Category Archives: Tourists

How not to make small talk with strangers: Weirdos Abroad part II

On our second day in Iceland, my friend and I decided to visit the local hot springs. In the hot tub, a woman came and sat near us.

“You look really familiar,” she told me.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“America,” she said. Well, yeah. I got that.

We did the whole where-are-you-from, where-did-you-go-to-school, etc., and found no hidden connection. “Were you on the trip to see the Northern Lights last night?” my friend asked. Yeah. That was it. The connection was from being in Iceland.

The woman, whom I will call Susie (mainly because I can’t actually remember her name), started telling us about her PhD program. She was a TA, she said. That was the last normal thing one would tell a stranger during small talk that came out of her mouth.

Susie proceeded to tell us that she hated everyone in her program, because they all hook up with each other and she’s too professional to get involved in that kind of debauchery. She launched into a long story about a man in her program who routinely teaches class drunk. One time, she said, he arrived so drunk that he began throwing up and eventually passed out after writhing in a pool of his own vomit in front of his class. Despite her efforts to get him fired, she said, he still works there.

Susie also informed us that her students routinely bring guns to class.

“As you do,” I said.

When we left the hot springs, my friend turned to me. “I feel like we can safely talk about what just happened now,” she said.

“I was trying not to make eye contact with you,” I told her. “That just happened.”

Silence is golden, but duct tape is silver: Weirdos Abroad part I

Hello dear readers and welcome to a very special series I’m calling “Weirdos Abroad.” While traveling in Iceland recently, I was reminded that sometimes traveling Americans are even more annoying than those who are being obnoxious domestically. In each part of this series, I’ll examine an individual or individuals who made me embarrassed that I share their nationality.

We’ll start with a trip to the Blue Lagoon. The bus ride took around an hour, but it felt like five years due to two people sitting behind my friend and me. I’ll call them Bill and Sally. Bill and Sally are probably in their late fifties. They are not married to each other; Sally’s husband was not present, and Bill was Tindering the whole ride. How do I know this? Because they never stopped talking.

Bill had long sideburns and a soul patch, a look that was popular before my birth and attractive never. Throughout the ride, he frequently referenced his many dates and informed his traveling companion that she would be his wing man.

Sally is from the Midwest. If possible, she likes to talk even more than Bill. She narrated our whole trip.

“Look, it’s moss,” she exclaimed. “I wonder where it all comes from?”

“And now it’s raining,” she noted.

At this point I turned to my friend. “I will give them $10 to stop talking for five minutes.”

She didn’t think that would go over well.

“I think I’m going to bed early tonight,” Sally said at one point. I got it. Her vocal cords were probably raw.

“You can’t,” Bill wailed. “You’re going to be my wing man.”

“The only people who get my humor are children, old people, and East Coasters,” Bill said.

“I hate East Coasters,” Sally said.

My friend and I, born, raised, and currently residing on the East Coast, shared a look.

We were lucky enough to end up on the same bus as Bill and Sally on the way back. Before getting on the bus, Bill stopped a young Asian woman.

“Do. You. Speak. Eng-lish?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Where is this bus going?”

She looked at him, shrugged, and walked away.

Bill shook his head at Sally. “She didn’t understand me.”

My new year’s resolutions and a word about people who camp out at Times Square on NYE wearing adult diapers

Happy New Year! I paused Married at First Sight just to check in because it’s been awhile.

First, a word to the people who just had to see the ball drop last night. Please take a long, hard look in the mirror. Is this who you want to be? Let’s start with the fact that you spent your vacation in New York at Times Square. I know you don’t live here because nobody who lives here goes to Times Square EVER (except in the case of real necessity), and never ever ever on New Year’s Eve. Also, you stood in the cold for hours and hours so you could watch a ball drop, a ball you could have watched on TV like I do every year, and it was so vital to your happiness that you wore Depends. If you didn’t wear Depends, you waited around in your own filth for hours and hours, or you have the strongest bladder known to man or womankind. Next time you come here, please do me a favor and hit up a dive bar in the Village. We’ll all be happier.

And now for my resolutions. Last year’s didn’t go so well. I resolved to write non work-related material for at least one hour a week and to compliment myself once a day for the sake of my self esteem. Resolution 1 broke down around February. I think resolution 2 went a bit further, but once I started paying myself compliments like “resilient liver,” I decided maybe I don’t have 365 amazing qualities. This year I’m going for more attainable things like:

-Eating meals off of proper plates rather than out of containers

-Eating said meals at appropriate meal times rather than snacking around the clock

-Crying less (I’ve only cried once this year so far, so things are looking up!)

-Buying new clothes no more than once every three months

-Keeping my orchid alive (this is the first one I’ve ever gotten to re-bloom, so fingers crossed)


-Figuring out why my laptop keeps waking up in the middle of the night after I put her to sleep/stop worrying that she’s going to attack me

-Maybe stop naming inanimate objects and referring to them with pronouns like “she” and “he,” but probably not

New Orleans: where people drink like they just got their first fakes

I had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans for the second time last week. This time was better. The number of drunk people in the streets was roughly equal (high).

One night, my friend and I ate dinner at a distinctly New Orleans establishment, where we were crammed into a picnic table next to an extremely drunk couple in their mid-forties. They drove all the way to Alabama for a funeral and stopped in NOLA on their way back. I know all this because they told me. Here are just a few statistics about our hour-long interaction (I’m calling them Fred and Candy for the sake of anonymity, and also because despite our being best friends FOREVER by the end, I’ve already forgotten their names):

Number of times Candy showed us pictures of her hotel room: 3

Number of times Candy ran her fingers through my hair: 4

Number of times Fred crapped all over New York: 3

Number of times either of them seemed sad about whatever friend or relative had passed away: 0

Number of times I had to justify being a vegetarian to them: 2

Number of drinks Candy imbibed during this one hour: 3

Number of drinks Candy had likely consumed prior: 5?

“I’m a hairdresser,” Candy told me as justification for touching my hair. Okay, but she’s not my hairdresser.

Fred: “New York is so dirty.”

Candy: “There are so many homeless people here.”

Fred: “Show them the picture of our hotel.”

Candy: “The bathroom looks like my grandmother’s bathroom.”

In fairness, it did look exactly like my late grandmother’s bathroom–all blue plastic toilet, seashell soap.

Later in the evening (20 minutes later): “Look at this picture of our hotel.”

Candy: “Our nineteen-year-old daughter is too good. She never gets into any trouble. She always makes curfew.”

My friend: “What’s her curfew?”

Candy: “Well, she doesn’t have one.”

Candy: “That pasta looks so good. It almost makes me want to be a vegetarian. But I love meat. I’ll eat anything.”

Fred: “No you won’t. But you’ll drink anything.”

Candy: “That’s true.”

Candy left her sweater on her chair. They were already outside by the time I caught up with them. I’m glad I did, because I got an eyefull of Candy’s six-inch leopard print heels. Also, they both hugged me after the sweater exchange.

I think my favorite comment was uttered by our waitress when she brought us the check: “So those people were real sober.”

To the people who stand up at the fireworks to “get a better view”

You’re not getting a better view by doing that. The fireworks are in the sky. You look dumb.

White shirt guy, you’re not playing tennis

Last night, while riding the subway home, I happened to be sitting across from a man roughly my age, which is 25 plus 24 months, and he was such a ridiculous human being that I just had to take out my phone and write down a description of him. This is what I wrote:

The man sitting across from me is wearing white mesh shorts with a white striped polo shirt that says H2O. Oh, and white sneakers. It doesn’t help that he has super blond hair artfully done up in one of those Justin Bieber styles that’s meant to convey stylish nonchalance, even though it obviously took hours. I hate him. He’s sitting with his legs spread wide apart, big feet firmly planted on the ground. He’s probably going to scratch himself soon. He’s not reading a book because duh. He has the stubble of someone who hasn’t shaved in days, but you know he’s grooming that facial hair. Now he glances at his Rolex.

Then, I started thinking about how I strongly dislike so many strangers in general. For example, tourists. I live in New York, where tourists are the worst, but I can imagine they’re pretty bad in other cities, too. As a person who lives in New York (I’m not allowed to call myself a New Yorker yet, because I haven’t lived here for ten years), I avoid Times Square like the plague. But sometimes it’s unavoidable, like when I have to take the bus from Port Authority. These people stand in the middle of the sidewalks with their cameras taking pictures of the M&M store, because they’re never seen an M&M before, or a billboard, because they’ve never seen an ad before, and I have to walk around them because they’ve never used sidewalks before, and Sweet Moses it’s so annoying.

But people who live in New York are also the worst. Everybody is the worst here.

So I’m looking at this as an outlet for my rage about people I don’t know. Do you hate people you’ve never met, too? If so, let’s be friends.