What follows is an unashamed and flagrant example of the only form of naked prejudice still available to folks like me. The prejudice against my own kind. We can be such twats when we travel, us spoilt, white, privileged children of conspicuous consumption. Equally prevalent in men and women, but perhaps with slightly different manifestations. They probably only make up a small percentage of the overall population, but they dominate any setting with their bellowing empty pronouncements.
The blokes often fall into what might be described as penis wars, conversations escalating to display the greatest manliness through displays of drinking or stories involving breasts, or perhaps dismissal of interesting things as being 'Bollocks' because they've seen something 'better'. With the women it's often drama, dramas on dramas, a machine gun conversation to see who can produce the worst and most fast acting allergy, who can panic most about the possibility of missing a train. However, these are generalisations, and the travel twat can be any of these things, or something else altogether.
The golden thread that links all true travel twats is the complete lack of awareness of how their behaviour might be perceived. They are not bad or evil people. If someone fell down in front of them, they'd certainly help, assuming they noticed from behind their painfully expensive ultra-thin twat-books and surgically implanted 'Beats' by Dr Dre.
When they meet, their conversation is about what they have, rather than what they do. Kit, gizmos, drug regimes, nights out. None of them actually do anything because they've never had to.
All of us are guilty of moments of it. I certainly don't exclude myself from the list of people who have on occasion acted in a spoilt and privileged manner abroad. The difference, I hope, is that I'm aware of this behaviour, and embarrassed and ashamed afterwards.
As the fortnight went by, the Twatalogue became my defence and focal point against these turbo-douches. My travel buddy, Jess, was paying attention too, and would elbow me discreetly in the ribs when a Twatism was uttered.
Here are some top moments from the Twatalogue. All twats are loud, because it's very important that everyone hears them, not just the person they are ostensibly talking to. Please imagine that you are some distance from the twat, but that their words are clear as a bell (end).
Twat on bus
"Yeah, I think this is probably my favourite photo I've taken of a koala"
"I almost went to Paraguay, but I couldn't be bothered to cross the fucking bridge"
Outside the dorms in the hostel at 2am
"Night night darlings, MWUAH MWUAH MWUAH MWUAH MWUAH............ MWUAH"
Same evening, different twat, even later, even louder
"Chris, you PROMISED you'd have sex with me"
Earnest hostel dinner table conversation twat
"I HAVE to recommend 'National Lampoon's European Vacation'. Classic Chevy Chase."
"France is much easier if you speak French"
These twats aren't trying to be twats. They just are. As we came back from the Isla de Sol on lake Titicaca, having marvelled at the hundred mile view to the snow topped back ridges of the Andes, having heard one say "Good job the weather's good or this would be bollocks", four male twats filled the front of the boat, absorbed in phones, sunglasses as blinkers, in a near perfect display of khaki-shorted formation man-spreading. We had to endure this all the way back.
The night before Machu Picchu, a young Canadian lady in our group was stressing about making sunrise, and demanding an earlier start than the guide suggested, because she absolutely had to and her whole trip would be a complete disaster if she didn't. Not a thought to ask us about our trip or how this would affect us. In two days, I didn't hear her talk about anything that wasn't about some minor inconvenience or problem she was dealing with, or how something had to be just right for her. Not a word of praise for the scenery, not a question asked of anyone else on the trip. Utterly incapable of seeing how such selfishness might be perceived on the outside. It boiled my piss. My revenge, as ever, was to write it all down.
Crossing the river on a tiny ferry with my fiddle, a lad said 'Hurrr, is that a Tommy Gun?' A question which after twenty years of carrying a fiddle is neither funny, nor have I ever found a decent answer for. With his friends they then spent the rest of the journey talking about how many shots they were going to drink to get wasted at the hostel.
The woman who dropped to the floor at high altitude and did a dozen press ups to impress her boyfriend, also in front of a bunch of villagers, who as natives were invisible to her. (One of whom, a kid, did some comedy press ups of his own when she'd carried on, much to my amusement. I should have tipped him.)
Perhaps the most spectacular example of this came on my final evening in Cusco. Sat up in my top bunk, working through some notes, my scribbles were interrupted by a loud conversation in the communal courtyard. It went on. I tried to block it, but it had a cutting monotone that made writing impossible, like fingernails being scraped down a Lloyd Grossman. I hoped it would soon end, but a conversation that never really starts cannot easily be drawn to a conclusion. As ever, I reached for my pen and started to write down the best bits.
"Are you serious? O.M.G. There is no shopping cart on Pinterest!"
"I'm in Peru mom. PERU. PERU! The one from 'The Emperor's new Groove'"
On it went, tedium followed tedium. Rather than suffer from a distance, I decided to take another approach. I took my laptop, and expecting to dig in for the long haul, made a cup of coca tea. I sat on the next couch in the courtyard, facing her, and began to type the following.
Shoes on the cushions, it was hard to tell who she was speaking to, other than that it was a Skype conversation with video. Maybe several conversations, all consecutive. There was no structure so it was hard to be sure. It included 'Mom' 'Pa' 'Samuel' and a host of other characters including pets, dolls, and I think possibly soft furnishings. The characters mingled and changed. The monotone was only really interrupted with what might in poor light pass for passion when she was criticising Samuel's 'Sadboy' dress sense.
On it went. On and on. Clearly whilst I was away, aliens must have landed and helped those clever boffins crack the battery issue, because there's no way any earth technology could have powered a phone call of such infinite tediousness.
Apparently she hasn't showered for two days. We got this a lot. We all did. It was a regular theme. Each of the seven rooms off the courtyard now her personal theatre in the round. Periodically, doors would open, a face would stare at her for a few seconds, shake their head, and then go again. Her force field was impenetrable. And such projection! A true student of Brian Blessed. With earphones in, she is oblivious to the decibels she was producing. Now she's talking about a hairy butthole. I'm not sure quite where these topics of conversation come from, or how they link. It's a series of things that approximate conversation, but somehow lacking the mortar of conversation. She says 'dang' a lot.
Now she's asking to see her room on Skype. Seriously. Now she thinks she looks like a potato. Now she says her hair looks bad. Now she says she works out every single day. All in thirty seconds. Dang. We're past the 2hr mark. By my reckoning, the conversation hasn't actually begun yet.
She has now gone to the toilet, but is continuing the call. The toilet is off the courtyard too, and the conversation, muted but unmistakable is still in full flow. Well, flow is not the word really. It flows only in the sense that gravel pours off the back of the lorry, ten thousand indistinct pieces. Each as dull as the other. Kerflush. She's back, without missing a word. And remember, this is a video call.
At 2hrs 37 minutes, she wins. I go to bed. Much like the college football fan in Aguas Calientas, I doubt she even noticed the hour and a half I shared with her. Sleep is not possible, as the conversation, with a rhythm like an endless series of dumb plates crashing to the floor keeps me awake and fractious.
What I find astonishing about the whole thing is the complete and utter lack of awareness. That's the common theme that links all travel twats, male or female, English, American, Australian, Canadian. It's night time, this is a communal courtyard surrounded by dorms with thin doors and empty window panes, and she's been going loudly for over two hours, telling us any manner of things she'd surely be embarrassed to say to us if she just thought for one minute that we were listening. She is so self centered that it's impossible that anyone is listening because they only exist when she addresses them. I can sit right next to her and write this and she has no idea. It's my only revenge.
We can all be guilty of it sometimes. In La Paz, we spotted a religious symbols shop, and burst out laughing at a bright orange suited saint, atop a horse several sizes too small, trampling down a devil, all in a glass display case by the street, and then realised the dirty look we were getting from the proprietor. But we were suddenly embarrassed to have become twats, and tried hard not to be for the rest of the day.
Every time you are abroad, you are an ambassador for your country. Every twat poisons the well for the next traveller. We don't always get it right, and in years of travelling I've cocked up a few times. But try to be aware of how your actions might be seen by others. Respect those around you. It's not difficult. Please don't be the twat talking loudly about hairy buttholes in the middle of the night when others are trying to sleep.
Fuck this. I'm off to get WASTED on SHOTS. It'll be WICKED.