International competition in London started about a week ago, and the Americans are winning big. Sadly, this competition has nothing to do with athletic achievement. No nationality—not even the host country—makes more noise than the citizens of the good ol’ US of A.
According to the London’s Department of Transport, the city is expecting about a half-million tourists over the next few weeks, and Yanks represent 19% of that number. I’m one of those American visitors, but because I’ve been here a few months, I think I have a different perspective than your average Olympic tourist. The last few days of my summer here, I have witnessed a few cringe-worthy incidents. Americans have represented 100% of that number.
I was having a drink at a modest pub in a non-touristy part of town when four Americans in their early twenties barreled in, loudly debating whether or not Derek Jeter was worth what the Yankees paid him. At some point during their nobody-gives-a-shit points, one of the men ordered a round of shots of Jack Daniels. The bartender poured the shots and was instantly berated for such a “weak-ass pour.” For the next hour, our four heroes argued while ordering round after round of loudmouth soup and annoying everyone else in the pub. When the foursome broke out into a drunken rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” the Brits in the pub began heading for the doors.
The next morning, I went to the will-call office to pick up tickets for the Olympics from CoSport, the company responsible for distributing tickets to spectators not from the host country. The line was horribly disorganized and people were forced to wait an exceptionally long time for what should’ve been a pretty simple process. Everyone was annoyed, but we realized that the paid-per-hour employees tasked with distributing tickets had nothing to do with the disorganized process—everyone, that is, except for two American men in their mid-forties. These two ambassadors monopolized the next two and a half hours giving exaggerated sighs and reiterating, “in America, it’s not done this way.” Evidently no one had broken the news to them that the company is run out of New Jersey. By the time I reached the front of the line, I felt apologetic for being a fellow countryman.
My third example involves a giant art display of a London bus doing pushups that was unveiled just down the street from where I live. When asked about his motivation, the Czech artist responsible for the project talked about motivating fat Americans to exercise. I would have been outraged, except a few minutes after witnessing the sculpture designed to mock Americans, I watched as one such tourist walked down the street with a golden arch-labeled bag complaining that the chicken nuggets in London didn’t have enough salt.
The following day, I went to the Science Museum. With no alcohol or chicken nuggets served on the premises, I felt pretty confident my national shame would be spared a few hours. I wandered over to an exhibit on World War II airplane engine innovations. As if on cue, a big-bellied Yank wearing some sort of Elk’s Club hat announced to his wife that, “none of this would amount to squat if the United States didn’t step in and save the Europeans.” I’m sure the locals are grateful for your generous serving of smugness, Captain America.
And, finally, last night, a couple of attractive (though not nearly as attractive as they think) twenty-something girls stumbled into a pleasant evening of cocktails along the River Thames. These girls couldn’t shut their mouths for more than a few seconds at a time and loved giving a “WOO!” whenever they sipped their drinks. Knowing I’m American, the bartender gave me a look like maybe I could get them to shut their apple pie-holes via my secret USA decoder ring. Instead I shrugged and left the bar.
It is, of course, unfair to say all Americans spotted in London over the next few weeks will be an embarrassment. But if anyone is going to win the gold medal for doing something cringe-worthy in London during the Olympics, you can bet the house it will be someone from that region in North America just south of Canada and north of Mexico.
(Photo: Aspen Photo/Shutterstock)