The Corner

A Vatican Rag, a Parisian Encounter

The other day, here on the Corner, I was writing about being an American abroad. I think it started when Mike Chertoff, the former homeland-security chief, advised people traveling to Europe just now not to wear an American flag on their backs. Something like that.

This topic — which I have visited many times — always attracts a lot of mail. And I’d like to publish just two letters. I think you’ll enjoy them, or rather: find them interesting. Okay, No. 1:

Mr. Nordlinger,

My wife and I were in Rome about four months ago for our honeymoon. While there, we signed up for a tour of the Vatican through our hotel. We were in a group of about twelve people, all English-speaking. Though everyone else sounded like an American, my wife and I were the only ones who identified as Americans, when asked. Everyone else in the group was apparently Canadian.

Upon learning that we were the only Americans, the tour guide (an Italian) proceeded to jab us at every opportunity throughout the tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s. Though I can’t be sure that there were any other Americans, what are the odds that every other member of our group came from Canada, a country with a much smaller population than ours? Probably a few fakers, I’m guessing.

I guess too. SOBs. (Same goes for the tour guide.) Okay, Letter No. 2:

Jay,

Back in the 1970s, I worked for the DoD, and a group of us traveled to Paris for a meeting with some French Navy officers and scientists. While there, we had some free time, so went out to see some sights. As we were buying tickets for the Metro, some “anti-war” students, taking us for Americans, started yelling at us. In fact, a couple of them actually followed us onto the subway car and kept haranguing us.

Fed up, I turned on the guy doing most of the talking and started to yell at him in my best Russian (I had a couple of years in college). He stopped dead and said something to his comrade about “russes” — then bowed to us. He and his friend got off at the next stop.

Typical, typical, typical. Oh, I know those students, intimately. Grew up with them, so to speak.

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