After spending a few days in certain high profile European cities, I am of the opinion that the governments here are paying local citizens to make appearances as “authentic representatives of the national stereotype.” How else could you explain the unabashed displays of wanton Irishness that we experienced in our few days around Dublin? I offer the following examples:
a) My girlfriend and I are sitting in the sauna, in the health club of our hotel. An older Irish gentleman walks in and sits down and begins to speak to all of us, including an older Irish woman who was already in the sauna when we arrived. He says, “I’ve been sober for thirty years, but I’m seeing a lot of signs around for Guinness. Years ago I won a Guinness drinking competition. I had thirrrty three pints! I slept for threee days!” She replies, “Ohh, they used to give it to babies! It’s good for youu. They’d give you a pint after you donated blood! They don’t do that anymore…” Man says, “No, they don’t.”
b) We are taking a walk along the sea wall on the Irish coast, and being followed by a group of three or four teenage boys. One boy is saying to his friends, “I tell you, if you take a bite of an apple, and you take a bite of a potato, and you have your eyes closed, you won’t be able to tell the difference! They are the same, they are!”
c) Standing next to the entrance to a small park attached to a church, we are passed by a little boy who pokes his head into the entrance and says to his young friend, “It’s a hauunnted graaveyaard!”
d) After our late night arrival to our Dublin hotel, Melissa goes down the lobby to ask the elderly hotel manager if she has a bottle opener that we could use. The lady pulls out a lighter and rapidly flips the top off Melissa’s beer. Melissa says, “I’d like to learn to do that.” The lady replies, “Stick around!!!”
I am fairly certain that the city of London was also paying stately older gentlemen in caps and ascot ties to wander along the bank of the Thames, clutching newspapers and pretending to wait for a rendevous. As foreign tourists, we would be sorely disappointed if we weren’t met with a smattering of reflections of our stereotypes. How else would we even know where we were? When I get back to New York, I’ll be happy to offer my services for free– I know I don’t have the authentic salty accent, but I can do my part in a little way. I’ll strut impatiently down the avenues and blaze through subway turnstiles, acting like I am on my way somewhere really important.