Dr. and Mrs.
A day after Sandra and her family arrived in Lisbon, they noticed a new couple at their hotel. Normally, one doesn’t notice new people who show up at hotels — unless maybe it’s a tiny B & B, which this hotel wasn’t — but there was something about this couple that made them hard to miss. Upon arrival after their five-hour flight (we guessed from Newark but that was about the only piece of information the couple didn’t offer), the bearded middle-aged man announced to the maitre d’ in the large dining room, “I’m Dr. and Mrs. ___,” in English and in such a loud voice that everyone in the room could hear. Clearly. Along with everything else “Dr. and Mrs.” said, from their anger that the moderator of the second debate was so biased in favor of President Obama to their endless complaints and demands to the hotel’s friendly, accommodating staff.
Later that day, Sandra overheard Dr. complaining — again in English; they never spoke a word of Portuguese — about the massage that he received at the hotel, that it wasn’t “erotic” enough. There apparently was a misunderstanding between Dr. and the hotel staff, for there are places where one can get an “erotic” massage in Lisbon, but not at this upscale hotel. The hotel staff member was quite apologetic and refunded Dr.’s money. Not long afterward, Sandra overheard Dr. telling Mrs. that she could get a massage too and then could easily get her money back by complaining about it.
In this way, the loud and complaining Dr. and Mrs. managed to scam the hotel. What I found particularly outrageous about it is that this well-to-do couple sought to cheat a business and its employees in a poor country. I could understand if someone paid for a service and asked for a refund if the service wasn’t delivered as expected. However, it’s not clear whether this was simply a miscommunication, a case of demanding something that the hotel was not set up to fulfill, or a flimsy excuse to demand a refund. Then, rather than seeking the desired service elsewhere, Dr. explained to Mrs. how he got something for nothing and encouraged her to do the same.
Dr. and Mrs. made a big miscalculation in behaving in this way within earshot of a writer. Who then told another writer. Who then spread the tale on her blog. Now there’s already a book about this sort of behavior. It’s called The Ugly American, written by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer and published in 1958; it later became a movie starring Marlon Brando. However, there are a lot of ways to tell a story, and the people we observe can become characters in a variety of situations.
So my advice is, if you don’t want to become the villain, an object of ridicule, or the victim of a mysterious and gruesome death in a work of fiction — treat other people the way you would wish to be treated. And don’t scam people who don’t have the advantages or resources that you do. That sort of thing really pisses me off.