December 23, 2007

Not Watching the English Countryside

Yesterday we took a train from London to Edinburgh. I love taking the train. The travel is so relaxed, space to spread out, beautiful views. Stephen even got us first class tickets. We were going to travel in style.

As we approached our seats I noticed something very frightening. Our windows was blocked. The other two seat occupants, in the four seat box, had placed a wrapped Christmas present - apparently a picture for their daughter - in front of the window. Let's be clear, this is a giant window and it was two thirds blocked by this giant picture. I lost it. How in the world could they be so selfish as to block the window on a 4.5 hour train journey. There are spaces behind the seats that could easily accommodate their picture.

Being American I was fuming to say, "could you please find a different location for that picture?" However, Stephen just ignored it and sat down to read. This was my clue that it is not British to say anything about this utter stupidity. For the first thirty minutes I huffed and puffed with anger. The man finally apologized and said that he was sorry about the picture but it was a gift for his daughter. I suggested that he put it behind the seat and he responded. "No, I don't think so."

I'm currently reading the book Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox. It has helped me understand why the British do not say anything to folks who take the piss such as this couple. Even more helpful, it explains why people do these kinds of things. My interpretation is that it is a daft class thing. The couple thought, "We bought these seats and we get this window and we have this important piece of art to transports and at least we can see through the tiny cracks on each side. You, seat mates, have other windows through which you can gaze." Frankly, I wanted them to pay us 10% of our ticket fee for the loss of view.

At least for the final hour I was able to move to an adjacent empty seat. Now I understand why this is a drinking culture.