Clear brusqueness and misty politeness, or simply: a transition. [09.01.2011]

Jan 13, 2011 by

Clear brusqueness and misty politeness, or simply: a transition. [09.01.2011]

009 Virgin Atlantic flight London Heathrow-New York JFK. I pass by sparkly business class with a nostalgic glance as I approach my non-purple  economy seat. Sweeping her overfilled bag over my head straight into the locker, an American teenage girl who, dear Lord!,  is making herself comfortable on the seat right next to mine, squeaks into my ear  “I will not be as annoying for the rest of the flight, no worries!” She is wrong.

The moment the stewardess offers us some tea, the girl says: “Could you actually fill it up to the top?” in a manner that Americans would probably call ‘to the point’ while Brits would go for ‘brusque’ and ‘abrupt’. I’d just call it ‘loud’ as I am seated right next to her and the tea, delivered across me, threatens to stain my red Virgin Atlantic blanket. The second time the stewardess comes the girl says exactly the same thing. Plus: “Actually, could I also have a small diet Coke and a glass of white wine?” They’ll serve them in five minutes.

The girl does not mean to be rude and she does not notice the annoyed look of the stewardess. She is completely clueless, like a child. There is something animalistic in the way she demands what she wants with no regard for the person who delivers it. I wish I had this degree of hard skin – I would now be sipping another glass of orange juice while she is enjoying the variety of her drinks.

Another way of looking at her is through the window. As we approach New York, the sky is crystal clear, much clearer than the British eternally overcast heavens. Americans are crystal clear in their attitudes  – which might be blinding, but is often refreshing. Brits, on the other hand, are milder, just as their weather is. Their requests are veiled in misty politeness and a drizzle of ‘woulds’ ‘shoulds’ and ‘really not bothering yous”.

“It’s minus 1 but feels like minus 10 outside due to the winds,” says the captain while passengers wrap their knackered necks up in shawls. Yes, there is something extreme about this place – its winds that bend the trees half way down, its brisk air that fills your nostrils as you step down the plane, its gentlemen (even though ‘gentle’ does not fully apply here), specifically one, who without asking me takes my suitcase and carries it down. In a way he demands it just as the girl demanded her tea a moment ago. There are no intros and no exoduses here – people go straight for it. Action at it purest, or at its most basic. And the lights at the crossing to the terminal, or across the street, do not flash. They just change straight away and you are left trotting behind Americans. They hardly blink here too. It might be the lenses, though.

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