For all the years I lived in England I had to get in the long queue with all the other refugees in Europe at airports and immigration checkpoints. I’ve had my passport thumbed, queried and stamped and my face peered at with alternate glances at the passport photo that bore no resemblance to me after my most recent trip to the hairdresser.
I struggled to answer difficult questions coherently when sleep-deprived after a night flight. “Where have you flown from?” That one always threw me.
“Ummmmmm. Baltimore.” It was already a world away and seemed a lifetime ago.
“Are you married?”
“What? Oh. Yes.” Pause. Expectant look. If he’d wanted more information he should have asked an open question.
“Where is he?”
“He’s standing behind you.” And had been for come considerable time as he’d queued with the privileged, waived his British passport at some checkpoint Charlie person and loitered on the suspicion-free side of the immigration desks waiting for me.
Living in a foreign country (that would be England) I’d endured laughter at my American pronunciation, tolerated asides and jokes and subtle references that were rooted in the English consciousness from 30 to 40 years ago. I was often the only one who didn’t “get it.”
“I’m Julian and this is my friend Sandy.” Uproarious laughter from himself.
“I’m not with you.”
“From Round the Horne.”
“A Sixties radio show.”
“You mean in the olden days when they called it the wireless. You know I didn’t live here then.”
Now it’s Jimmy’s turn. He’s the foreigner and I frequently say to him, “Oh, yeah,” in an off hand, of course! tone of voice when he queries the little nuances of life, customs and history in the U.S. I can quote the first few lines of the Gettysburg address for whatever good that does me. I’m not proud of this but I can sing along to the Mickey Mouse Club lyrics. I can say, “You remember Foster Brooks don’t you?”
“He always played a drunk.”
“That skit with Dean Martin.”
I now have to translate American into English for himself:
“Spackle. You know, polyfilla.” or “You can stop laughing. Fanny is not a rude word here.” or “The guy won’t know what a spanner is. It’s called a monkey wrench.”
“Why?” I know you’re fascinated so click here.
English, as she is spoke in America, has to be repeated to himself when his ear is not tuned in to American English as mine wasn’t to the Queen’s English.
I’m not wanting him to be in a predicament like the time I had to get off the coach bound for Paris from England. I was the only passenger with an American passport. All my fellow passengers cheered when French Immigration let me reboard the coach after the interrogation. They thought it was funny. I did not.
I’m just glad I haven’t got the feeling of being the odd one out any more.