Being second generation Scottish, I had heard stories of the English, and had often seen pictures of the Queen in my grandmother's pantry. As a child, I was told, however, that this was Queen Elizabeth I of Scotland and that was quite different than Queen Elizabeth II of England. I make this observation so that you can see that the earliest descriptions that I ever heard of the English were of an alien race. Steeped in prejudice, I made my first trip to England in 1971.
Prejudice can be a terrible thing, and stereotyping is its first cousin. One of those stereotypical expectations was that the English are always stiff-upper-lipped and unflappable.When I deplaned at Heathrow I made my way to the main terminal where the guidebook said there was a welcome center and I could arrange a hotel accommodation. The visitors' desk was easy enough to spot, but I was almost knocked over by an American woman shouting "I am going to miss my bus! I am going to miss my bus!" The bald man behind the counter turned to look at the wall clock behind him, turned back and calmly addressed the woman saying, "I doubt that, Madam."
Sometimes stereotypes find reinforcement in experience. There were other such events through my stay. People waited in lines for their turn, and even scolded those who jumped ahead of total strangers. They stood on the right side of the elevators (escalators to us Yanks) so that people in a hurry could pass by on the left. They spoke quietly in restaurants and appreciated little things, like the bit of tomato at breakfast- lovely.
That was in 1971, before the U.S. had exported fast food and fast living. More recent visits make England feel, I'm ashamed to say, more American. Can you see how far this Scottish boy has come from his roots? Now I look for England everywhere. Sometimes I find it when I sail across Lake Erie to Canada. Sometimes, I find it when a young child is struggling to open a door for someone else. I know it's just a stereotype, but some are worth their weight in reality.
Causes Robert Smith Supports
Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Presbyterian Disaster Relief