A nefarious type of gasbag is the provincial American tourist who travels abroad, not to learn about different cultures, but to show how vastly superior his own culture is. My friend once witnessed the appalling behavior of such a tourist while dining in a fine restaurant, somewhere in Rome. The tourist in question, an American, was a corpulent, porcine-faced woman in her mid-forties dressed in a muumuu and wearing cat-eye glasses. In a domineering southern accent, she ordered the Italian waiter to fetch her an orange soda and after he quickly returned and poured her beverage, she looked disdainfully at the glass and said she’d like some ice with it. The waiter apologized and said there was no ice available. Undeterred, she told him to run his little tootsie across the street or wherever it was he had to go and get her some ice. He apologized again and explained that there was no ice, not across the street, not in a neighboring town, not anywhere. Upon hearing this, the woman’s enormous body trembled, her face reddened, her eyes widened with rage, and her nostrils flared as she pointed her accusatory finger at the waiter and spit out the following words: “IN AMERICA WE GIVE ICE TO OUR DOGS!”
My friend, also an American tourist, said he sunk in his seat and lowered his head, ashamed to be associated with the ugly American stereotype, an insolent spoiled brat ordering people around and complaining over the most trivial things with a sour expression that evinced that her travels abroad would make her incurably miserable.
Or perhaps not. Perhaps her moment of self-righteous indignation in the face of the restaurant’s not having any ice was her moment of triumph, an opportunity to lecture to the Italian waiter about her American superiority. After all, his not having ice proved that he, an Italian living in the backward ages, was such a pitiable figure that he lived several stratums below an American canine. Perhaps the glory and pleasure of the woman’s Italian travels was her assuming the role of the know-it-all who had the right to impose her strong opinions on the ignorant natives whom she graced with her advanced education and good breeding. Moreover, when she returned to America, she could repeat over and over to all her friends how she had established her American dominance by putting the waiter in his place. We can therefore safely conclude that her motive for traveling abroad was not to enrich herself with new experiences but to provide herself with material that she could use for her know-it-all routine when she got back home.