Character Tuesday: The Most “American” I’ve Ever Felt

In the two years that’s I’ve been living outside of the U.S., I’ve tried my best to avoid fulfilling American stereotypes. I stay informed on what’s going on around the world. I study geography much more than necessary and the moment I don’t know something, I apologize and ask further details in the least intrusive but most inquisitive way I can. In short, I’m hyper-sensitive of being what the world assumes I am.

Despite my best efforts, there are some times when I can’t help myself. And I’m not talking about going to McDonald’s or Starbucks, or even more embarrassing, Walmart while abroad. I can help myself in those situations, sometimes I just choose not to.

One night, when I was still living at the hostel where everything was labeled “@ the mansion,” I was pretty nasty. No surprise here. I needed to get the dried, salty sweat and inch-thick grime off of my feet before I could rest easy in my creaky bunk (diagonal from the raging French cleaner).

Our seven person room was filled to the brim with luggage and *someone*- and you know who I’m referring to (cough, my angry French roommate, cough)- had most likely kicked my toiletry bag under the bed or placed (I’m using placed here as a euphemism for catapulted) it into someone else’s stuff. So when I went to the bathroom down the hall to shower, I realized I didn’t have my soap with me.

From that moment on, I was on an all-out mission to find soap, either mine or someone else’s, and get clean. In my head, I was in a movie montage where the person is shown popping up out of piles of clothes, looking left and right and up and down, throwing things up in the air, moving objects around and then moving them back in place, only to move them again.

In a way, that was me. Except, imagine all of that in slow motion. (We had walked more than 10km that day that resulted in sharp foot pains and a perpetual condition of walking at a snail’s pace.)

I ran (crawled) to the bathroom door where Erin was showering and  pounded on it. “Have you seen my soap?” I yelled over the noise of the water. “No!” she shouted back. I sat there fore a minute. Then I screamed again. “Do you think you know where it went?!”

I walked past a small living room area and the hallway of dorms to get to the kitchen. “Do you have any soap?” I asked a friend I had made at the hostel. She was sitting with a group of people at the large kitchen table. I interrupted their conversation to ask.We arranged that I indeed could borrow hers as a last resort.

I went back to Erin’s shower. “Are you done yet Erin?” I again shouted over the noise of the water, “because when you’re done can I please borrow your soap I can’t find mine!”

As soon as I finished screaming at Erin I turned my head to the doorway and saw a guy standing in it. Wearing sweatpants and a cozy T-shirt and a book in his hand, he said, “Look, if you want soap I can give you some, but I’m really trying to concentrate on reading.”

I realized that all of those times that I had run in and out of the toilet hallway and screamed at Erin he was right around the corner, trying to read his book. I felt bad, but I took him up on his offer.

As I stood in the shower scrubbing my dirty skin with an Old Spice-like smelling gel, I thought about how whiny and ridiculous I sounded. In trying to figure out how I was going to clean my body I managed to disrupt Erin’s shower, interrupt social time in the kitchen and ruin this guy’s peace and quiet.

When I got out of the shower smelling like a man, I realized I had just become what I had always intended not to do: be the loud, obnoxious, entitled American. I handed him back his soap and thanked him, vowing to shut my mouth for the rest of my stay.

Featured photo: a photo from one Photo Friday post. It was fitting for the content of this Character Tuesday discussion. 

This post is part of weekly series titled Character Tuesday, where every Tuesday I bring you a story about (a) unique individual(s) I’ve encountered. Like I always say, life can be good or bad, but as long as it’s entertaining, that’s all you need. This series is meant to celebrate our quirks and idiosyncrasies.

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3 thoughts on “Character Tuesday: The Most “American” I’ve Ever Felt

  1. I don’t think that mildly freaking out about your misplaced soap is an exclusive American trait; anyone who was on their last ounce of energy and just wanted to relax would have gone on a quest for it in just the same way. The kind guy who gave you his soap- it was just that- kind. He was in a hub of activity: that’s the risk one takes when reading a book in a hostel! As for that selfish little French girl – her behavior was much more entitled than yours! Never apologize for who you are and continue to be authentic to yourself!

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    1. Thanks, Julie! I appreciate your comments. Well, that’s part of the joke, that as Americans we are expected to behave in this way. In this situation, I was fulfilling the stereotype that other countries have of us. And it was humorous that even though I was being “me” people would say it was because I was “American.”

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