Travel

That Time I Was Called an Ugly American

I met the meanest woman in the world on cruise ship.

David and I were sitting in a near-empty onboard restaurant after an afternoon cooking class, and had a jovial group of fellow classmates seated with us — new friends from all over the world.

Formal night aboard the Volendam

Yes, we were a bit loud.

Yes, we were critiquing the food — we had prepared it, after all — and, I was being exceptionally snarky. The portion that I had created was simply pathetic. Not only was it ugly, it was so poorly put together that it wasn’t possible to transport it from plate to mouth, so tasting wasn’t even possible (likely for the best).

And, yes, we were having a blast.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a tidbit of the class we took:

About three quarters through our meal, a woman appeared at my side. There wasn’t a beat between my looking up to acknowledge her and her spewing out, “You are a really rude person.”

I was floored. Hoping to just make her go away, I looked at her straight in the eye and said, “thank you,” and turned back to my new buddies.

Everyone had turned to look at me with wide eyes. No one knew how to react; the woman had effectively shut down our fun little impromptu party. Seconds later, I realized she was still standing at my elbow. Stupidly, I looked back at her.

“People like you are why people hate Americans. You are an ugly American.”

Let me tell you, it’s downright mortifying to be called out as an ugly American before a group of new international friends. Mustering up just enough breath to give (what I hoped would be) a dismissive second “thank you,” I again turned back to our party. Everyone sat still — as dumbfounded as I was, unable to respond.

Did she stop there? Not by a loooooong shot.

She went on a long diatribe spelling out my faults. I honestly don’t remember what she said because by this point, I had shut down. I’d never had anything close to something like this happen to me — before or since (this happened two years ago and I’ve just now worked up the nerve to write about it.)

So I thanked her again, and she finally, mercifully, left. She had run out of awful adjectives.

Our group hung around just long enough to make sure I was okay, but the fun bubble had been burst. David and I walked to the elevator with one of the members of our party. I’ll call him Charles.

Once the doors slid shut, David says to me, “I can’t believe I just sat there like a lump. I was so completely shocked by that woman, I couldn’t open my mouth to defend you. I feel horrible.”

Charles echoed the sentiment. “I’ve never seen anything like that, and I can tell you’re really shaken. I really wish I would have said something.”

It was all I could do at that point not to burst into tears, something that I always do when people are nice to me when I’m…

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