Dancing With The Old Farts, or Tourists on Parade

I’m in Barcelona, briefly recovering from an eleven-day Transatlantic cruise from Miami. I heard the average age on the ship was fifty-nine. Therefore, I was a youngster on the cruise. This frightens me. (I also had my Mom with me. That will be the indulgence I claim to get away with the rest of this post.)

So after the cruise and today, I would like to apologize to the entire world for Old American Farts on package tours. I may have done this before, but I need to do it again.

Yes, the French always sound annoyed, Germans always sound angry, and Australians often sound drunk, but Americans can sound ignorant and arrogant at the same time, and that is worse.

First, I really must apologize to the Universe for all the assholes who have money and no sense of decorum. Being rich does not make you right. (I’m looking at you, Jerry Jones.) In fact, this behavior should just be called the Jerry Jones Syndrome.

For example, no matter how much you paid for your cruise, demanding a dish from one (surcharged) restaurant while dining in another (free) restaurant on the other side of the ship is a bit much. Yes, I saw this onboard.

When you are seated at a table, and the restaurant manager immediately arrives to see what’s wrong today, before the waitress even takes your order, you are assholes. Chill out. You may be rich, but that is not the same as privileged.

Now, it’s possible that the couple I’m considering spent all their remaining money for a once-in-a-lifetime cruise before one of them died of a rare disease, but bitching about absolutely everything will not make it a perfect vacation. Also, wearing an obvious wig that looks like a helmet is not a disease, unless bad taste has been upgraded while I was away.

I almost started a new non-profit this week. It’s tentatively called “Take a shot, Chill the fuck out.” (The name may need work.) It provides free drinks for people who desperately need an attitude adjustment immediately, before someone kills them, as a mercy killing, just to save the crew. I’ll post when the website is ready for donations.

Actually, it may be faster to just print some business cards that say “If everything were perfect here, it would be Heaven. Keep acting like you do, and you will never know. Tell Satan “Hello!” for me.” Well, “Congratulations. You’re an asshole.” would be cheaper to print, and easier to understand. I could have handed a few out this week.

I have to say that the staff and crew of the Norwegian Epic were cheerful, friendly and worked tirelessly for eleven days across the Atlantic to make sure all of the passengers had a good time. I just hope they were spitting in some food, just to save their sanity.

Back on dry land, I had the questionable joy of sharing a breakfast buffet with some different Old Farts in Barcelona this morning. The level of amazement expressed at simple things (“Clark! They have BREAD here! Ohmigod! EGGS!”) is really vastly annoying to me – mainly because I had not had enough coffee. After the coffee kicked in, I was just horrified.

People, the world is not all the same as at home, that’s why you travel, but in some places, they do have better food than your local Hampton Inn buffet. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I’ve been there. it’s called France, and Spain and Germany, just to name a few. Stop being shocked every time you leave the USA.

By the way, yes, the ham here in Spain tastes funny, it’s Iberian ham, and they don’t have it at Shop-Rite. They have it in Michelin-starred restaurants, and Spanish hotel buffets.

Now, I’m sure with the weakened eyesight many of them have, it must seem like the buffet goes on forever, but the one this morning wasn’t really that abundant, compared to some I’m seen in Europe. I’m not complaining, it was very nice, and I love this hotel’s staff, but I really don’t think I would swoon in joy over it, or loudly name each item to my companion. Unless she was really blind.

My beloved Spousal Unit told me I was overreacting (well, she told me to shut the Hell up), but I don’t understand how someone can live to that age, have enough expendable income to take a trip to Europe, and then be totally confused by a buffet, even if English is the third language on each sign. If you can’t recognize pastries without a sign, you’ve got issues.

Oh, a bonus observation – almost any European coffee beats the crap out of Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. Just sayin’.

Maybe it’s me.

My real issue this morning was the Old Fart Shuffle – the famous dance step where some one stops short, looks in confusion at a common item as if seeing it for the very first time (“Clark! Butter here is mantequilla!”), then staggers forward and doubles back to look at the item next to it. This is only dangerous when the person in question is between me and my coffee, in a hotel where there is no coffee in the room.

The Old Fart Shuffle is not to be confused with the Salmon Waltz, which is when one person (say, for example, my Spousal Unit) wanders to the buffet, glances at the bountiful items – not the massive number of people already in line – and promptly swims upstream against a herd of tourists, because the one item she wants is near the end of the buffet.

It was much the same later today at La Sagrada Familia, although it’s a church, so people are supposed to shut the Hell up, and for the most part, they did.

As an aside, it’s interesting to me that the staff remind you it’s a church, and tell people to remove their hats and pipe down, while they also charge admission, have two gift shops and give guided tours. I guess “Eighteen Towers of Jesus” didn’t test-market well, so they named it La Sagrada Familia. They’ve been building it since 1882. This is before most of us were born, but significantly after most churches in Europe were completed.

Since most of the famous churches I’ve seen in Europe are surrounded by scaffolding, I give the Spanish points for actually admitting they’re not done yet. They could tell most Americans it was damaged in the Greek Rabies War of 1673, and the tourists would just nod, so kudos for telling the truth.

At the church, and most famous sites, tourists do the Fashionista Strut, where they blindly walk into everyone else’s photos. Granted, an iPhone is not known for its ability to capture architecture, but still, take a look around you when you walk. Unlike photo-bombing, which is cruel but funny, the Fashionista Strut is just people not paying any attention to their surroundings. If you see someone with a camera that doesn’t fit in a pocket or receive texts, and he is staring through a little hole in the back of it while twisting a long thingie on the front, he may be composing a shot. If you wander directly in front of him, and then stop just briefly to check Facebook, you will be in his shot. Often, you will completely block his shot. Beware. This is the same crime as getting between a man and his coffee at the buffet. Perhaps worse.

All these tourists, wandering around, completely oblivious. Then, they wonder why Barcelona has pick-pockets.

Back at the hotel, a guy just had a five-minute argument with the bartender because he had never heard of a gin martini. Dude, first of all, she’s a great bartender, she’s my bartender who runs a tab for me, so don’t mess with her, and if you don’t know the proper way to make a martini, just get a damn beer. (He finally did.)

After all that, I’m pretty sure, in spite all that I’ve done, when I am finally sent to Hades, the reason will be the number of times I thought “Jesus Christ! Get out of my goddam photo!” while in a basilica.

I just hope God remembers that I took my Mom along on the trip and I didn’t make her read this.

So it goes.