Friday, April 1, 2016

Fractured facts and whisky tastings...

About a week ago, I wrote a post about "Large Marge", a woman Bill and I encountered on our recent cruise.  I typed that post on my iPad while sick with a stomach virus.  I have since recovered fully, though Bill is still struggling with some minor lingering aftereffects.  Now that we've been home a few days, I find myself remembering a few things I didn't put in that initial post.

I really don't like to be mean spirited if I can help it.  However, I have to say that by the last night of our cruise, I had really had enough of Large Marge and was certifiably fed up and pissed off.  No one likes to spend five figures on a vacation and then have to deal with someone who is bound and determined to be a big pain in the ass.  So, I have decided to pen one more post about Large Marge.  After I write this, I hope I will have gotten it all out of my system.

One of the things about Large Marge that annoyed me was her habit of occupying space.  This is not a comment on her size, by the way, though she is physically a large woman.  It's more a comment on her obvious need to be the center of attention and head of the "cool kids'" club.  For instance, the day before our final gala meal, Large Marge and the whisky expert had organized a special whisky tasting exclusively for their table.  I couldn't help but overhear her asking one of the ladies at their table if she wanted to participate.  We were in the dining room and Large Marge and her entourage were seated maybe twelve feet away from us and she said in a rather loud voice that they were planning this special tasting and did the other lady want in on it?

I got the sense that she deliberately mentioned the special whisky tasting in front of us.  Not that we necessarily wanted to take part in it.  By that point in the cruise, I was a little whiskyed out and preferred to stick with wine.  What annoyed me was the fact that she was making a huge show of acting like she was somehow *special* and set apart from everyone else.  If you happened to be in her little group, you could be *special* too.  It was a very tacky display that was embarrassing for me to watch as a fellow American.

While I tried to ignore her as best I could, Bill observed her when she was in groups.  He said he could see her jaw set when someone else had the floor.  It was like she couldn't stand to listen to other people talk.  She wanted to be running the show at all times.  When a couple of musicians were performing one night on the cruise, I had a look at Large Marge, who seemed distinctly uncomfortable.  I could tell she would have preferred to have all eyes and ears on her.

Large Marge was also inconsiderate when we visited whisky distillers.  At one whisky shop we visited, she made a point of occupying the sales staff so no one could make a purchase.  She seemed oblivious to other people.  When we went to another distiller, she and the whisky expert hung out in the tasting area and proceeded to drink far more than the expected one or two drams... and we later heard that the ship would be covering the bill for that.

Another thing that bothered me about Large Marge is that I got the distinct impression that it annoyed her to have to share space with another American couple.  At one point during the cruise, she made a remark to me that Hebridean Island Cruises limits the number of Americans on each cruise to just six.  That way, it won't spoil the ambience.  Of course, she was kidding, but it was kind of a nasty thing to say.  Especially since we may have booked the cruise before she did.  There are, at the most, only 49 people on each cruise and we booked very soon after the cruise was advertised.

Large Marge mostly didn't speak to us, except to be "instructive" a couple of times.  The lady she brought with her was much nicer and seemed friendlier.  I couldn't help but wonder if this was how Large Marge behaves at home.  Underneath her obnoxious exterior, I sensed someone who could possibly be fun and entertaining.  She did seem to have a sense of humor and, I could tell that in her younger days, she was probably very attractive.  She had a pretty face and lush hair.  However, her positive attributes were overshadowed by a demanding and overwhelming personality.  I didn't see her running the wait staff ragged or otherwise being demanding of the ship's crew.  Instead, it was like she wanted to be the head honcho over the other passengers.  I wondered if I was alone in feeling this way.

Last night, Bill reminded me of a term I had heard before... "fractured facts".  He said one of his old professors at American University had used it when he came across a student writing bullshit that wasn't completely true but was intended to impress or be shocking.  He said some of the things we heard Large Marge say were fractured facts.  We overheard her saying a number of things aloud about life in the United States.  Some of the things she said were outright untruths.  Some were "fractured facts".  Some were her opinions disguised as facts.  In any case, it was embarrassing because we are sensitive to the ugly American stereotype and mostly try not to come across that way if we can help it.  Of course, some people will think you're an ugly American simply for being American.  Most of the people on our cruise were basically nice and friendly, though.

Anyway, one night while Large Marge was spewing her fractured facts and utter bullshit, Bill got a strange look on his face.  When a couple sitting near us asked what was wrong, he said he was hearing a bunch of "fractured facts" about America.  Without mentioning the source of the bullshit, Bill noticed them nodding knowingly as they looked in Large Marge's direction.  It was a pretty funny moment.

I myself frequently thought of this routine by Billy Connolly...  All week, it echoed in my head.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have given in to the urge to say this to Large Marge.  But we were on such a dignified cruise it seemed wrong to sully it with the f-word.

Sigh... I suppose if there's anything to learn from this, it's that it's a good thing to be considerate of others.  As I write about Large Marge, I realize that I'm not entirely innocent of attention whoring myself.  And as irritated as I was on our cruise, I have probably annoyed people more than once too.  Maybe this was one of God's little tests or even a lesson to be learned.  If I were especially inclined to believe in God, I might see things that way.  For now, I'll just say I learned a lesson and I am very grateful that on the last night of our cruise, I didn't succumb to the urge to come to blows with Large Marge.  I didn't even tell her to "fuck off", though the impulse was certainly there.  So bravo to self control!  

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