Last night, at around 11pm, a group of American travellers congregated outside our room with their cans of Mythos and special brand of inaugral backpacking philosophy, and began to converse. Settling into bed with my novel, I gave them until midnight. They brayed, they whinnied, they confessed to hating Californian girls – the Californian guy present expressed his agreement, it may or may not have been to keep the peace or as a result of a bad experience with a Kirsten Cavillavillari type – they told stories with a brand of gusto that wasn’t warranted. Wasn’t warranted because it was approaching midnight and some of us are old and cantankerous and cannot remember the tremendous lightness of being afforded by early 20s drunken philosophising, and wasn’t warranted because it wasn’t funny. As an excellent people watcher and eavesdropper, I have no qualms lying in bed listening to loud conversations if they’re funny, it sort of feels like I am privy to a personal comedy performance. But most people aren’t funny. And to be fair, next to the grate of the Australian accent, the clang of the American accent is the last thing I want to hear as I prepare for slumber. The American accent is akin to listening to a whale give birth on a sea of keyboards. It’s not soothing. And so at 12.01, on the dot, I spring-bokked from my bed. Tammy said, somewhat fearfully, ‘are you going to yell?’ I didn’t, I politely asked them to keep it down and returned to bed. They brayed for about another half hour and then disbanded. Yanks are nothing if not polite. If they were Poms, they probably would have glassed me. Or at least spent the next half hour taking the piss out me for being a convict.
As I age, I’m getting less and less tolerant. One might say more and more crotchety. I abhor mingling with the made-up teens in Muenster’s various H&Ms. I bristle at the way they move in packs and shriek. I have no qualms telling other people’s children to be quiet if the parents won’t. And now I have started nixing the starry eyed conversations of starry eyed backpackers at 12.01pm.
Tolerance is the most tested trait when one is on the road, and I do not speak of tolerance of cultures and races, because you embrace them by virtue of choosing the experience them. I’m talking of tolerance of one’s fellow travellers and mine, it has to be said, is low.
Particularly for Australians, Americans and Poms.
In fact, I have sometimes affected an ESL accent when around native speakers, so they don’t suspect me as one. So I am not quizzed on Neighbours, Home & Away, kangaroos, convicts and Fosters beer. And so, I have to confess, people do not associate me with brashness. Oh God, there I said it, I find us native speakers so horribly brash. Poms go bright red and have to eat a Full English, no matter what country they’re in. And are horrid drunks. Australians are horrid drunks and make the crucial mistake of thinking we’re likeable by virtue of being Australian and Americans are … Americans. And please bear in mind, I confess this as an Australian who has travelled to and very much enjoyed the States and the UK.
A horrid, sweating man once said to me (as I was likely tearing strips off him in a pub) ‘you’re gorgeous, but you need to …’ and here he made a closing-mouth motion with his hand. I was incensed and thus really do understand the reaction of you all when I say this … you’re gorgeous. I love you (and us). I just don’t need to hear you.