OK, so a bunch of people (if three is actually a “bunch”) messaged me about the altercation that I had at the dentist’s office early this week. There’s not much to say about the incident (but I will anyways), and it’s not like it turned into a brawl or anything, but it does provide some feel for the type of American expats that you will sometimes encounter whilst abroad.
And take it easy – don’t get your panties in a twist and start screaming that I am stereoty ping all Americans or – as another vlogger claimed – that I am “Anti-American.” I actually love the good old US of A, served in her armed forces and wake up just about every morning appreciating that I was born and raised in a First World nation. The US in particular is pretty sweet – a former imperial colony that became developed over time into diverse melting pot that it is today. And as for stereotyping some of Americans expatriates – if you’ve run into this particular type, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.
Anyhoo – back to the story.
So, there I was – waiting for my yearly teeth cleaning in Dr. Garupa’s waiting room. Another expat gent (Francois) was there whom I had never met before, so we started up with some small talk. He was a young Frenchman who had started a kite-surfing business down south in Zamboangita. (Zambo is in southern Negros and benefits from strong, off-shore breezes.) Another gentleman entered the office while we were chatting away, heard Francois’s accent and asked him where he was from. Francois asked why he was inquiring and the guy said, “Because I ask everyone.” Which – from that statement and his accent – pegged him as a potential One-of-Those-American-Expats.
“France,” Francois replied, glancing over at me somewhat questioningly.
I shrugged and added, “Well, I’m American but I tell people I am from Canada as everyone seems to hate Americans.” It’s a line I often employ – and seeing as how comedy is based on tragedy, I usually get a pretty good response from it.
And this is where it gets good – or in this case, bad.
The new guy (we’ll call him Tom) then says, “Well, the only reason that people hate Americans is because of the n&gger that’s in the White House.”
Yep – I already warned you.
That kind of American expat.
Now, you all know that I don’t like talking politics. It’s always a lose-lose scenario for those involved – especially when alcohol or a trip to the dentist are involved. Another thing that I can’t stand is people using certain ethnic slurs. “N&gger” is an ugly word – probably the most reprehensible word in the English language. Coming in a close second are “spic, wop, gook, chink” and all the rest. I don’t use that language, and in this day and age (the 21st Century, yo) there really isn’t any place for it. Yeah, I know some people are thinking to themselves, “But American blacks use it all the time!” And you would be correct, but in that context, one has to realize that there are socio-exceptions to using certain terms in certain company: Irish can call each other “Micks” and Jews can throw around “Hebe” when amongst their own. It’s basically just a matter of context.
Anyways, let’s continue…
So, the newly-arrived American just hit me with a double whammy – Vocalizing his politics and then effortlessly adding “n&gger” to the mix. The result had a surprisingly synergistic effect with the total level of offensiveness actually being more than the sum total of the individual parts. Got to give credit where credit is due, after all: Good old Tom really hit that one out the park.
I didn’t like it one bit.
Still seated, I said, “Oh, man, you’re not gonna say that…..”
“But he is a n&gger!” My fellow American insisted.
I stood up.
“Shut the f@ck up.”
“No, I’m not and I’m not a racist. He’s destroying the…”
“Shut the f@ck up.”
I was kind of seeing red at this point. Both of us were standing in the small waiting room, in each other’s faces with me basically repeating “Shut the f@ck up.” and him insisting that he wasn’t racist. I’m not really sure why he was saying this as I never accused him of being racist – perhaps he simply had the insight needed to make the necessary correlation.
At this point, I’ve basically had it. I am not thinking too clearly at this point, and all I can remember is thinking, “OK, he’s older than me so I can’t punch him. I can – however – slap him; just got to make sure he doesn’t go down and crack his skull on the tile…..”
Suddenly, maybe seeing the calculations going on in my head, Tom decides to back down, discretion getting the better of valor.
“OK, OK…. I’ll stop.” He says, backing up a few steps.
“Cool.” I reply, deflating a bit and sinking back onto the bench. The Angry American is still standing and I glance over at Francois who is staring at me with a rather stunned expression.
I take a deep breath and say, “And that is why I tell everyone that I am Canadian…..”
I initially felt pretty good about the situation. I stuck up for my values and didn’t let it get completely out of hand. As time passed, however, and I reflected a bit more, I sadly realized that it wasn’t exactly my best moment. And – more pointedly – it didn’t do a single thing to diminish the stereotype of the Angry American traveling or living abroad.
Uh…. Yeah….that guy was Tom.
And that guy was me.
As expatriates – regardless of our nationality – we are basically acting as ambassadors of our home countries, even if only in a limited capacity. I think about this a lot as I go about my day and usually do my best not to be the Angry American – to accept things in the Philippines for how they are, to be patient and compassionate and to limit my bitch sessions to sodden nights at a local dive bar with equally sodden fellow expats. I am usually pretty successful in these endeavors. At other times, though – not so much.
Yes, he was wrong for dropping an N-bomb in the middle of a public waiting area, among people he didn’t know. But by getting in the guy’s face and threatening physical violence, I wasn’t any better. Some might even say my response was far worse. Regardless, it was bad and not my proudest moment. Yes, I was the Angry American and a total fail as an ambassador to my home nation.
The story ends well. After I came out from my teeth cleaning he apologized and I returned it, stating that I had overreacted. Another guy that I go to the gym with was there (he came in halfway through the confrontation) and there was a lot of back-patting going on (which kinda hurt as I was dealing with nerve pain – a stinger – in my neck) and following that, we all went our separate ways.
Francois was gone by then, and I can only imagine his thoughts following the brouhaha.
“Doze Amereecans. Dey are very crazy!”
Sorry, man – for both being the Angry American and for making fun of your accent.