Scenes from the road in America – 3 (Warning- May contain traces of Canada.)

New York. I’ve braved the slush and the biting wind to stroll down Broadway and to watch people skiing and snowboarding in Central Park. Having returned to my hotel and removed a couple of layers of clothing, I’m sitting in the bar downstairs and chatting with a Norwegian man who speaks impeccable English. He tells me he’s in New York as a consultant for planned repairs to the Statue of Liberty. The copper used originally came from a French-owned mine in Norway and he was here to negotiate both the requirements and the price of re-cladding the statue with copper from the original source.

Some years later I tell this story to an American friend who expresses deep skepticism about the veracity of the Norwegian man’s claims. Somewhat miffed, I consult the Great God Google and discover that I have been had, mightily. Yes, the original copper came from a French mine in Norway but that’s where veracity ended. There was no restoration work being planned or underway at that time (2006), the last major re-fit was in 1986 and the copper mine in question closed in 1972.

I’ve often pondered why someone would bother making up such a story. He wasn’t trying to sell shares in his company or anything else. Maybe he wasn’t even Norwegian in origin. Who knows?

Anyway, can I interest you in some shares in the Sydney Harbour Bridge? See, I’ve met this guy ….

Toronto. I’m in the city the locals insist is pronounced Tronno. My hosts have warned me to buy a coat suited to snow conditions, as well as earmuffs and heavy boots. I already have a heavy coat but meet them halfway by buying a thick scarf and a beanie. On arrival my hosts take me out to lunch on a glorious sunny day that almost deceives me into thinking that the temperature of minus 15 is bearable. We enter a smart café and there is an instant rise of 40 degrees, necessitating much disrobing and then re-robing when we leave. (Canadians must spend an inordinate amount of time engaged in this activity.)

That evening they pick me up in a car and take me to a nearby restaurant that serves fabulous Thai food. Weariness makes me decide to call time early and I insist on my hosts staying to enjoy themselves. After all, it’s only 3 blocks to my hotel. By now it is minus 25 and the wind is howling. After block 1, I can no longer feels my hands inside my inadequate gloves. After block 2, I feel like if I touch my ears or my beard they will break off.

Half-way along block 3, I fear I won’t make it because my feet have turned into solid ice and are reluctant to propel me any further. Cursing my miserliness re the boots, only the thought of not wanting to die just yet keeps me going. Somehow I make it into the hotel and slump in an armchair, waiting from something approximating feeling to return to my feet so I can make it across the lobby to the lifts.

While I wait, I observe a gaggle of business people at the hotel desk, yelling at the hapless desk clerk because the hotel wi-fi has gone down. It seems that it is their collective view that if they do not have contact with the outside world immediately, the universe is likely to collapse. Given that this is a three-star hotel I find this extremely unlikely but the sight of their performance restores my circulation and I head to my room.

San Francisco. I am trying to woo a senior representative of a US nonprofit into a partnership with my own organisation in Australia. I meet him in the lobby of my hotel and we head out to his car. This is my first day ever in the US and I automatically head for what would be the passenger seat back home. He says tersely that he thinks he might drive. Good one. Make a goose of yourself before the meeting even starts.

He takes me to a bar, where the only other customers are a rowdy but harmless bunch of twenty-somethings watching a college basketball game. After the usual pleasantries, I commence my pitch, extolling the virtues of my organisation and explaining what a serendipitous match we would make into the future. My early instincts are that this is not going well and 10 minutes in my host’s eye-glazing has commenced in earnest. I struggle on manfully for another 5 minutes and then switch the topic to families, San Francisco, anything to allow a civilised gradual exit from this catastrophe.

On the way back, my host proudly points out the Coit Tower. The build-up of internal tension causes me to burst into inappropriate laughter. He looks at me in the way normally reserved for when you are being careful around someone who is obviously a madman. I tell him that in Australia, ‘coit’ is a crude euphemism for the anus. His look confirms that a relationship will occur over his dead body. He drops me at my hotel and the car door is barely shut before he roars off down the driveway.

15 thoughts on “Scenes from the road in America – 3 (Warning- May contain traces of Canada.)

  1. I have often thought how easily we assume what strangers tell us to be true. Long ago a new mum at mother and toddlers told me they owned a farm on the River Amazon – in the depths of the rainforest obviously. Coming back to live near Heathrow to work and earn some extra money did seem a bit odd, though reasonable to catch up with family and friends. I thought we must be rather boring company for a woman who had managed to have a baby in the jungle? We never saw her again? Was she real?

    Liked by 1 person

    • She was real alright and you were kind, if gullible, like me 😉 My father once told me that if you hold a guinea pig up by it’s tail it’s eyes will fall out. It was only years later when I saw an actual guinea pig that I realised the joke. With that and Santa he’s got a lot to answer for. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed this piece when I read it a while back but have only just got back to comment. Some of these differences between countries, even when the same language is ostensibly shared, are very amusing.
    I have a mate who went running in Denmark in winter. He rugged his top half up but only had shorts on – came close to losing his penis from frostbite, if he’s to be believed, and I did until I read your piece 😉
    Sitting watching the Australian cartoon series ‘Bluey’ with my grandson and, since this has become very popular all over the world, wondered what kids in other English speaking countries would think when they were talking about a young female character’s new thongs 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Doug, your story has me laughing out loud, even all the comments. How did I never meet you before? I live in Central California about four hours driving southeast in a car from Coit Tower. Three years ago I went to Australia to visit blogging friends, my only time visiting there. I had a very hard time talking about my brother, Randy. The funniest thing that happened to me, though, was over something to buy. My friend and I stayed in Melbourne over New Year’s Eve. We were standing out on the steps of the library across from our Air BnB and it was almost time for the fireworks to start. She kept moving almost frantically from step to step looking like she lost something, and kept talking about having to get a pozee. But she didn’t leave the steps and head for the stores in the mall across the street. Finally, kind of irritated with her told her, and still really tired because I hadn’t been in Australia more than a day before we flew from Brisbane to Melbourne, that I thought we’d better hurry up if we had to go get one of these pozees and get back in time to keep our good place to stand on the steps and watch the fireworks. 🙂 I had an entire dictionary going by the time I left, and I thought Australians spoke English. 🙂 Nice to meet you Doug and thanks for submitting to the Rodeo Contest #3. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad it made you laugh, Marsha. If I’d started blogging before I made my many business trips to SF we could have indeed met up. My family still lives in Melbourne. To attempt to explain on of the more irritating linguistic habits of my country, ‘possie’ (pronounced pozzie, as in Aussie being pronounced Auzzie) is our infantilised version of ‘position’. After you’ve had brekkie (breakfast) you might think about heading off to the footie (football) to ensure you get a good possie. Mind you, I could get started on American linguistic peculiarities but here’s one I prepared earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was so much fun to compare notes. I had a session with her sewing friends, one of them being Irish. It was almost like hearing a foreign language. Mackers and Pokies, and I don’t remember all of them right now, but we had a lot of laughs, and there is always the thong conversation. Funny thing was that my mom always called her shoes thongs, so that one wasn’t foreign. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your post.


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