Example: [Collected in e-mail, 2006]
The only unoccupied seat was directly adjacent to a well dressed middle aged lady and was being used by her little dog. The war weary soldier asked, "Please, ma'am, may I sit in that seat?"
The English woman looked down her nose at the soldier, sniffed and said, "You Americans. You are such a rude class of people. Can't you see my Little Fifi is using that seat?"
The soldier walked away, determined to find a place to rest, but after another trip down to the end of the train, found himself again facing the woman with the dog.
Again he asked, "Please, lady. May I sit there? I'm very tired."
The English woman wrinkled her nose and snorted, "You Americans! Not only are you rude, you are also arrogant. Imagine!"
The soldier didn't say anything else; he leaned over, picked up the little dog, tossed it out the window of the train and sat down in the empty seat.
The woman shrieked and railed, and demanded that someone defend her and chastise the soldier.
An English gentleman sitting across the aisle spoke up, "You know, sir, you Americans do seem to have a penchant for doing the wrong thing. You eat holding the fork in the wrong hand. You drive your autos on the wrong side of the road.
"And now, Sir, you've thrown the wrong bitch out the window."
Origins: This well-traveled bit of lore has been circulated on the Internet as far back as 1992 and likely existed in offline forms far earlier than that.
Through the years, its sardonic evaluations have been leveled at a number of nationalities, with Americans, Canadians, and Pakistanis each in turn identified as the sorts of barbarians who hold their forks incorrectly and drive on the wrong side of roads. The dog tosser is usually said to
But the story does not just slap at the "colonials" under the guise of telling a joke; it swipes at another figure caricatured in contemporary lore: the wealthy and privileged middle-aged woman so lost in her own sense of entitlement that she either fails to recognize or wholly disregards the rights of others. We encounter her in another Internet-spread tale, the yarn about a white woman from South Africa who, upon refusing to be seated next to a black man on an airplane, is handed her comeuppance by the flight attendant. At least within the confines of contemporary lore, those who demand special services and exemptions on the basis of claiming them as their prerogative are snapped back to reality by those willing to stand up to them. In this, the legend serves to express how many of us would like to see the world function, which is a rueful admission that it does not.
Barbara "squeaky wheel of fortunate" Mikkelson
Last updated: 2 August 2011