Monday, April 25, 2016

Dolly Birds and history

When I moved to Switzerland in 1990 to take up a long-searched-for job in Europe, my first stop was the UK branch.

I was met at the airport by the UK manager, a chain-smoking ex-air force colonel, who getting up to meet a 5 a.m. plane did nothing to improve his disposition.

His opinion of the women on the staff was that they were all "dolly birds" too into make-up and men without a surplus of brains, if I translate the Brit English to American English correctly.

Well the two "dolly birds" in the Swiss office were pretty, young women, who liked clothes, make-up and men, but they were also incredibly good saleswomen and smart, smart, smart.

I was a good twenty years older than they were and despite his tough exterior, he was too polite to call me a dolly bird although I too liked make-up, men and clothes.

What made me worse than any dolly bird in his eyes was that I was an American and his opinion of my countrymen and women were they were all ignoramuses. About the only good thing that ever came out of the States, in his opinion, was the television show Mash.

I would need his help in my first assignment to set up a booth for a trade fair and in the beginning he did sabotage me.

What turned him around?

My love of English history.

I named all the kings and queens going back to William the Conqueror in order and some of the things of each reign. (Don't ask me to do it now--I've forgotten).

For subsequent trips, he made sure to book me into historic places, told me historic stories about local individuals, introduced me to his wife (a lovely woman, who deserves a halo for staying married to him) and made sure we went to typical English restaurants that tourists (read dumb Americans) would never discover.

I doubt if he ever changed his opinion of dolly birds or Americans in general. But he did accept that one aging dolly bird had a brain.

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