Thursday, April 28, 2016

Very British Problems - How I Failed to Meet a Very Famous Sailing Blogger

Hello, my name is Tillerman and I suffer from Very British Problems.

For those of you who are not Very British, or who have been living under a rock for the last few years or both, Very British Problems is one of those modern media phenomena that started a few years ago as a Twitter feed and which then quickly spawned a book, a TV series, a clothing line and god knows what else.

Very British Problems is all about what makes us British people different from normal people like Americans and Australians - such as our extreme modesty, our amazingly polite manners, our obsession with the weather, and especially our awkwardness in dealing with pretty much every kind of social interaction. All the things that make normal people love us so much.

One of my Very British Problems is not having a clue how to react when I see a Very Famous Person in a public place.

Assuming I recognize who it is (which 87% of the time I don't) what am I supposed to do?

Very Famous Person 
I saw in Logan Airport in 2014 
but I had no idea of
what his name was 
or what his latest record was called

Am I supposed to (Option A) rush up to them and give them a big hug and say how much I liked their latest movie, song, book, political rant or whatever is appropriate for the field in which they are Very Famous? Doesn't this happen to them something like 500 times a day and aren't they totally annoyed when you are the 501st person to do that to them today and they are forced to mutter something along the lines of, "So pleased you liked it." Wouldn't they rather you just left them alone?

Or (Option B) is it more appropriate to just make eye contact and give a little nod of the head and a smile to indicate you know who they are and know better than to annoy them by rushing up and making gushing comments about their latest piece of work?

One of the first times I came across this issue was when I almost literally ran into Prince Charles. He was lucky enough to be spending a couple of years studying at the same university as me and we crossed paths when he was coming out of a local bookshop and I was going in.

There are probably special rules for how to great Very Famous Royal People which makes things even more complicated. And in any case if you are going to adopt option A above, what are you supposed to tell a Very Famous Royal Person you like about their latest work? Especially this one who actually did even less work than other Very Famous Royal Persons because he was just a student like me?

"I like that nice suit you're wearing, Your Royal Highness - but why don't you dress in jeans and a raggy old sweater like the rest of us?"  I don't think so.

Or perhaps, "Hi Charlie - I'm a big fan of the whole royal family thing - how are the corgis - say hi to your Mum for me." That doesn't seem entirely appropriate either.

So I just pretended I didn't recognize him.

Probably just as well really.

And then there was the time I was quietly having breakfast on the restaurant terrace at the Bitter End Yacht Club a few years ago and Richard Branson came zooming up in a big swanky speedboat (he owns a couple of the nearby islands and stuff) and he walked right past me into the restaurant.

What was I supposed to say?

"Hi Sir Richard - sorry about your house burning down. Hope you had good insurance!"

"Hi Dicky - love this whole space thing you're doing - how do I sign up to go to Mars?"

My mind was a total blank.

So I decided to be Very British and opted for a subtle version of option B. The briefest of eye contacts. (I think he probably recognized me too. Probably reads my blog.) And a very slight smile that clearly indicated, "I know who you are but I choose not to invade your privacy because I understand what a bore it is being very famous and insanely rich."

I think he appreciated my Very British solution to the dilemma.

So last December when Tillerwoman and I were standing in the immigration line at Beef Island airport on Tortola and I spotted a Very Famous Sailing Blogger and her family a few places ahead of us in the line, I had no idea how to react.

Immigration line
Not actually the one at Beef Island

As well as all the usual Very British Problems associated with approaching Very Famous People in public, there were two other complications to the situation.

Number 1 - and most significant - is that we were standing in a line - a queue as we Very British People call it. And we Very British People have a whole huge set of Very British Problems about the etiquette of queues. Most important of all is the commandment that THOU SHALT NOT JUMP THE QUEUE. As a Very British Person I was almost certainly physically incapable of stepping out of the line and going to chat with a person several places ahead of us in the line. I would be feeling that everyone else in the queue would be deeply offended because they would think I was "jumping the queue" and that is something that Very British People never do.

Number 2 - was that I am also a sailing blogger - but nothing like as famous as the Very Famous Sailing Blogger.  I know who she is but does she have a clue who I am? Does she read my blog? Has she ever left a comment on my blog? My mind is a blank. The answer to these questions is very important. Depending on the answer it will make a difference to my opening remarks.

Do I introduce myself as an anonymous fan, or rush up to her and shout, "Hi! I'm TILLERMAN!!!" which would be about the stupidest thing to do with several dozen strangers watching us and listening to me if the Very Famous Sailing Blogger had no idea who the hell I was.

While I am pondering these issues, the Very Famous Sailing Blogger reaches the front of the queue and starts what looks like a very complicated conversation with the Immigration Officer presumably about the immigration status of her and her mother and her three beautiful little daughters. So I figure I will wait until we are both through Immigration and then sidle up to her in the baggage hall and start a quiet conversation with an opening gambit along the lines of, "Hi, aren't you Brittany from Windtraveler?" and compliment her on the good behavior of her three little girls because they really were being amazingly good. I think even a Very British Person could manage that.

But before I get the chance to make my move, BVI Immigration escorted the Very Famous Sailing Blogger and her mother and her three beautiful little daughters off to one of those rooms that they have in every Immigration Department in every airport in the world which you always hope you never see the insides of because who knows what they do to you in there?

And I never saw her again.

And that is how this Very British Person failed to meet a Very Famous Sailing Blogger.

PS If you ever see me in real life, please feel free to rush up to me and give me a big hug (especially if you are female) and tell me how much you love my latest blog post (even if you can't remember the title or what it's about.) I won't mind. Really.


Alden Smith said...

As a Kiwi I am glad you didn't add New Zealander to your list of two groups that you consider "Normal People" such as Americans and Australians for the simple reason that if you consider Americans or Australians 'normal' that we don't want to part of that normality.

Kiwis don't suffer from your 'Britishness' or your 'Normality' or lie awake at night worrying about how to greet celebrities etc mainly because of our highly developed sense of egalitarianism. The human behavioural effect of this is to treat everyone without doffing our hats, or becoming overwhelmed by the need (or some perceived obligation) to run up to them and greet them. This doesn't mean we lack respect, its more to do with the fact that we see through the cultural patina or veneer of social roles and expectations and simply see the 'other' as an ordinary human being like the rest of humanity which is its own form or respect - it's a healthy place to be - you should try it sometime.

Tillerman said...

I totally agree with you Alden. I have never met a New Zealander who could remotely be considered as "normal."

Thanks for your advice. I will try to be more like Kiwis in my relationships with other human beings. Especially by beating them in sailboat races.

You can still give me a hug if you feel so moved, but I won't expect you to doff your hat.

George A said...

If we ever pass each other on our respective morning beach walks, I'm totally avoiding eye contact.

Tillerman said...

Me too.

Alden Smith said...

I like the cut of your jib Tillerman and I would consider it entirely appropriate to give you a hug if I ever meet you, but don't count on beating me in a sailboat race LOL LOL. (And that's fighting talk which is either normal or abnormal depending on your point of view).

Skippy said...

Bring it in Bro

JP said...

Sassi and Buff have the answer:

O Docker said...

I think you've missed a key reason that many bloggers fail to meet famous people.

This is Slow Response Syndrome, or SRS. The symptoms appear similar to suffering from being Very British, but the pathology is quite different.

SRS victims often think of simply brilliant responses to a stressful situation, but several hours - or even years - after the response would have been effective.

This is why many with SRS take up blogging - where it's possible to be brilliant in an untimely manor without anyone noticing. This is especially true in the comments page, which obscures the awkward moments of embarrassing silence that would have passed in real life while brooding over a perfect response.

In life, timing is everything - in blogging, it's...

Well, the proper word eludes me, but I'll think of it.

Gordon S said...

Being Very British must be an inbred skill, like the herding skills of sheep dogs. Except for one year when I was 12 in an English "secondary modern" school, I've spent 55 of most of my memorable post-5-year-old years in the US, yet I still have deep-rooted queue rules, wouldn't jay-walk until I'd lived in NYC for 4 years, and cannot do more than gently nod at recognized famous people. I even have a hard time demanding room at the leeward mark. Maybe this is why we've never won the America's Cup.

Tillerman said...

I think you are right O Docker. I do suffer from SRS. I don't know what else to say on this topic but I am sure I will think of something in a few days.

Gordon S - I think Being Very British is something that is a result of centuries of inbreeding. I don't know what else to say on this topic either but I am sure I will think of something sooner or later.

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