pushing his hand out again and again, like Sisq did against that woman’s “dumps” – which were like a truck – in his video for “The Thong Song.” I thought this was quite improper and was about to tell him so, when I realized that he was telling me to push open the door. I felt like a dumbass.
Pretty soon, people were treating both my newfound study abroad friends and myself like morons. I had a craving for Indian food, everybody else was looking to get drunk, and since alcohol is sold to anyone in Europe, we thought why not get drunk in an Indian restaurant? The waiter was overjoyed to seat a table of eight – until only I and one other person ordered food.
The waiter, who was clearly the owner of the restaurant, asked Chris what he wanted to order. Chris could tell that the man would not be pleased if he didn’t order anything, so he said, “Could I have a salad please?” The man blinked at him in disbelief. Chris shifted uncomfortably in his seat and added, “Can I do that?” The waiter didn’t miss a beat, “No.”
At this point I ducked under the table and peed in my pants, because I really thought that the waiter was going to pull out a knife and chop off one of Chris’ fingers for each meal he didn’t buy. Clearly flustered, Chris asked for another minute to order.
The waiter turned to Rosie and asked what she wanted. “Uh,” she said, the panic filling her eyes because she, too, had only wanted a cocktail. “Can I have another minute?” I could have sworn I heard a loud growl arise from this very small, Indian man. He turned to our friend Barrow, who has a lot of confidence and somehow didn’t crack under the pressure. “I just want a drink,” he said. The restaurant went dead silent.
Just a drink?
I won’t say what I nearly did under the table. However, at least I fared better than the waiter. I think he burst an artery, right as he was standing there before us. How he could lose an aortic pathway and still manage to stay upright is beyond me, but apparently he was a man of strong convictions. He took a deep breath and with immense pain, quickly cleared Barrow’s place, and left in a huff.
I wanted to cry. I felt like I had just disappointed my father. It reminded me of the look on his face when I quit drama class in third grade because they made us stand around acting like trees for an hour. Fortunately, another waiter took over, my order was in fact taken and the meal was quite enjoyable. In fact, despite a misstep here and there, my time in London has been incredibly well spent.
It’s only been a week, and I’ve already decided where I’m living after I graduate – in a 4 million apartment in the Royal Borough of Chelsea. I have a vague idea of who I’m marrying – a man with a British accent – and what my career will be – making fun of people. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go fight with my friends over a bartender with an accent.
Kaminsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.