Category Archives: Weirdos Abroad

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.”