That is a sentence I don’t really ever want to hear. I doubt many expat Americans desire to be told that, in any circumstances, ever. Not only is “yank” a tad bit derogatory, but it immediately conjures – at least for me – an image of a warring faction in the American Civil War. I suppose it’s better than being called a Dixie, but I’d rather stay away from taking sides in bloody conflict altogether.
So the other day, in the queue at a supermarket, the man in front of me started chatting with me. He was either drunk, or developmentally disabled at his old age, or had drunk too much in a previous life and suffered brain damage as a result. Don’t ask me exactly how I knew this, but I did – and I’m not trying to be derogatory, if you’d been there you would have concluded the same thing yourself. There was just something about his mannerisms, the inappropriate questions he asked without any apparent sinister intentions… I know, I know, I should “show” not “tell” what I mean. But I’m beating around the bush. I’d rather not show because the conversation was too awkward.
But anyway, he asked me a question and I answered. In response, he said, “You’re American, aren’t you?” Not wanting to correct him with the nuances of my personal history, I nodded yes. And that is when he declared, “I could tell you’re a yank! It was obvious when you said that. I know a yank.” Yup. That was affirming.
He kept chattering away in a very friendly, trying-to-be-helpful way. Trying, but I’m afraid he wasn’t succeeding.
We continued inching our way to the checkout – it was a busy day and he might have been 4th in the queue and I might have been 5th, so there was a longish awkward wait. He was buying a random assortment of things: cheese, soft drink… and something that he snatched up and put into his bag before reaching the till. I think it was a stick of butter. But he left the other items and he paid for those.
But yeah, I saw a guy shoplift.
So here’s my question for those Londoners out there who might be reading this: what was I supposed to do? The guy was clearly not of sound mind, and he wasn’t endearing himself to me, and then he went and broke the law. What was the correct response?